What Wheaton Academy's Upp can do with just one hand

A dominant Glenbard West squad just wrapped up the 2016 prep boys volleyball season, but serious players switch uniforms and compete with club teams over the summer.

Like Wheaton Academy incoming junior Zachary Upp. He's one of them yet totally unique.

"I don't even know if there's any other people who do what I do, especially in the area," the 16-year-old said.

A blend of inspirations - older brother David, who played volleyball at Bartlett, and retired Major League pitcher Jim Abbott - Zach Upp was born without a right hand.

His arm ends about 3 inches from the elbow; on the court he uses a carbon fiber fitting that screws into a prosthesis attached to his arm.

"From the elbow to wrist, I have the same (arm) as everybody else. But above that it's a little bit different," said Upp, who also plays for the Pipeline volleyball club in Schaumburg.

The cause for the congenital defect is unknown, said his mother, Karen. It's a moot point because there's been no stopping the youngest of the three Upp boys.

Starting out with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Shriners Hospitals for Children, Zach's been fitted for prosthetics to play violin, basketball, golf, baseball "and probably others that I am forgetting," Karen noted. The appendage Upp now uses for volleyball was created for him by TRS Prosthetics out of Boulder, Colorado.

"I'm kind of like a beta tester," Zach said.

"I don't really use it for hitting. I can serve with it and pass and block, but I don't really hit the ball with it at all," he said.

Starting every game this season at either right-side or opposite hitter, Upp averaged 1.5 aces and 2.8 kills a set, Warriors coach D.A. Nichols said. Upp spikes the ball with his left hand, and his working right elbow allows him to pass the volleyball, as he said, just like anybody else.

"I've dealt with it my entire life," Upp said.

"It's not as big of a problem as you'd believe. I'm more fortunate than a lot of other people."

College achiever

As part of its 151st commencement on June 11 North Central College will bestow an honorary doctorate of humane letters to legendary coach Al Carius in honor of his 50 years of service.

We could go on and on about this gentleman ... perhaps we will a little.

A native of Morton and a Big Ten champ at the University of Illinois, with the Cardinals Carius has won 16 national men's cross country championships and 45 conference championships. The men's track program, which Carius led from 1966-2010 before shifting to associate head coach alongside Frank Gramarosso, has won 10 national and 51 conference titles.

Carius is in five different halls of fame, a national coach of the year nine times. The United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association calls the men's Division III team that averages the best at the indoor and outdoor track and cross country national meets the Al Carius Program of the Year.

And this: Al B. Carius will receive his honorary doctorate on North Central's Al B. Carius Track.

The marshall plan

Within about a month we learned of two retired Wheaton coaches who either had or will serve as marshalls at holiday parades.

Al Duhm was an honorary marshall for the Memorial Day Parade in his hometown of Grand Haven, Michigan. He was born there 93 years ago and returned about a decade after teaching and coaching a variety of sports at Wheaton Central from 1959-80.

Highly successful as a boys basketball coach - his 1965-66 Tigers went 24-5 and won a sectional title before losing to eventual state champ Thornton - he was perhaps better known as a boys soccer coach in the sport's early years in Illinois. Duhm's Tigers won four sectional titles in six seasons from 1974-79 with second-place finishes in 1974 and 1976.

Back in Illinois, retired Tigers wrestling coach and athletic director Ed Ewoldt will be the grand marshall of Wheaton's Independence Day Parade.

Like Duhm, the 88-year-old native of Wall Lake, Iowa, arrived at what was then Wheaton Community High in 1959. Ewoldt retired in 1988 and his myriad accomplishments resulted in him being a Wheaton Center for History "Legend of Wheaton."

Ewoldt's short list of honors includes four halls of fame, grand marshall of three different wrestling tournaments including the 1984 IHSA meet, and honorary chairman of Team Illinois wrestling squads that competed in Japan, China and Germany. When his Tigers finished second in state in 1966, it was Wheaton's first trophy.

Ewoldt noted that one of his contemporaries, the late Jim Rexilius of Wheaton North, was a past parade marshall.

"It's quite an honor," Ewoldt said.

Dual purpose

While Duhm and Ewoldt were ruling at Wheaton Central, a new high school on the south side became a thing. Along with demographic shifts Wheaton Warrenville High School came, went, and in 1992 returned as a high school, WW South, to replace Central.

All the while, the original scoreboard from 1973-74 remained at the football field - until last summer when it fell off its steel moorings, necessitating a mad scramble to acquire and install another before the Tigers' 2015 home opener.

"The ability for the proud football program, the WW South athletic department, local sponsors and the WW South Tiger PAWS Boosters to replace the old and broken scoreboard was a goal no one could pass up," said Bob Barista, former Tiger PAWS president.

These things don't come cheap, and funds were unavailable from district coffers. With the quickness and precision of an off-tackle trap, partnerships came together to put a down payment on a bells-and-whistles scoreboard that benefits not just football but track, soccer and lacrosse.

"In today's day and age where people like instant gratification, there was an immediate result," said Michael LaFido, the strong safety on WW South's first state champion in 1992 and president and founder of the nonprofit Tiger Football Fund.

On June 27 Tiger Football will present an annual golf and social outing at Arrowhead Golf Club in Wheaton. As is the case with these events, there are multiple sponsorship opportunities or ways to participate. Last year alumnus and pro tight end Tony Moeaki wrote a check and the National Football League matched it.

Of course, the other aspect is simply having fun. At the 2015 golf outing former Tigers dating to the 1960s showed up.

"After the scoreboard there'll be something else, but the key is to get people together, have a blast and the fundraising aspect is a byproduct of it," said LaFido, who can be reached at

"We want people to have a sense of community."

What a ride

We would all like to go out riding the same kind of wave Downers Grove South softball coach Ron Havelka is right now.

The 68-year-old is retiring as Mustangs coach after this season, which will result in no worse than a fourth-place finish in Class 4A. At 35-3 Downers South aims to finish where it started with Havelka in 1993.

"I was fortunate enough my first year we won the state championship, and this is my last year. We've got a chance, we're down there, so we always have a chance," said Havelka, a Westmont resident who attended Downers Grove Community High.

A 2007 Illinois Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee who enters Friday's semifinals with an unfathomable record of 703-168, Havelka's teams also took second in 2006 and fourth in 2007.

He retired nine years ago as a teacher at Eisenhower Junior High in Darien. Softball remained in his blood. In fact he'll continue as an assistant with the Beverly Bandits travel team.

"I feel good, and coaching these young kids and seeing their enthusiasm and passion for the game, it keeps me young," Havelka said.

Never married - "my players have been my kids" - Havelka is of the it's-just-time school of retirement. Nothing major planned, hopefully traveling to baseball spring training in Arizona and Florida.

First, East Peoria. In this last Sidelines column of the 2015-16 academic year, we wish this immensely kind man the good luck he deserves.

"The whole career, to me, has been like a highlight," Havelka said.

"The relationships you form, they last forever," he said. "That's really what it comes down to. You like to win, you like the success, but you wouldn't trade it in for all the great people you've met throughout the years. I wish more people were able to experience what I have throughout all these years in softball like I have."

Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1

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