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Wheeling football coach Brent Pearlman was hardly surprised when he heard Miles Osei earned the Outstanding Special Teams Player award for Illinois' football.
In his senior season, Osei converted full time from quarterback to a wide receiver and special teams specialist for the Illini this fall.
"Obviously, he's had a lot of adversity at Illinois," said Pearlman, who coached Osei at Prospect before taking over at Wheeling. "But one of his trademarks has always been how well he handles adversity."
Osei ranked fourth for the Illini with 35 receptions for 349 yards.
He played on all four of the Illini special teams, ranking second on the team in punt returns, with seven for 84 yards (12.0 avg.) and third in kickoff returns with five for 93 (18.6 avg.). He also finished with 10 special teams tackles on the year.
"That doesn't surprise me at all," Pearlman said. "Miles was a captain this season. His last game was his best of the season. That just epitomizes him to a tee. He's just an incredible fighter and extremely courageous. I saw the same things from him in high school and said the same thing back then that I say now -- he is a great football player but an even greater person."
In the last game against Northwestern, Osei caught a touchdown pass from senior Nathan Scheelhaase with 2:23 left in the game, bringing Illinois to within 3 points, and keeping the Illini hopes alive in the 37-34 loss.
It was Osei's first career touchdown and he finished the day with 8 catches for 93 yards, both career highs.
Wheeling assistant coach Joe Rupslauk, who also coached Osei at Prospect, calls him "hands down the greatest competitor I have ever been a part of coaching."
"He is an elite teammate and an elite man," Rupslauk added. "His fire made me a better coach. I am truly saddened he is done playing college football.
"Illini football took a long time to figure out how special he really was. Regardless, Miles went out his senior season like the true winner he is. He was a great teammate and played his brains out."
Concordia Chicago junior Brandon Stinson (Leyden) was named player of the week after he contributed in many ways to the Cougars' busy three-game week. He matched his career-high scoring mark of 19 points against Silver Lake College and set a new career mark of 8 assists against Edgewood College.
In the three games, which also included one at Benedictine, Stinson averaged 14.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.
• Buffalo Grove graduates Mario DiCarlo (freshman) and Rich Zirngibl were defensive backs for North Central College, which went 13-1 this fall and won the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin title. Making their first trip to the NCAA Division III semifinals the Cardinals lost 41-40 to defending champion Mount Union (Ohio) in a overtime thriller that made national highlight shows over the weekend.
With their quarterfinal win over Bethel University (Minn.), the Cardinals advanced to the semifinals for the first time in program history and became the winningest team in school history.
• Winona State senior Matt Splon (Wheeling) recently completed his fourth season with the Warriors after playing all four years as a defensive back.
He was a safety and a cornerback and he also played on special teams.
Splon received NSIC All-Academic Awards for three years in a row (maintaining a 3.65 GPA) along with being named the special teams MVP his last two seasons.
This fall, he was the winner of the 'True Warrior Award' which goes to the player who epitomizes Warrior football and contributes the most on and off the field with honor, respect and class.
Despite a season-ending injury (broken leg) in the tenth game this year, Splon was the team's sixth-leading tackler. He will graduate next spring with a major in business administration and a minor in marketing.
Illinois Wesleyan senior defender Declan Geraghty (Schaumburg) was named to the first team of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America/Continental Tire NCAA Division III All-Central region squad.
Geraghty was a second-team all-region selection as a junior and earned third team honors as a sophomore. He capped off his career by earning first team honors for the fourth straight season on the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin all-conference men's soccer team.
Geraghty had 2 goals and 3 assists for 7 points for the Titans, who finished with a 9-8-2 overall record and a 3-4-0 mark in the CCIW. All three of his assists were in conference matches, tying him for second in the league.
• Carthage senior Billy Hamilton (St. Viator) was named to the fall 2013 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin/Jack Swartz all-academic list.
Hamilton was named second-team All-CCIW with 3 goals and 3 assists.
A double major in graphic design and public relations with a 3.889 cumulative grade-point average, he was named 2012 Capital One/CoSIDA academic All-District 6 and he was 2012 CCIW/Jack Swartz all-academic for the fall.
