Marist High School’s Hall of Fame recognizes graduates who made a profound impact on Marist athletics. He or she must be at least seven years removed from high school graduation and during his or her time as a Marist athlete would have displayed exceptional talent and ability, incredible work ethic, dedication to the team, and exemplary leadership and sportsmanship.
CODY BOHANEK ’13
Cody Bohanek ‘13 never looked for the easy path. Whether it was balancing the commitment of two sports, dealing with injuries, or overcoming adversity, he took it head-on. Playing baseball since the age of six has offered him plenty of life lessons. “It’s taught me to be patient and has given me perspective in life,” he said.
A shortstop and pitcher growing up, at Marist, Bohanek added second base duties to that mix. He played on the sophomore squad as a freshman and then spent the next three seasons on varsity, including as captain his senior year. “My junior year was a great year for the program,” he recalled. “We went on to win a regional and sectional championship and lost in the supersectional game against Lyons Township.” Bohanek earned ESCC All-Conference honors during his junior and senior seasons.
“Cody was a fierce competitor who was at his best in key moments and in big games,” former Marist Head Coach Tom Fabrizio ‘98 recalled. “He displayed confidence and control both as a position player and as a pitcher which helped him have a tremendous high school and college career, and ultimately led him into professional baseball.”
In addition to baseball, Bohanek was a standout on the football field. He was a three-year varsity starter and earned conference honors twice. He credits former Head Coach Pat Dunne ‘98 with creating a culture and atmosphere that was fun to be a part of for him. “He changed the whole football program and identity,” he said, recalling how great it was to compete alongside his teammates. Bohanek believes playing both sports benefited him mentally and physically and brought great friends and mentors into his life.
Bohanek stayed close to home after receiving an academic and athletic scholarship to the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). He battled several injuries, including two broken jaws and a broken hand, but only missed a handful of games. He became a four-year starter and was a big contributor in putting UIC baseball back on the national map. As a senior captain, he helped lead the team to a Horizon League title and earned a spot in the NCAA national tournament. “Winning the regular season and tournament was unbelievable,” Bohanek said. “Seeing how far our team came to get to that point was special and being the captain meant a lot.”
Following the success of his senior college season, Bohanek was drafted by the Houston Astros in 2017 and then was traded to the New York Mets in 2019. Annually, only 1,200 players get drafted to play Major League Baseball (MLB). Over his six seasons in MLB minors, he played across the country and rose to Triple-A, the highest level of play in minor league baseball. During the summer of 2022, Bohanek was signed by the Chicago Dogs, a member of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, who play in Rosemont, Ill. The path through professional baseball is not for the faint of heart. “I haven’t had a red carpet laid out, so I’ve had to keep my head down and just work,” Bohanek said. “Seeing progress and growth keeps me motivated…even if it’s in small amounts.”
In his free time, Bohanek has coached youth teams and offered private lessons. He, along with his family, is involved with the Live Like Abby Foundation which honors the late Abby Wujcik by fundraising and advocating for advancements in the care and treatment of pediatric brain tumor patients.
Bohanek credits his parents for their sacrifice which allowed him to chase his dreams. “It starts with them letting me attend Marist,” he said. “I cannot thank them enough for everything they have done for me throughout the years.”
Bohanek encourages young athletes to chase their dreams, too. “Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not good enough or you can’t do anything,” he said. “Stay humble. Be a great teammate. Keep your head down and always keep working.”
JOSEPH SMALZER ’09
Be kind and work your butt off. That’s the mantra that saw Joseph Smalzer through a decorated athletic career and now serves him as a professional and family man. It’s also the advice he offers to young athletes. “There’s a belief that as an athlete if you’re kind, you’re not ‘hard enough,’ but you can absolutely be both,” the 2009 graduate said. “Some of my biggest athletic competitors were my friends off the court. I rarely compromised kindness for my sport.”
His sport as a grade school student was baseball, but following in his sister Claire’s (2007) footsteps and seeking a different type of athletic culture, he was quickly drawn to volleyball. He found it to be tight-knit, inclusive, and unique and still admires the way that volleyball is a game people of all ages and abilities can play.
At Marist, Smalzer was a three-year varsity player, helping lead the team to three East Suburban Catholic Conference (ESCC) championships, with only one conference loss during his three varsity seasons. The team had regional wins his junior and senior year, and a sectional title in 2009, placing the RedHawks in the Elite Eight. In total, Smalzer and his teammates won more than 80 matches in three seasons. Among his many high school accolades, Smalzer was twice voted as the MVP of the ESCC by the conference coaches. He was selected to numerous all-tournament teams, and in his senior year was voted an American Volleyball Coaches Association First Team All-American, an honor his coach Bob St. Leger believes was only awarded to nine other high school seniors in the country that year. He was a “Fab 50” selection by Volleyball Magazine.
“Obviously Joe had incredible talent but he had a work ethic that was every bit as strong as his ability,” St. Leger explained. “His positive attitude was infectious. I can honestly say that in 16 years of being a head coach, I do not think I have ever been around another player who loved to play more than Joe. What impressed me the most about Joe was how he treated his teammates.”
