CEDAR RAPIDS — A home wrestling dual last month against Cedar Rapids Washington had a bigger purpose than pins.
“We need to live through him,” Xaver wrestling coach Ryan Chambers said.
On Nov. 10, 2019, former Xavier wrestler Jeff Vipond died after struggling with an anxiety disorder for many years. Vipond made an impact on many people and had a love for wrestling.
“As us coaches struggled to wrap our minds around losing someone so close to us and our program that meant so much to us, we all knew we had to do something,” Chambers said. “We had to make a difference for Jeff as we felt we owed it to him as he gave us so much.”
The meet honored Vipond and the impact he left on the Saints’ program. His willingness to help others and great personality is something his teammates will never forget. The program also welcomed the Future Saints Wrestling Club, which Vipond was a former member.
“Jeff was someone that I could look up to every day on and off the mat. He is such a great man and I will always remember how he has impacted me,” said Garrett Ries, who graduate last year. “I truly have no favorite memories with Jeff, because every time with Jeff was a fun and memorable moment.”
Chambers said all of the pictures they have of Vipond at the state tournament show him with a younger wrestler on his shoulders or wrestling with them. Vipond was always willing to make someone feel special.
“I had wrestled with Jeff when I was younger and I always looked up to him like my big brother,” junior Ivan Thomas said. “He motivated me to be my very best and was a great role model.”
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The required wrestling warm up is navy and silver, but Vipond always wore his white sweatshirt before competing. The meet against Washington was a whiteout in honor of Vipond and his white sweatshirt.
“Jeff always had to have his white, almost gray sweatshirt from wearing it all the time, and white never being able to stay white after all the washings,” Chambers said.
The Xavier coaching staff used this opportunity to bring awareness to mental health.
“Through this terrible tragedy, we want to carry on Jeff’s legacy through helping others,” Chambers said. “The focus this year for our guys is to make a difference in someone’s life.”
Many people today are affected by mental health. The Xavier wrestling program wants to make a change in other people’s lives by doing the small, simple things.
“That is what Jeff would do. Jeff was a dominant wrestler with 120-plus wins, No. 4 on our all-time win list, and yet he was the one with the biggest heart, willing to help others,” Chambers said. “That is what made Jeff special.”
The Saints compete in a Class 3A district on Saturday in Marshalltown.