Coach started at Weyauwega-Fremont
By Greg Seubert
A lifetime of playing and coaching football has resulted in an honor for Tom Chase.
The 1981 Weyauwega-Fremont High School graduate who coached the school’s varsity football team from 1990 until 2014 is one of 12 upcoming inductees into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Other inductees for 2024 are coaches Tom Noennig (Hartford, Mayville); Pat Wagner (Milwaukee Riverside); Mike Minick (DeForest, New London); Dave Rusch (Waukesha South, Westby, Hartford); Tim Simon (Middleton); Tim Eastlick (River Valley); Steve Jorgensen (Oshkosh North, Kimberly); Jon Galewski (South Milwaukee); Nelson Edmonds (University of Wisconsin-Whitewater); and John Dixon (UW-Platteville, Park Falls, Manitowoc). Paul Feldhausen will also be inducted as a referee.
The induction ceremony will be held Saturday, April 6, at the Marriott West in Middleton.
Chase, who recently retired as a social studies teacher at Weyauwega-Fremont High School, fell in love with football while playing for former Weyauwega-Fremont coach Jim Otte.
“Growing up as a kid on a farm, I remember going in the corn field waiting for my dad to chop corn,” he said. “I would get in a three-point stance and just explode into the field. I always had a passion for the game of football. I had a very good experience playing for coach Otte at Weyauwega. He made it fun, we had some good teams and I guess I kind of carried that with me as I got into coaching.”
Although Chase is now retired from teaching, he will return for his fifth season of coaching the varsity team at Randolph High School in Randolph, a village of 1,800 residents about 65 miles south of Weyauwega.
His coaching resumé also includes four seasons as an assistant coach at Ripon College from 2015-18.
Chase credited his assistant coaches as well as his late wife Tammy, who passed away in July 2022, as big reasons for his success.
“She was so instrumental and did so many things behind the scenes, whether it was registration for youth camp, running concessions or running the camera for any games,” he said. “She did so much and a lot of things that she did helped us have success. I wish she was here to see this.”
After attending UW-Oshkosh, Chase returned to the Weyauwega-Fremont School District in 1988 to be a teacher and coach.
He served as an assistant football coach before being offered the varsity job in 1990.
“Way back when I was about 9 years old, my dad let me play Little League baseball and I knew nothing about it,” Chase said. “There was a dad that did some things that just really strung me away from that experience. I told myself that if I ever came into a position where I was going to be influential with young people, I never wanted to be like that. I was very lucky that I had the opportunity to get into coaching. Being a three-sport athlete at Weyauwega was great. I wanted to stay in that realm somehow and the best way to do that was to coach.”
Chase’s most successful year came in 2005, as the Indians won all nine regular-season games and picked up playoff wins over Southern Door, Northland Pines and Kewaunee before falling to West Salem in a WIAA Division 4 state semifinal game.
“We knew we were going to be OK,” he said. “They just grew together and their chemistry was phenomenal. They worked so hard in the offseason after the year before. We had some really good leaders on that team and some very good athletes. Once we got in the playoffs and started to roll a little, we knew we could probably play with pretty much everybody and that was really the key.”
Chase went on to take seven Weyauwega-Fremont teams to the playoffs. That success continued in Randolph, as the Rockets made the playoffs in each of his first four seasons.
Making the transition to Randolph was not difficult, according to Chase.
“We had a meeting in late February right after they hired me and invited the community in to meet me,” he said. “I gave them a presentation and it just flew from there. They had a couple down years and I think they had won eight games in four years. In the next four years, we won 29 games. The kids really bought in right away and we had a great staff.”
Weyauwega-Fremont administrators made it possible for Chase to continue coaching.
“I basically asked them if I could do a morning duty where I could leave right away at 3:22,” he said. “We didn’t get practice started in Randolph until about 4:40, which was really tough on the kids. With me being retired, I’ll be able to get down there at 3 and we can get things moving right away. It’s going to be a big benefit for the kids, the community and the school.”
Chase said he will continue to coach in Randolph on a year-to-year basis.
“Last year was extremely difficult in my personal life,” he said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t know if I was going to make it through the season, but I needed it more than the kids. We have some really good kids coming back this year that are a boatload of fun and they’re working their tails off right now. I’m excited about what we can do this year. I still have the energy and the fire. I’ll take it a year at a time, go from there and see what happens.”
Chase coached other teams at Weyauwega-Fremont, including basketball, baseball and softball.
“Football’s a special game,” he said. “The biggest thing that’s kept me going – whether it’s at Randolph, Ripon College or Weyauwega – was building relationships with the kids and being able to connect with them. It’s really kind of cool when you have a kid that’s been out of school for 20 years and they invite you to their wedding because they remember the experiences that they had. Building relationships is really what it’s about and making sure the kids have a positive experience playing football.
“I’m very appreciative of all the places I’ve been able to coach,” he added. “The administration, the community, the parents have always been very supportive. I’ve been very lucky to live out this dream that I’ve always had to be able to coach, have good health and be able to do it for 30-some years. It’s been fun.”