As John Wander approached a difficult decision, one thought stayed front and center in his mind.
"It's great to go out on your own terms," he said.
Wander did just that, stepping down as Downers Grove North's football coach after 16 seasons at the helm. While the veteran came to the decision several weeks ago, he waited to tell his players until after the season because he didn't want to draw attention away from the team.
Wander, who has coached football at Downers North for 32 years, wants to stay as an assistant with the Trojans or somewhere else. Being the point man as the head coach of the program, though, is no longer a desire.
"I love football and working with the kids, and I'll probably never leave the sport," said Wander, 51. "It's just time for a change."
Since 1955 the Trojans have had only four coaches, including an interim season by current assistant Bill Kleckner. Wander has a connection to all three of his predecessors. He played for Dick Carstens as a 1984 graduate of Downers North and coached with Pete Ventrelli from 1986 to 2001.
Wander took over for Ventrelli in 2002, compiling a 90-79 record with 10 playoff appearances and a run to the Class 8A title in 2004. He leaves on the heels of another playoff season after the Trojans went 5-5 and lost to Normal Community in the opening round in Class 7A.
Wander has two sons, one in eighth grade and another in sixth grade, who will attend Downers North. Easing his responsibilities will allow him follow their progression more closely.
"I've had a great run with great people, but now it's time for someone else to take over," Wander said. "I bleed purple. I've been there my entire life. I'm not leaving. I'm just going to be doing something different."
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