Jack of All Trades: Chase Van Wyck Doing a Little Bit of Everything at EOU
By Luke Kilgore
Napavine Tiger alum Chase Van Wyck just finished up his academic sophomore year at Eastern Oregon University. Athletically, however, he was a redshirt freshman, and it was a year of change and growth, to say the least.
On top of another year of education under his belt, Van Wyck adjusted to a surprise change on the gridiron, and added even more responsibilities by participating in both indoor and outdoor track and field.
Recruited and signed to a football scholarship as a linebacker, Van Wyck has already had to face the unknown multiple times during his short tenure as a Mountaineer.
The first occasion came during his freshman year, where he had showed up to practice looking for jersey No. 32, the number he had worn since third grade. Instead, he was given No. 83, and he quickly discovered there was a change in plan.
“Coach just said ‘We’re going to have you tryout at tight end,’” Van Wyck chuckled. “I’ve always had a defensive mentality, and it just wasn’t my thing.”
With a 6-foot-2, 240 pound frame, with the speed to boot, the change did have some real logic behind it, but the coaching staff soon discovered that defense is where Van Wyck belonged. With experiment behind them it was back to linebacker for the remainder of the season for Van Wyck, as well as through spring and summer ball. Then, just when Chase had comfortably settled back into the linebacker corps, another surprise came just one day before the opening game against Southern Oregon.
This time the position swap was closer to his comfort zone, yet just as foreign, as Van Wyck was placed out on the edge as a defensive end.
“I had almost no experience with pass rushing, so this adjustment was definitely an eye opener,” Van Wyck said. “I can’t just bully 280 pound guys like I could before. I have to make the most use out of my speed and hands.”
After just three games on the line, Van Wyck had become a starter. The change had stuck. It took even less time for the accolades to come, as Chase was awarded with Special Teams Player of the Game for Week 1 for recording five total tackles with that unit.
Van Wyck added three more team awards throughout the season, being named Defensive Player of the Game twice for his work against Montana Tech and Rocky Mountain in Weeks 4 and 9, respectively. He was also given the Hard Hat award for his tenacity in Week 5 against Montana State-Northern.
Van Wyck’s final game of the season served as proof of his evolution on the line. In that contest against Carroll he totaled 11 tackles, including three solos and two for loss, and a sack.
Van Wyck certainly wouldn’t mind to return to his former spot at linebacker. However, he’s very content with his current responsibilities, so long as he fits the needs of his squad.
“I’m just realizing what it takes to be down on that line and what kind of work is involved,” Van Wyck said. “I would love to go back to LB, but it’s definitely worth playing wherever as long as I’m helping the team and out there doing something I love.”
This year Van Wyck was given another chance to do something he loved—shot put. Track coaches at EOU had taken interest in him just a year before, but wanted to ensure that Chase’s studies would not be negatively impacted by his participation.
Chase was able to catch the tail end of the indoor track season, but was fully cleared for the entirety of the outdoor season. It had been almost two years since Van Wyck had heaved a shot put, but just like on the gridiron, it didn’t take long to adjust.
After all, Van Wyck’s name is still etched in Napavine High School history as a one-time state champion and school record holder of the longest shot put distance (55 feet, 7.25 inches).
The shot put ball at EOU is an Olympic standard 16 pounds, rather than the 12 pounds used in high school. Collegiate level coaching, specifically on form, helped Van Wyck get back into the swing of things.
“Halfway through the season the form finally clicked,” Van Wyck said. “Just working with the coaches and seeing what slight changes in body posture can do really helped.”
In Van Wyck’s return to the field, he impressed as part of a men’s team that won the Cascade Collegiate Conference Championship. Chase also came very close to making his way to nationals, falling just 3.5 inches short of the qualifying 50 foot (15.25 meters) requirement.
A prideful victory did come Van Wyck’s way, as he defeated the No. 1 ranked thrower from rival school Southern Oregon by just a couple centimeters.
“I happened to get in my head and just go harder for that one,” Van Wyck said. “This started out as a good hobby to keep in shape, but I’m determined to make nationals next year.”
In academics, Van Wyck is on track as a sociology major. It didn’t take long for him to learn the keys to being successful in the classroom.
“College is just a measure of time management and communication,” Van Wyck said. “It’s an adult decision to move on and grow. Getting help through tutors and other people is super important.”
He’s uncertain where a degree will lead him, but he’s got his sights set on pursuing law enforcement. His father, Rick Van Wyck, a K-9 handling deputy with the Lewis County Sheriff, has served as his biggest inspiration, and Chase is eager to follow in those footsteps.
“I’ve always looked up to him,” Van Wyck said of his dad. “He’s a hard-working man that has always taught us rights and wrongs and guided us in the right direction. He’s a very motivational person.”
At this time of year, the focus is getting back to football, and Van Wyck can’t wait to go out and make his mark as a team leader. His goal for this season is a lofty one, but couldn’t be any more serious.
“To be completely honest, my goal is to become an All-American as soon as possible,” a candid Van Wyck said. “I love this sport, and I love to dominate. If I don’t, it just motivates me to get better. Besides, being the top dog is just more fun.”