Hamilton has been named to the Carthage dean's list four times and is a four-semester member of the Carthage athletic director's honor roll.
Men's cross country
Illinois Wesleyan senior Mark Giannis (Buffalo Grove) was named the "Hardest Worker" for the Titans.
Women's cross country
Augustana junior Becca Sund (Palatine) has been named as a Vikings co-Most Valuable runner.
Sund began her junior season by finishing third at the Fighting Bee Opener and then ran to an individual title at the Bradley Intercollegiate Invitational.
In the 33-team Brissman-Lundeen Invitational, she galloped to a 12th-place finish at her home meet on Saukie Golf Course in a race which hosted 415 runners.
She followed that up with a fifth-place performance at the 29-team Wisconsin Lutheran Invitational the following week. Sund was the team's top runner at the CCIW Championships placing eighth and then again at the NCAA Midwest Regional, finishing 26th.
Arlington Stallions Rugby
Senior Zach Niro (St. Viator), senior Cody Foss (Conant) and sophomore Spencer Krueger (Hersey), all football players in the Mid-Suburban League this fall, are expected to make an impact this spring on the Stallions varsity team, which finished fourth in the Illinois Youth Rugby Association West Division last season.
A signup event for the spring season was held last Saturday at the Wellness Center at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights.
The Stallions plan to have teams at the junior varsity, frosh-soph, seventh-eighth and fifth-sixth grade levels.
Niro is the only one of the three with rugby in his pedigree. His father Dean started in college and still plays.
The 17-year-old was the St. Viator defensive MVP and was a special mention selection on the Daily Herald all-area football team as well as an East Suburban Catholic all-conference selection. He started playing rugby in the sixth grade.
"When you look at both sports, football is a sport where there is going to be major collisions and you're going to get really, really banged up," Niro said. "In rugby, you need more endurance to play. The two sports are pretty different. Even the contact in each sport is different."
Rugby rules do not allow using the head for tackles or for contact above the shoulders. The benefits of the training showed in Niro's high school career.
"I feel like it helped my open-field tackling immensely," he said. "I was able to tackle everyone in the open field in football. … The fundamentals in rugby are a little different from football. And when you start to apply those to football it definitely helps. I love both sports with all my heart. They're both amazing."
Foss, who started as a lineman for Conant's state playoff football team, began rugby when he heard about the Stallions from fellow Cougar football players when he was a sophomore.
"Rugby helped me when it came to mobility," Foss said. "I became a more mobile offensive lineman and I could definitely attack the field better. It also gives you a little boost in your confidence when you are able to keep up with everyone else on the football field or even bypass their pace because you're so much better conditioned."
Foss enjoyed the similarities between the sports and fell in love with the differences. Rugby games feature 40-minute halves, and the 15 players on each side go nonstop.
"You definitely need more endurance in rugby," Foss said. "Everyone plays both ways. The game doesn't stop when someone's tackled. For me, because I played offensive line, it was definitely a good turnaround. You get to carry the ball. Everyone gets their touches. Everyone in some aspect gets the same opportunities to make the plays."
Rugby, played without helmets or pads, suffers from a perceived stigma of more injuries. Foss understands the concerns but disagrees with them.
"In football when you're tackling someone a lot of times you're just trying to hit them as hard as you can," said Foss, a National Honor Society and A Honor Roll student at Conant. "In rugby, there's a very big importance placed on your tackling form. Tackling safe, using your shoulder … not hitting with the head. That definitely makes the game a lot safer. It's definitely more of a technical sport instead of blind collisions. "
Niro and Foss plan to play for the Illinois All-Star Team, the Tornados, this summer and in college.
Krueger, also a Tornado last summer, worked his way up to a starter on the line for Hersey's football playoff qualifier.
He found out about the Stallions from a flier at picture day for the Arlington Cowboys youth football team.
"I didn't want to play because I didn't have any friends in it," he said. "I showed up, and I loved it, and found a lot of new friends."
Krueger thinks one of the benefits of the club is getting to make friends with teammates from across the northwest suburbs.
"I know a much wider variety of people because I've had so many different experiences and opportunities," Krueger said.
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