And it is those teammates and camaraderie that Smalzer values most of all. “There was an awesome team culture that made my experience so much richer, especially when transitioning to high school. There was a brotherhood that brought everyone together. We all got along,” he recalled. “That’s all you can hope for as a coach and player.”
After a solid recruiting season, Smalzer selected Loyola University to continue his career. It echoed the welcoming culture he found at the club and high school levels. A redshirt freshman, Smalzer started the five-year Bachelor’s of Business Administration/Master of Business Administration program. In 2011, he was selected as the Conference Freshman of the Year. In 2013, he was the Conference Player of the Year. He was a three-time American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American selection. In 2013, he led his team to the national semifinals, and in 2014, as the captain of the Ramblers, he led Loyola to its first-ever NCAA national championship. Smalzer recalls his 2014 squad only lost one match all season and ended up hosting the NCAA tournament which meant the arena was packed with Loyola fans as they captured the title. In his redshirt senior season, Smalzer earned countless accolades including Off the Block National Server of the Year, All-American Honorable Mention, First-Team All-MIVA, NCAA All-Tournament Team, MIVA Tournament Most Valuable Player, and MIVA All-Tournament Team.
Smalzer set the Loyola record with 234 career aces–nearly 100 more aces than any other player in program history. During his senior season, Smalzer was second in the nation, averaging 0.64 aces per game. Smalzer is also fourth in Loyola’s program history with 1,424 career kills.
After college, Smalzer went on to play professionally for two seasons–one with Finland and one with France. He was then invited by the USA Volleyball Men’s National Team to tryout for the 2016 Rio Olympics. He missed making the roster by just two spots. Smalzer and his now wife, Kory, decided it was time to shift gears from competitive volleyball, and he started a career in IT sales and has worked at Amazon Web Services as a global account manager for their cloud services for nearly four years.
Always wanting to give back, Smalzer had regularly volunteered at Cook County Juvenile Detention Center. The pandemic put a halt to his visits, so he and his wife along with a friend established Greater Than Zero Percent, which highlights nonprofits around the world and gives them a platform to showcase their work via a podcast, YouTube videos, and social media. Their organization has grown, adding additional board members and planning its inaugural gala for late October in Chicago.
Smalzer and his wife live in Frankfort with their daughter Evelyn as they await the arrival of baby number two. He was inducted into the ESCC Hall of Fame in 2019.
BROOKE WYDERSKI ’14
Being a part of a team is not just about being able to compete for 2014 graduate Brooke Wyderski. The state champion believes being a good teammate and having a strong work ethic translate to lifelong skills. “I loved how softball was truly a team sport. As cliché as it sounds, it taught me the importance of teamwork at a young age and how to persevere through adversity,” she explained. “It is a game of failure, and I love challenges, so I think that is what drew me to love softball. It has brought me some of the best people I know which is another reason why I loved it.”
Wyderski started playing t-ball at four years old and was on her first softball team at age six. She played several sports growing up and continued that trend into high school, where she was a member of the volleyball program during her freshman year and a four-year member of the basketball program–all on varsity–where she was just as impressive as she was on the diamond. She believes playing multiple sports not only taught her various skills, but introduced a variety of challenges to overcome, helping keep each season fresh and exciting.
It was during her 2012 sophomore softball season that adversity would lead to incredible success. The RedHawks were not living up to the promise they had at the start of the season. In fact, as playoffs approached, they were one of the worst teams but that did not deter them, and run by run, game by game, they kept advancing, ultimately clinching the state championship–the first women’s IHSA state championship in Marist history. “Throughout the run, different players made key contributions to help us secure the title,” Wyderski said. “It was a fun group of girls to play with and it was even better because some of my teammates were my first teammates I ever had in 10U travel ball.”
Wyderski, a shortstop, made her own contributions during her four varsity seasons. She was a three-time ESCC All-Conference selection, four-time All-Area selection, two-time Southtown Player of the Year, two-time Reporter Player of the Year, and a two-time All-State selection. In addition, Wyderksi’s name appears no fewer than 14 times in Marist’s softball records for hits, homeruns, stolen bases, and more. Wyderski said she was unaware of the records as she just played to win one game at a time. While proud of her accomplishments, she looks forward to the future of Marist softball. “It is amazing to see the Marist softball program continue to grow and be a powerhouse,” she said. “There are so many talented athletes who have been through the program and are currently in it right now. I am very honored to hold those records and can’t wait to see these talented athletes go far beyond them like they are capable of for years to come.”
After Marist, Wyderski played for Loyola University for two seasons and is grateful for the wonderful friendships made. While there, she started all 50 freshman games and set rookie records with 12 home runs and 37 RBI among other record-setting stats. As a sophomore, she started 38 games, had a .416 batting average, and earned two Missouri Valley Conference weekly honors. She then transferred to University of Wisconsin – Madison where she credits her coaches for not just preparing her for games but for her life and career paths. As a Badger, she started all 52 games during her two seasons and with incredible stats, won Team’s Newcomer of the Year (2017), NFCA All-Great Lakes Region second team (2017), NCAA Tournament All-Region team (2017), All-Big Ten second team (2017, 2018), NFCA All-Great Lakes Region first team (2018), and Academic All-Big Ten (2018).
