Mike Sandrolini

Mike Sandrolini has been published in the Elmhurst Independent, Voyager Media, the Daily Herald, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Bear Report. His stories and columns have been recognized for editorial excellence at regional, state and national newspaper contests over the years. He also has co-authored two books: "Bear With Me: A Family History of George Halas and the Chicago Bears" and "All the Good in Sports." His father, Raymond, is a native of Gaggio Montano, a small village around 30 miles southwest of Bologna.

Volleyball standout Rachel Giustino

Relatively short for an outsider hitter, Rachel Giustino excelled at collegiate volleyball through a combination of power, finesse and athleticism. In volleyball, being taller does give a player an advantage — something Rachel Giustino readily admits. Height is almost a prerequisite if a female high school player hopes to catch the eye of a major university. “Normally, big schools won’t recruit anyone under 6 foot,” says Giustino, who’s listed at 5-10. But that didn’t deter David Schwepker, head volleyball coach at Murray State University in Kentucky. From the get-go, Schwepker set his sights on Giustino, who helped lead Marian Central …

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Harness race owners Tony and Michael Somone

The general public recognizes thoroughbred racing because of the big-name Triple Crown races: the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. But the Somone brothers, Tony and Michael, instead gravitated to harness racing as teens. They grew up close to Maywood Park, which with its sister track in Crete, Balmoral Park, is a hub of Illinois standardbred harness racing. “When I was about 16, I went to the harness races with my friends,” recalls Michael, assistant vice president at Amalgamated Bank of Chicago. (He’s also been vice president of the Italian-American Labor Council for the past eight years.) “They (his older …

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Youth sports advocate Anthony Isabelli

He’s the manager of digital marketing for the adult division of U.S. Soccer. He also is the U.S. Midwest regional trustee with the Italian National Olympic Committee. And he’s well-known in the Chicago-area Italian-American community as the founder and president of Sportivo Academy, a non-profit organization that provides introductory sports development programs primarily for Italian-American youths in the area. Isabelli says Sportivo, which he founded in 2008, “uses the universal passion for sports in a way to bring local Italian-American youth, coaches and mentors together to not only develop athletic and personal skills, but to help develop Italian cultural awareness …

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Football standout Hayden Baker

Three years ago, Hayden Baker and his younger brother, Quinn, were teammates on the Cary-Grove High School Class 6A state championship squad, which ended its season with a spotless 14-0 record. Quinn, the senior quarterback of the 2012 Cary-Grove team, was one step away from repeating a similar feat: Winning a 6A championship and going undefeated. The Trojans faced Lake Forest in the Class 6A state semifinals Saturday, Nov. 17, and Hayden — who’s completing his redshirt sophomore year as a center with the Northwestern University Wildcats — attended his brother’s playoff games when his schedule allowed. “I’m just proud …

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Football standout Ronnie Castaldo

This is Ronnie Castaldo’s senior year. And the three-year varsity starting linebacker/running back at Lake Park High School in Roselle wants to make it a memorable one. Advancing to the Class 8A state playoffs — the Lancers last qualified for the postseason in 2009–is a team-wide goal. Castaldo plans on doing everything in his power to help Lake Park get there. “The last game of the year (in 2011) we beat Neuqua Valley (a state playoff qualifier) in double overtime and carried that into the off-season,” Castaldo said. “There’s no limit for us. I think we’re one of the toughest …

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High School wrestler Mike DiFrisco

Losses have been few and far between on the wrestling mat for Elmwood Park High School’s Mike DiFrisco the past three years. He’s compiled an 88-15 record since his sophomore year, and finished his prep career this past February by making his third straight appearance at the state individual meet in Champaign. The senior, who’ll graduate in June, posted a 34-4 record during the 2011-12 season at 126 pounds and placed among the top eight in his weight class. Take into consideration that DiFrisco had never wrestled prior to entering high school, and it makes his climb up the ladder …

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Hockey referee Bud Monaco

Those who’ve played organized hockey in Chicagoland over the years have undoubtedly had Bud Monaco officiate one of their games. If not more than one. Monaco’s been a referee for the past 40 years. He’s officiated games at every level imaginable — from the mites leagues (7- to 8-year-olds) to the AAA midget level elite league (under 18s), as well as Chicago area high school hockey leagues and even a league called the Continental Hockey League, which was popular in the 1970s and into the 1980s and made up of former semipro players, some of whom were onetime NHL prospects. …

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Hockey standout Mary DeBartolo

Mary DeBartolo began ice skating when she was 4 with her brother, Joey, at the Southwest Ice Arena in Crestwood. But learning how to figure skate, like other girls her age, wasn’t Mary’s cup of tea. Her oldest brother, Anthony, played hockey at Southwest. And Mary wanted to do the same. Today, she’s a forward on the women’s team at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, an NCAA Division III school of around 6,000 students located in Winona, southeast of Minneapolis. The sophomore tied for third on the team in scoring during her freshman season last year, netting five goals and …

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Maine South basketball coach Tony Lavorato

In Italian, lavoro means work. Add the letters “at” between the last two letters of lavoro, and you have Lavorato. And there arguably isn’t a harder-working boys high school basketball coach in the Chicago area — perhaps in the state — than Maine South’s Tony Lavorato Jr. He also may be the Chicago area’s high school coaching equivalent of Tom Thibodeau, the highly successful Chicago Bulls’ head coach, because Lavorato, like Thibodeau, leaves no stone unturned to help his team notch a victory, gets the most out of the players available to him, and is a stickler for playing within …

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Offensive lineman Dan Feeney

Indiana University, better known for its five-time national championship men’s basketball team, is trying to turn the corner with regard to its football program. Over the next few years, offensive lineman Dan Feeney likely will figure heavily into head coach Kevin Wilson’s plans to make the Hoosiers just as renowned on the gridiron as they are on the hardwood. Feeney — the son of Anthony and Kim (Adelizzi) Feeney, and grandson of Gloria Alitto Majewski, a former longtime member of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Chicago’s Board of Commissioners — is in his freshman year this fall at Indiana. …

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