The Wheaton connection: U.S. Olympic men’s volleyball team will feature two players from the Western suburb

It seems almost beyond belief.

Two men from the same town, Wheaton, are playing with the United States Men’s National Volleyball Team that will compete at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

“I’m not sure how many times that’s been done,” said St. Francis coach Mike Lynch, who coached one of them in high school, Jeff Jendryk. The 6-foot-10 middle blocker will make his Olympics debut.

Tommy Jaeschke, who teamed with Jendryk to win the 2015 NCAA title at Loyola University, played for Bill Schreier at Wheaton Warrenville South. Jaeschke will be in his third Olympic Games.

California, maybe Hawaii, you could see this happening. In fact, the No. 2-ranked American men include libero Erik Shoji and setter Micah Christenson, both from Honolulu, population 1 million.

The Olympic rings are seen on the Eiffel Tower Friday, June 7, 2024, in Paris. The Paris Olympics organizers mounted the rings on the Eiffel Tower on Friday as the French capital marks 50 days until the start of the Summer Games. The 95-foot-long and 43-foot-high structure of five rings, made entirely of recycled French steel, will be displayed on the south side of the 135-year-old historic landmark in central Paris, overlooking the Seine River. (AP Photo/Aurelien Morissard) AP

Wheaton, though, has about 53,000 people.

“I think a lot of it is, other than California, Illinois is probably the second-biggest hotbed of men’s volleyball and women’s volleyball,” Lynch said.

St. Francis also has a graduate on the 2024 Women’s National Team that’ll play in Paris, Kelsey Robinson Cook, who comes off a gold-medal win in Tokyo in 2021 and took bronze in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

Also on the women’s team are Lauren Carlini, a West Aurora graduate, and Riverside-Brookfield’s Dana Rettke.

Jaeschke doesn’t think two players making the team from the same Illinois town is all that big a deal. In addition, WW South graduate Sean Rooney played in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

“To be honest, no,” said Jaeschke, one of nine men with U.S. Olympics experience. “We’re all playing and doing our thing. We don’t really care where we come from or what our title is, it doesn’t really matter, doesn’t mean anything.

“It is definitely, like, cool and good, I love having Jeff on the team,” said Jaeschke, a 6-6 outside hitter who played on a bronze medalist in 2016 and looks to improve upon a 10th-place finish in Tokyo in 2021.

Wheaton Warrenville South graduate Tommy Jaeschke, attacks a triple block by Finland in a three-set sweep on Oct. 1, 2023, at the FIVB Road to Paris Olympic Qualifier in Tokyo. Courtesy of Volleyball World

Like Jaeschke a member of Team USA since 2015, Jendryk lives and trains in Newport Beach, California, when he’s not playing professionally overseas. Jendryk has been a pro player seven years, six of them in Germany, Poland and Italy. He’s in Europe about eight months out of the year.

Considering coaching when his playing career is over, Jendryk also has created a website,, to teach middle blockers “how to play more like a professional,” he said.

In the last Olympics circuit, the United States roster included three middle blockers. Jendryk said he was the last cut.

This time, coach John Speraw and his staff selected four middles, though Jendryk believes position on the floor was somewhat irrelevant.

“I think it’s the best athlete available. Us four middles (Jendryk, Taylor Averill, Max Holt, David Smith), we’ve been going back and forth on starting, not starting. What I think they took were the best athletes to go to the Olympics and that ended up being four middles,” he said.

“I’m so excited. I think it’s a great decision by the coaches.”

Tempered a bit by life experience, like a 2019 shoulder injury requiring surgery, Jaeschke gets a kick out of what Jendryk brings to the team — “levity and joy with a mix of professionalism and obviously a super-high level of player” — while also maintaining a surprisingly matter-of-fact attitude toward the Olympian task ahead.

“I think it’s important to just treat it like other volleyball matches,” Jaeschke said.

“It is just like more matches, more volleyball, and I think if you approach it that way it’ll go better than if you approach it like this big idea, or if it’s bigger than it really is.”

Tommy Jaeschke, from left, Kyle Russell and Jeff Jendryk celebrate the U.S. Men's National Team's qualification into the 2024 Paris Olympics at the FIVB Road to Paris Olympic Qualifier in Tokyo on Oct. 7, 2023. Courtesy of Volleyball World
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