Today, Wyderski is an enterprise account executive for Comcast Business. She has helped coach Marist and Beverly Bandits softball when possible, and offers private lessons. She encourages young athletes to enjoy the sport and to “Always remember your sport doesn’t define who you are, you define who you are.”
Wyderski credits her parents for their incredible sacrifice and support. “They woke up early to take me to all of my sporting events and never missed a game my senior season,” she recalled. “I couldn’t be more blessed to have them in my life. Their selfless work ethic and unconditional love instilled the importance of hard work and determination that has gotten me to where I am today.”
The 2012 softball team was inducted into the Marist Hall of Fame in 2020 and into the ESCC Hall of Fame in 2022.
2010 BOYS VOLLEYBALL STATE CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM
It is not where you start, but where you finish. The 2010 boys’ volleyball team knew that all too well. Early in the season, they had a bad loss to Maine South at home in front of a packed gym. “It was a big wake-up call,” Casey Gray ‘10, one of the team captains recalled. “We had been riding high up until that point and realized there was a lot to work on.” That loss became fuel, and the RedHawks met up with undefeated Maine South again in the state semifinals where the RedHawks came out on top, advancing to the state title match. There, they defeated three-time defending state champion Wheaton-Warrenville South (WWS) in straight sets, capturing the program’s second state title.
In boys’ volleyball, the semifinal and final are played the same day. “Our confidence was through the roof after just knocking off Maine South. The gym was packed and we were playing a team (WWS) we had beat earlier in the season,” Gray said. Remembering the experience of playing in the state tournament the previous season, the players readied themselves for the match. “We reminded everyone to embrace the moment as you may never be in this gym again,” Gray recalled. While WWS had its moments, Marist controlled the match with many players contributing. Kevin Morrison ‘11 had the final kill and then the team stormed the court.
The path to such success was due to the commitment of the coaches and players. The team practiced six days a week, including 6 a.m. workouts in the offseason. Coach Robert St. Leger recalls the intense practices that prepared the team for each opponent. “Every day was a war! The second team took great pride in pushing the first team, and it was not uncommon for the first team to lose to the second team,” he recalled. “Everyone of our ‘second team’ players would have been starters and probably even stars in most other programs but they never seemed to let that bother them. This was absolutely vital to our success. Each and every athlete checked their ego at the door and came to practice every day ready to work and do whatever was necessary for the good of the team.” Gray agreed, “Our team had a great ‘we’ mentality, where no one was trying to outshine one of our teammates. We came to practice with a mindset to get better each and every day.”
As a team, they accrued a 38-4 record, won the Marist Invite, and placed second in the Best of Illinois Tournament. The 2010 seniors won more than 70 matches and lost fewer than 10 while never losing a match in the ESCC. Garret Dempsey was the ESCC Player of the Year while
Gray, Kevin Murphy, and Dave Nelson earned All-Conference honors. Several players earned state and media accolades. Eight members of the team went on to play for university teams or university club teams. St. Leger was the first person in Illinois to win a state volleyball title as both a player and a coach. The team was inducted into the ESCC Hall of Fame in April 2022.
Gray pointed to the impact of St. Leger and the coaching staff on the team. “Coach St. Leger was a leader that knew how to put the team in the best possible spot to be successful,” Gray said. “He was definitely a player’s coach that everyone played hard for, and there was a mutual respect between him and the players. All of our assistant coaches were incredibly supportive in their own ways too.”
“We won a lot of games and those are moments that will never be forgotten, but the relationships and friendships that were formed are what mattered most,” St. Leger said. Players and coaches alike recalled the fun of being on the team and the incredible bond among them. The team enjoyed ping pong competitions, video games, pasta parties, and just hanging out together in the locker room
St. Leger credited more than just the team for the success in 2010, and pointed out the support of Marist administration, the selflessness of the coaching staff, and the sacrifice of the team parents.
The 2010 team members included: Matt Amendola ‘10, Eric Berglind ‘10, Tommy Clark ‘10, Sean Connelly ‘11, Garrett Dempsey ‘11, Dan Garvey ‘11, Joe Germino ‘11, Casey Gray ‘10, Zach Heppner ‘11, Jim Mead ‘11, Patrick Meyer ‘10, Kevin Morrison ‘11, Kevin Murphy ‘11, Dave Nelson ‘10, Mike Reid ‘10, Eddie Yerkes ‘10, and manager Mike Gardner ‘11. The coaching staff along with St. Leger was Jodi Frigo, Rob Prohaska, John Mooi, Corene Peloquin, Mike Brennan ‘99, Mary Barry, Bill Langevin ‘08, and Rich Jercich.
Team members Patrick Meyer ‘10 and Michael Reid ‘10 have since become part of the program’s coaching staff, helping continue the tradition of excellence. The boys’ team also won state in 2002 and 2019 and the program remains one of the most respected in Illinois.