Male Athlete of the Year // NSW Awards // Season 15

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Let’s begin with Athlete of the Year Awards. Each person made its presence known from the jump. They all put on terrific performances day in and day out and were must-see TV. Patrick Codo starts us off with the nominees for Male Athlete of the Year sponsored by BMO Harris Bank.

Antonio Torres

We start our Male Athlete of the Year list off with Waubonsie Valley’s football star and wrestler Antonio Torres. After a winding high school road that began at Waubonsie Valley, then to Naperville Central a year ago, Torres made a return to Warrior country this fall. His senior year was cut short on the football field because of an ankle injury, but that didn’t stop him from rushing for 300 yards and four touchdowns in only four games. However, it was on the wrestling mats where he did his best work. A DVC, and Regional champion, Torres punched his ticket to state for a second consecutive season by finishing in third place at the Hinsdale Central sectional.Torres then grappled his way to a 4th place finish in the 160 point weight class, ending Waubonsie career with over 100 wins in just three seasons. He was also a state champion in the Illinois Freestyle at 182 pounds. Up next is Southern Illinois of Edwardsville where the grappler will continue give it his all on the mat.

Zeke Williams

Up next for Male Athlete of the Year is senior sensation Zeke Williams a member of the Naperville North Football and Basketball team. As a three-year varsity starter on the gridiron, his senior year turned into a memorable campaign by catching six touchdowns on offense, to go with 41 tackles and 13 pass break ups as a defensive back. His performance helped the Huskies to winning the DVC after a thrilling week nine win over Neuqua Valley. As a starting guard on the basketball team Williams played a pivotal role, averaging 13.1 points per game, to go with 6.2 boards. His skills and leadership helped the team to regional championship win over Lake Park. Younger brother Luke Williams, just a sophomore, is one of the area’s most exciting athletes, who also played a major role in the success of the Huskies football and basketball teams. Zeke’s athletic career is not over yet as the all DVC selection will continue to play football for the Huskies, this time it will be with the defending MAC Champions, Northern Illinois University.

Tyson Berg

Time to jump into the pool with Naperville North senior Tyson Berg, one of the top performers in the state whether it’s swimming between the lane lines for top times or putting the water polo ball into the back of the net. As a senior Berg swam his way to state qualifying as part of the Huskies 200 yard medley relay team. Despite not getting a spot in the state finals Berg was not done with his work in the pool. As a member of the boys water polo team, he helped lead a huge turnaround for the Huskies in the standings with a team high 87 goals. One of those goals was the last second game winner against rival Naperville Central to win with sectional championship for the first time since 2014. Even though the Huskies lost in the quarterfinals to Lyons Township, the 1st team All State selection guided the Blue and Orange to a final 23-5 record after a 2-8 season in 2021.

Jalen Johnson

Now we go to a nominee making his second straight Athlete of the Year appearance with Metea Valley pass catcher and runner Jalen Johnson. A three-year member of the varsity football team, Johnson played a pivotal for the Mustangs by catching 39 passes for 808 yards and 8 touchdowns, while also using his incredible leaping ability and 6’3 frame as a defensive back. The All-conference selection helped the black and gold to their most wins since 2016. In addition to serving as a two-way standout with the pads on, Johnson also ran his way to success on the track and field team. He did hit a road bump with a hamstring injury but that didn’t stop the lanky Mustang from winning the DVC Indoor and Outdoor meets in 110 hurdles and sweeping the 110 and the 300 hurdles at sectionals. Johnson capped off a decorated track career with another All State finish in the 110 hurdles at the State Meet. After a successful career with the Mustangs, he will be sharing a huddle with Zeke Williams at Northern Illinois University next season.

Mark Mennecke

Our final nominee is a three sport athlete from Neuqua Valley, last year’s Newcomer of the Year, Mark Mennecke. After winning the starting quarterback job as a sophomore, Mennecke took his experience from the shortened spring season, and lead Neuqua Valley on the program’s deepest postseason run since 2013. The dual threat QB racked up 2,300 yards through the air and on the ground and 22 total touchdowns helped the Wildcats to a record of 10-2 and the 8A quarterfinals. Unfortunately it resulted in a one-point loss to Maine South, but with his senior year still to come there is plenty to be excited about for the fall of 2022. Mennecke also played a pivotal role as a guard for the Neuqua Basketball team by helping them to a second consecutive regional championship. He also once again played an important role on the Wildcat baseball diamond at the plate and on the mound, using his powerful arm and knee buckling breaking ball to help the Cats to a regular season DVC title and a sixth consecutive regional championship.

And the winner for Male Athlete of the Year is…..Jalen Johnson! After striking out on the award last year, the future Northern Illinois commit gets over the hump in his final season. Congratulations Jalen!

For more prep sports content, visit our Naperville Sports Weekly page!