MILFORD — Bismarck-Henning graduate John Spezia returned to active coaching Monday night against his former high school. The second-year Milford coach was injured in an automobile accident on New Year’s Eve morning en route to a practice and was in an Urbana hospital for three weeks.
He is coaching from a wheelchair and directed the Bearcats to a 55-49 victory.
“Two weeks ago, I was wondering if I was ever going to be able to get out of the hospital and be able to coach,” Spezia said. “There were obstacles I had to clear from the doctor, then to get clearance from the school and the IHSA, to make it happen.
“To come back against the school I graduated from, along with many of my relatives, was storybook. To beat them in a game that was exciting from tipoff to finish was even more exciting than you could imagine.”
During his layoff, Spezia was strengthened by the support he received. “The phone calls, visits, emails and spirit of the Milford team and fans was unbelievable,” he said.
He won’t need to wait long to coach against his alma mater again. Monday’s game was a rescheduled contest. The rematch will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Bismarck.
Leverenz signs with Butler
DANVILLE — Senior Johnny Leverenz, a two-sport all-state athlete, signed a letter of intent to run cross-country and track and field at Butler University in Indianapolis. He plans to major in accounting.
Leverenz was the Class 2A state runner-up last fall in cross-country and was the Class 3A 800-meter state champion last spring on the track.
Hess selects Bradley
CHAMPAIGN — Senior Nick Hess, a two-sport champion, will continue his running career at Bradley University. He plans to sign a letter of intent Thursday.
Hess was third at state in cross-country as a junior, helping the Sabers win the Class 1A team title. As a senior, Hess was the state runner-up.
In track, as a junior, he ran on STM’s Class 1A state championship 3,200-meter relay and helped the school secure a 10th-place team tie at state.
Charger safety picks college
CHAMPAIGN — Centennial safety Phillip Hassell will sign a letter of intent Thursday to continue his football career at Robert Morris College. Hassell is a 6-foot-3, 175-pounder and had 49 tackles as a senior.
STM catcher commits to Joliet
CHAMPAIGN — Senior Sean Sullivan, from St. Thomas More, will sign a letter of intent Monday to continue his baseball career at Joliet Junior College. Sullivan was an all-conference first-teamer as a junior and earned All-Area special mention recognition as a catcher.
He was second among the Sabers with 26 RBI as a junior.
Winning record for lightweight
CHAMPAIGN — St. Thomas More freshman Sean Coffey is one of several dozen area wrestlers who finished the season with a winning record but didn’t qualify for sectionals. Coffey would enter the Sabers’ lineup at 106 pounds or at 113, depending which weight class Matt Cinnamon wound up. At regionals, Coffey was entered at 113 and lost twice, completing his season with a 16-13 record.
Wherever Coffey was entered, he was giving away weight. He tipped the scales at 78 pounds during weigh-ins.
Area grapplers who qualified for sectional will compete at either Chatham Glenwood (Class 2A) or Stanford Olympia (Class 1A) on Friday and Saturday, seeking the four state-qualifying berths at each weight class.
The championship matches are scheduled to start at 2 p.m. at Chatham and at 3 p.m. at Olympia.
Area kids on campus ...
— Parkland College freshman Hannah Wascher, from Rantoul, is the Region 24 leader in field goal accuracy. Her mark of 59.1 percent (136 of 230) ranks seventh among NJCAA Division II athletes.
— Freshman Kyle Heller, from Mahomet-Seymour, scored the only points for Knox College in a dual-meet loss last week to Lincoln College. Heller won his 165-pound bout, defeating Monticello native Luke Dunn, 9-6. Another Lincoln College wrestler, freshman Archie Williams Jr., from Centennial, posted a 12-7 decision at 174 pounds.
— Numerous former area athletes secured top- five finishes in last weekend’s Keck Invitational at Illinois Wesleyan University.
Senior Taylor Brunner, from Argenta-Oreana, was third in the pentathlon for Greenville College with 3,126 points. Her best finish was runner-up in the shot put (35 feet, 2 inches).
Sophomore Kilee Hoffman, from Villa Grove, placed fourth in the open shot put (37-81/2) for Judson College.
Sophomore Jacob Griffith, from Villa Grove, was fifth for Millikin University in the 5,000 meters (16 minutes, 12.01 seconds).
Junior Alex Kemp, from Tuscola, was fifth in the 200 meters (23.04 seconds) for Millikin, where he also plays soccer.
Freshman Jesse Hahne, from Schlarman, ran unattached and won the 3,000 meters (8:51.74). Hahne is a student at Illinois State University.
Sophomore Alex Arteaga, from St. Joseph-Ogden, won the heptathlon with 4,709 points. The Washington University athlete placed first in the pole vault, long jump and shot put.
Freshman Eric Rydell, from St. Joseph-Ogden, placed third in the high jump (6-63/4) for Illinois Wesleyan University.
— Freshman Zaniel Zielwicz, from Mahomet-Seymour, ran the third-fastest 60-meter hurdles time in Millikin history at the Engineer Open hosted by Rose-Hulman. He was clocked in 8.95 and finished seventh. He also finished second in the high jump (6-11/4).