NSW Awards // Male Athlete of the Year // Season 13

The four Male Athlete of the year Nominees for season 13 come from the field, court, the ice, and the pool. Check out who they are presented by Molly Maid of the Aurora Naperville Area. 

The Nominees

Zach Pearce: Warrior Hockey

We begin with our lone repeat male athlete nominee as Zach Pearce returned to the Warriors Hockey Club for his senior season with high expectations. After leading the Waubonsie Valley/Metea Valley Combined squad to the Illinois West Cup and a thrilling Blackhawk Cup championship victory over Glenbard in 2019, a repeat performance would be difficult with a larger target on their backs.

Somehow, Pearce was able to improve on his numbers this winter, delivering 32 goals and 33 assists in just 27 Illinois West Conference games for the Warriors. Pearce and teammates like Nolan Cummings, CJ Cirko, and Tony Campise guided the Warriors back to the Blackhawk Cup semi finals before the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In what ended up being the season’s final game against Kings in the Blackhawk Cup quarterfinals, it was Pearce who provided the final goal of the year. Putting the Warriors into the semis with the overtime game winner. Despite the disappointment of being denied a chance to play for the Cup at the United Center for a third consecutive season, Zach Pearce graduates from Metea Valley as one of the best high school hockey players to ever lace up the skates in the Naperville area.

Marcus Skeete: Waubonsie Valley Boys Basketball

A year ago, Waubonsie Valley boys basketball won 27 games and ended an 11 year regional championship drought and All conference player Marcus Skeete was a big reason why. Following the graduation of four senior starters, Skeete entered his senior season knowing that the fate of the Warriors 2019-20 season rested largely on his shoulders. The burden became even greater midway through the conference season when second leading scorer Ben Schweiger missed several weeks with a back injury. Waubonsie did not miss a beat as number 23 averaged 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists for a WV team that won 27 games again this past season. In addition to becoming the school’s 7th 1,000-career point scorer, Skeete stepped up several times in the biggest moments. The senior scored 22 points in a conference win over Dekalb, the only loss suffered by the Barbs in DVC play. He also tied a 40-year-old school record by scoring 41 points in the championship of the Hinkle Holiday Classic against Cary-Grove. But his most memorable moment was the banked in buzzer beating three pointer to defeat Naperville Central, which crazily enough was one game after hitting a buzzer beater to defeat Oswego East. Despite an upset loss in the regional semi finals, Marcus Skeete was honored as the DVC Player of the Year and was a 2nd team All State selection by the Illinois High School Coaches Association. Deserving honors for one of the best to ever wear the green and gold.

Mark Gronowski: Neuqua Valley Football & Basketball

After leading the Wildcats back to the post season in 2018 and committing to FCS power South Dakota State over the summer, Neuqua Valley quarterback Mark Gronowski took his game to another level in 2019 earning him a Male Athlete nominee. Completing passes at a 68% clip, he led NV to a 9-2 record and the DVC championship. In the team’s only regular season loss of the year, Gronowski went toe to toe with what may have been the best team in the state, East St. Louis. In the week 3 contest, he threw for five touchdowns and showed his much improved running ability as well, powering his way to 114 yards on the ground and two more touchdowns in the 50-48 thriller.

When all was said and done, Gronowski finished the year with 1,663 passing yards, 721 rushing yards, 27 total touchdowns, with 12 of them coming via the run. The Wildcats took down Conant in the first round of the 8A playoffs, the first post season win for Neuqua since 2015. Gronowski was named the conference co-offensive player of the year with Naperville North’s Matt Maschmeier and became the first Neuqua quarterback to be selected first team All State by the Illinois High School Coaches Association.

Gronowski was also a starting forward for the Neuqua Valley basketball team in the winter. What made him such a valuable player for NV was his desire to do the dirty work to help the team win, including pulling down rebounds, playing tough defense and setting solid screens to open up Neuqua’s outside shooters. Gronowski and his Wildcat teammates won over 20 games for the first time in five years and earned their first regional plaque since 2015 with a win over Plainfield North.

Connor Boyle: Neuqua Valley Swim & Dive

Another Wildcat made a star making turn this season for Male Athlete is Connor Boyle dominated in the pool for Neuqua Valley boys swimming. Boyle was already an 8 time state medalist and a member of the 2019 state champion 400 and 200 free relay teams heading into his junior year. The junior took his performance up a level at the state meet this February, winning two individual state championship medals in both the 50 and 100 yard freestyle.

While Neuqua Valley boys swimming has won many relay titles and team state trophies, Boyle became only the 5th Wildcat to win an individual title and the first since Grant Betulius won the 100 backstroke in 2010. He is also the first NV swimmer to win two individual first place medals at the same meet since Kevin Overholt in 2009. His four career first place medals are already 2nd best in school history, only behind Brian Alden’s seven. With one year to go in his outstanding career and now 11 state medals in his trophy case, Connor Boyle has a chance to catch Alden for the most state medals in Neuqua history at 14. As the only nominee with eligibility remaining, don’t be surprised to see Boyle hit that mark and back in the NSW Award show next year.

Check out other Season 13 nominees within Naperville Sports Weekly!

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