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updated: 2/26/2014 8:06 PM

Lisle can do more than play baseball

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  • Members of the 2013 Lions baseball team celebrate their new state baseball trophy at the IHSA state baseball tournament in June.

      Members of the 2013 Lions baseball team celebrate their new state baseball trophy at the IHSA state baseball tournament in June.
    Daily Herald File Photo

 
 

If this baseball thing doesn't work out for Lisle, opportunities await in the service industry.

On Feb. 20 the Lisle baseball program held a fundraiser at Culver's on Ogden Avenue in Downers Grove. That restaurant is owned by the family of former Lions ballplayer Rob Esposito, who suggested the idea to coach Pete Meyer. Lisle coaches and players served patrons during the three-hour event.

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The fundraiser, which featured Lisle's 2013 Class 2A state championship trophy sitting on the main counter, raised $1,300. Most of the money came from a percentage of sales donated by Culver's but also from a couple overturned helmets with requests to "fill the helmets for the state champ's quest to build dugouts," Meyer said.

During the event junior pitcher and first baseman Ryan Joyce told Meyer, "The owner asked me if I wanted a job."

Later that night Esposito approached Meyer and said, "I want to hire him." A couple days after the fundraiser, Esposito asked him again.

Meyer said that according to Esposito the store did the most business in its history over a three-hour period, an estimated 600 customers.

The final decision

At last week's Class 3A individual state wrestling meet, Willowbrook sophomore 152-pounder Matt Rowland won his first match, then dropped the quarterfinal.

In wrestlebacks Rowland won his first two matches, lost the third, and returned to win his final match, 3-2, to place fifth in state.

"He gave me a big hug and said, 'I won your last match.' Then it hit me," said Warriors coach Bryan Murphy.

After 33 years with the high school wrestling program or the Young Warriors Wrestling Club (which he founded), 33 years as a Willowbrook driver's education teacher, health teacher and dean, the retiring Murphy will soon be a full-time grandfather of five, with another on the way.

During his career he taught Rowland's mother and coached both his father and brother. It's one of many multigenerational combinations in the 56-year-old Murphy's career.

"All of a sudden you realize it's your last match at Assembly Hall, then you start to think about all the boys you did coach, all the boys who've come through who are now men at home with children," Murphy said. "That's what I really enjoy, watching the children come back."

He said his own two sons, Bryan Jr. and Brandon, now 34 and 31, respectively, "grew up" in Willowbrook's wrestling room and are still involved in the program. His daughter, Michelle, is married to a former wrestler also on Murphy's staff. He met his wife, Mary, while competing for Eastern Illinois; she was a team manager.

"It stays in the family," Murphy said.

Wrestlers have a deserved reputation as stand-up guys. Murphy graduated from Lyons Township but after becoming a dean at Willowbrook in 1990 moved to Villa Park because he thought it was right to live in the community he served.

"The district's been really good to me," he said.

Willowbrook's head wrestling coach since 2000, Murphy coached the Warriors' five state champions -- former National Football League player Matt Roth and two-time champs Steve Congenie and Mike Behnke.

Murphy also remembers Kevin Steader in 2011, losing to an Addison Trail wrestler by 15 points then turning around two weeks later to beat him 18-17. And 160-pounder Dan Rowland, Matt's older brother, taking third in Class 3A by winning five straight matches -- with a broken collarbone.

"I know I'm going to miss it, I just haven't thought about it. I put it on the back burner," Murphy said.

Now it's cooking up some feelings. On Tuesday Murphy was talking to a driver's ed student whose father Murphy taught in health class in 1982. Time flies when you're having fun.

"There's obviously bittersweet here," he said. "I fully enjoyed myself teaching. I never dreaded coming to school, I never dreaded coaching. I loved it all."

All CLASS

Neuqua Valley graduate Dwayne Evans, a senior forward for St. Louis University, is one of 10 finalists for the 2014 Senior CLASS Award in men's basketball. An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, the award salutes Division I seniors with notable achievements in community, class, character and competition.

Honorary captain of the 2009-10 DuPage County All-Area Boys Basketball Team, Evans is Neuqua Valley's rebounds and blocks leader, second all-time in scoring, and participated in a program-high 83 wins.

At St. Louis -- ranked No. 8 nationally according to USA Today, 10th by The Associated Press for its first top-10 ranking since 1964 -- the 6-foot-6 Evans leads the 25-2 Billikens with 14.3 points and 6.3 rebounds. He's a four-year starter who looks good for a second straight all-conference pick in the Atlantic 10.

Off the court, he's active in the Special Needs Soccer Association around St. Louis, and last summer he traveled to Africa for community service with Athletes in Action. All-Academic in the A-10 last year, Evans entered his senior year with a 3.2 grade-point average in business administration, with a sports business minor.

A team captain, he served as a pallbearer at the funeral of the late St. Louis coach Rick Majerus and spoke at the memorial service on campus.

The CLASS Award is won by a combination of media and coaches votes, plus fan voting at this website: seniorclassaward.com/vote/mens_basketball/. People can vote once daily until voting ends March 24. As of this writing Evans was fifth with 7.6 percent of the vote.

Get out there!

Acing geography

The five local athletes selected to the 26-person 2013-14 All-State Academic team, announced last Friday by the Illinois High School Association, have at least one thing in common.

They're all good at 800 meters and up.

Each of the local honorees is a cross country and/or track athlete, and a good one -- Glenbard West's Maddie Perez, Neuqua Valley's Nick Bushelle, Hinsdale Central's Kevin Huang and the Downers Grove North mixed pair (still got Olympics on the mind) of Stephanie Urbancik and Zach Smith.

Without even thinking they could tell you what's longer, a mile or 1,600 meters.

All-State Academic honorable-mention selections included Montini's Margaret Hallerud and Neuqua's Claire Costelloe -- both distance runners.

The champions

During halftime of Wednesday's boys basketball game against Naperville North, Naperville Central was to be presented with the Army National Guard national ranking trophy as part of the ninth annual MaxPreps Football Tour of Champions.

Coach Mike Stine's Redhawks, Class 8A champions, were one of 50 schools being honored on the tour. Naperville Central finished the season ranked 108th nationally by MaxPreps. Sounds high until you realize MaxPreps ranks more than 16,000 teams across the country.

doberhelman@dailyherald.com

Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1

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