Student wears school pride on sleeve, face

Crazed fans are as much a part of sports as the seventh-inning stretch or an in-game T-shirt toss. These vocal spectators use costumes, jeers and attitude to make it tough for opposing players – and supporters.

Abby Badach
(Abby Badach) Senior Everett Wensel

The Dawg Pound has been a thorn in the side of any visitor to Cleveland since 1985, while The Oakland Zoo makes it difficult for any team to leave the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh with a ‘W’.

 Texas A&M University even established The Twelfth Man.

Gannon University, on the other hand, has Everett Wensel.

The senior accounting major, who oft can be seen and heard at sporting events wearing face paint and cheering on the Knights, has made it his duty to help Gannon become a difficult place to play.

“I like home-court advantage to actually be home-court advantage,” said Wensel, who spends 20-30 minutes prior to every game applying face paint. “It can be done with the atmosphere that we make.”

Wensel, who makes pacing the bleachers and yelling at officials look easy, has been perfecting the art since his days at Maplewood Junior-Senior High School in Cortland, Ohio.

It was then that Wensel, a manager of his football team, took it upon himself to become a cheering liaison between the players and fans.

“Everyone at the time loved it,” said the 21-year-old Wensel. “We had a cheering section called The Wood Shed and I was able to become an on-field extension of that.”

After graduation, with his work in The Wood Shed complete, Wensel said he believed that his time as a certified super fan was over. His feelings remained the same until his sophomore year in college when he decided to return to the sidelines – only this time with a painted face.

That’s a choice that Brett Favre would applaud.

“I wanted to become more integrated on campus,” said Wensel, who hopes to receive his MBA from Gannon. “I felt a tug to come back as I felt more comfortable here – and last year it just all came out.”

Since his first game – a Knights’ football game – Wensel has made appearances at water polo, lacrosse, volleyball, baseball, softball, men’s and women’s basketball and soccer events. 

When it comes to the hierarchy of games, Gannon’s own super-fan has certain sports he’d rather watch.

“Football and basketball are my favorites to attend, just for the sole reason that I’m more knowledgeable about them,” he said. “It’s easier to yell and shout when I already know the rules instead of learning as I go. I just enjoy a good game – no matter what the sport.”

However, his love of Gannon sports isn’t the only reason he rabidly cheers for the Knights.  Game days give Wensel, who describes himself as relaxed and quiet away from the stadiums, an outlet to release some pent-up emotion.

“It’s actually a good stress relief for me,” he said. “I look at it as a good unwinding activity that lets me get loose for a couple of hours.”

While he is cooling off, the rest of the section cheering with him is just beginning to heat up. According to Beth Gaertner, a junior communications arts major, it’s because of Wensel that other spectators get excited.

“He brings everyone’s morale up,” Gaertner said. “He makes every game exciting – no matter the score, who’s winning, or which team Gannon is playing. The games are a lot different when he’s not there.”

Not only do his cheering-mates enjoy Wensel’s presence, he is also a big hit with the alumni and parents. He claims that 99 percent of the feedback he receives is positive.

“Its pretty cool watching parents come up to him to talk and thank him,” Gaertner said. “He’s such a big fan and it’s important to have people like that because without them the teams are just playing for themselves.”

The players he cheers for have taken note. The women’s basketball team’s senior guard Julie Kleber is grateful to have a fan so engrossed in the action.

“It was great to have him,” Kleber said.  “He’s one of our biggest fans. It was fun to look up and see him leading cheers. Hopefully we’re going to have that again this year.”

As much Kleber enjoys having Wensel at the games, the competition would rather he steer clear of home games as each appearance comes with advice for the rest of the spectators of how to accomplish the ultimate goal – to get under the opposition’s skin.

“We really take a cue from Everett and what he does,” Gaertner said. “He teaches us some tricks and gets us to become more vocal and step up our game.”

While Wensel likes to think he makes it difficult for the opposition, he’ll be the first to admit he has no idea how much he actually matters.

“We try to get into everyone’s head, but there is no way to really measure it,” said Wensel, who was kicked out of a women’s lacrosse game last season for boisterous behavior. “But if you get any acknowledgement from a player, you know you’ve done your job.”

According to Wensel, cheering the Knights on is a team effort and one he shouldn’t take all the credit for.

“We’re 1A, 1B, 1C, when it comes to cheering – it’s not just one person,” he said. “If one of us can’t make it, someone else is there. We even had people cheering at both basketball tournaments over Thanksgiving break.”

At the end of the day, Wensel said he’s Gannon super-fan for the experience, and no other reason.

“It’s just something I enjoy doing,” he said. “If nothing else, I provide a lot of entertainment value.”

ZACK MCDERMOTT

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