Throughout Wabash basketball’s amazing runs over the past couple of years, the team has constantly been aided by a raucous home crowd, amplified by the acoustics and student section that have come to be known as the “Chadwick Crazies.” Crawfordsville is a notoriously difficult place for teams to visit—just look at Wabash’s home record in 2022-23 for proof. But there is one tradition that uniquely defines Wabash basketball. And at the center of it is John Horner ’59.
During media timeouts, several times a game, Horner—armed with a well-worn Sphinx Club pot and a giant Wabash jacket—rises from his seat, instantaneously silencing the student section, Wabash fans and the lively Pep Band. Facing the sea of Wabash faithful, he gracefully raises his arms and yells:
Give me a W,
Give me an A…
… echoed by a thunderous response from the students.
At the culmination of the chant, the old man shouts at the top of his lungs:
What does that spell?
To which the students roar back:
This timeless tradition is symbolic of the greater prominence of tradition at Wabash and is attributed to Horner’s innovation, dedication and Wabash spirit.
Born and raised in Crawfordsville, Horner was always destined to attend Wabash. For most of his childhood, Horner would attend Wabash football and basketball games, and has probably attended more of those games than anyone in the history of the college. Aged 86, John enrolled at Wabash in the 1950s and truly excelled in his four years at the college. In his time as a student, he was a proud member of Phi Delta Theta, which he continued to serve as an alumni advisor in the 1980s, joined the Sphinx Club in 1957 and earned four “W” letters for his work as the senior manager of the football team and record-breaking career as a Wabash wrestler.
Horner’s success on the mat was unparalleled in his time, resulting in his selection as MVP of the Wabash wrestling team in 1957. Additionally, in an extraordinary feat, Horner held the record for the fastest pin—an astonishing seven seconds—for 66 years.
After graduating from Wabash, Horner has continued to remain active in the community, regularly attending football and basketball games, maintaining a relationship with Phi Delt and even serving two terms on the Wabash Alumni Board in the 1990s.
While many Wabash traditions—such as Chapel Sing or walking around the arch—seem timeless, they were invented at some point by a pioneering Wally. The “W” chant is no different. For Horner, the decision to create the Wabash yell was rather spontaneous, an instinct that originated around 30 years ago.
Although Wabash had seen a lot of success, including winning the Division III National Championship, the following seasons saw a slight decline in the enthusiasm at Chadwick. One game, Horner decided that the murmur of the crowd was unfitting for the magnitude of a basketball game and made a decision that would change the course of Wabash basketball chants forever.
“It was a time after the 1982 DIII championship, and there were no cheerleaders and not as many people attending the games,” said Horner. “I was sitting at a [basketball] game and we were behind in the score; I felt that we needed someone to get up and lead a cheer. So, I got up and started doing the ‘Give me a W, give me an A…’ and it seemed to lift the spirit of everyone at the game as well as the team.”
Ever since that game, Horner has crafted the Wabash yell into an enduring tradition, creating the integral atmosphere that we know today at Chadwick. It has become a mainstay of every basketball game, and, as a result, Horner has become something of a cult legend. However, the most rewarding part of the Wabash yell, Horner says, is not the attention he receives or even the responses from the crowd—which he is extremely proud of—but rather the genuine comments and conversations with parents and players who have expressed their gratitude for the “W” guy.
“I have had most of the player’s parents come up to me and say that their kids love to have me do the yell,” Horner said. “At 86 years old, I don’t know how much longer I‘ll be able to continue, but I will try to do it as long as I can.”
With the basketball season now at an end, the Chadwick Crazies will have to wait until November to once again hear the cherished chant. But when the time comes, Horner is ready to quiet the crowd, rise out of his seat at the top of the bleachers and proudly proclaim: “Give me a W!”