Lockport’s boys golf team surprised many people a year ago when it took third place in the abbreviated IHSA state finals after posting a 299. That mark was two strokes behind champion Hinsdale Central and one stroke in back of Stevenson. It marked the third time that the Porters won a state trophy, with the last coming in 2000.
As a bonus, the Porters also had the individual state champion, Ben Sluzas, who became the program’s second title winner and its first since Drew Pierson in 2000. Sluzas shot a 68 to edge Lincoln-Way Central’s Sean Curran by one stroke for the title. Both are only juniors, so they’ll try to battle again in this year’s finals at The Den at Fox Creek in Bloomington.
Coach Matt Eber’s Porters graduated three starters from last year’s team, but they have three back as seniors, who should help the cause. Their contribution was seen Monday, when Lockport shot a 286 to win the Plainfield North Invite. Sluzas was the medalist, while sophomore Brody McCarthy took third, and seniors Caleb Andrea and Sam Hook tied for fourth. Junior VJ Greci was among the six at state in 2018 with Sluzas and McCarthy.
Here’s a look at some of the other large school programs from the area.
Junior Anthony Miglieri and sophomore Andy Stone return for coach Jeff Allen’s Raiders.
“Both worked hard on their swings this summer and look to remain consistent throughout the fall season,” Allen said.
Joliet Catholic Academy
Coach Dave Mondrella’s Hilltoppers return three golfers from a sectional qualifying team, senior Creighton Karner and juniors Evan Byrd and Ben Toborg.
“They are a very loose group that knows they have a long way to go, but they are looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead,” Mondrella said.
Seniors Brock Whiteman and Nick Bartelt lead the way for coach Ed Larson’s young team.
“We have two bright lights that have a chance to advance in the state series,” Larson said. “And we have five new freshmen, so we’re looking forward to a bright future.”
Veteran coach Mark Hollatz returns four starters from a year ago, with sophomore returning state qualifier Paulius Malcius leading the way. Seniors Grant Sullivan, Jacob Pulido, and Kyle Bohne joined Malcius on last year’s regional title team.
“We hope to advance downstate as a team,” Hollatz said. “Last year was the first time since the IHSA moved to thee classes that we didn’t advance in Class 2A.”
Junior Sean Curran, last year’s second-place finisher in Class 3A, leads coach Ryan Pohlmann’s Knights. Sophomore Juney Bai also advanced to state, while senior TJ Edmier and junior Nick Tingley were sectional qualifiers.
“We were a young team last year that gained a lot of experience,” Pohlmann said. “We return the majority of our lineup and are hoping to build off of last year’s accomplishments.”
Junior Matt Kelley, a sectional qualifier last year, started this season with a 75 at an invite at The Den in Bloomington, while freshman Dylan Drogemuller led the way in the Plainfield North Invite. Coach Jim Nair’s team includes seniors TJ DeVries, Nick Meiners and Jake Nair.
“I really like the consistency at the top of the lineup, and with the development of our seniors, we feel we will be a very competitive, deep team,” Nair said.
Dan Szablewski takes over as the Warriors’ coach and follows Donna Thompson, who led the program from its start. Returners from last year’s SWSC Red and regional champions are seniors Nick Hamilton, Ethan Healy and Jason Lange, along with junior Zack Phelps. The team took second in the Oswego Stableford Tournament to start the season.
“The mix of talent among returning players who experienced plenty of success last year with some newcomers should have this team in shape to compete deep into October,” Szablewski said.
Senior Matt Sitar and junior Luke Petrovic will lead coach Brian Petrovic’s Indians. Others who figure to contribute are seniors Jake Ragusa and Jared Scott and junior Kevin Phillips.
“I have super high expectations for what Matt and Luke will do this fall,” Petrovic said. “We will really be leaning heavily on these five guys for a successful season.”
Junior Lucciano Blandino earned all-SPC honors and qualified for the sectional to lead three returners for coach Darren Kobliska’s Wildcats. The team’s lone senior is Jay Enix.
“Overall, I’m really looking forward to this season because our team this year is a close group with a good work ethic and great character,” Kobliska said.
The Bengals figure to be led by senior Charlie Hemmelgarn.
Coach Mike Kneip has several returners from a sectional-winning team that went unbeaten in dual meets and won a second-straight SPC title. Top returning golfers include juniors Todd Daugherty, Patrick Farnan and Drew Maletich, along with senior Ryan Gilbert.
“These players gained valuable experience at the varsity level last season and have worked extremely hard this summer to get their games sharp coming into the season,” Kneip said.
Coach Tim Boe’s Cougars have a pair of returning sectional qualifiers in seniors Jackson Barth and Tyler Czoschke. He also has seniors Muneeb Malik and Nathan Shappa back.
Juniors Davis Billows and Michael Blake, who both were sectional qualifiers, return for coach John Platt’s team. They also will look to senior Ryan Hilty and sophomore Drew Brasky. This is the first year that the Celtics will be competing in Class 2A under the three-class format.
“My top four players have worked really hard during the winter, spring and summer, so I’m looking forward to their hard work paying off,” Platt said.
Coach Jeff Bambule returns senior Brandon White, junior Gannon Orfino and sophomore Lance Laushot from a team that graduated six seniors.
“Replacing the six graduating seniors will be tough, but our staff is hopeful that the crop of underclassmen will fill the bill,” Bambule said.