Donny Didion, a senior wrestling classmate of Drew Kasper, has started a petition to honor the top-seeded heavyweight in NCAA DIII as the “honorary national champion” after Kasper’s chance at the title was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[Kasper] is an influential figure for all of Otterbein sports with the way he has represented the university and the class he carries himself with on and off the mat,” Didion said. “He has been an inspiration to me and a lot of other wrestlers on the team, and I hope he has inspired a lot of people at Otterbein.”
Before Kasper’s recent media attention, Didion’s mother encouraged her son to start the petition after he told her how important Kasper is to him and the rest of the wrestling team. The petition sits at 162 signatures on April 20.
“What [Kasper] brought to the program off the mat was equally as important as what he brought to it on the mat because he elevated what we were able to do as a program,” head wrestling coach Brent Rastetter said. “He was critical to every level of success we have had up to this point.”
As the first All-American in this iteration of Otterbein wrestling, Kasper is widely recognized for his athletic accomplishments. What makes him special to those in the program is how he has not let his mental health and academic challenges affect his wrestling.
“Drew’s commitment to be a champion is what really drove him. He was able to overcome a lot for that,” Didion said. “When you want something bad enough, you will overcome any obstacles in your way.”
Didion suggested putting a banner in the Rike Center referring to Kasper as the “honorary national champion” similar to how the 2017 University of Central Florida (UCF) football team declared themselves national champions with their undefeated season despite not being selected for the College Football Playoffs.
“[Kasper] did not have an opportunity to win a national title this year, ... but the other things he has brought to the program and Otterbein are going to last long past the remembrance of him winning a national title,” Rastetter said. “Those are types of things I think he needs to be remembered for.”
According to Otterbein Sports Information Director Adam Prescott, the athletic department is not thinking about something like a banner right now since they are working from home during the pandemic.