VILLA PARK – Willowbrook High School boasts a rich history of standout athletes, including many who went on to professional careers, since the school opened in 1964. The Warriors have three state titles (boys gymnastics in 1964 and badminton in 1998 and 1999), 11 state trophies in total and count 12 different athletes who have won individual state titles. Here is a selection of some of the school’s most accomplished athletes.
Willowbrook class: 1995
Highlights: Gerut won seemingly every award conceivable when he was a Warrior. He was a high school All-American and represented the U.S. at a youth level. At Stanford, he was a two-time All-Pac 10 player, an All-American in 1998 and played in the College World Series in 1997. The Colorado Rockies drafted him in the second round of the 1998 draft and made his major league debut in 2003 with the Cleveland Indians. Gerut was named The Sporting News MLB Rookie of the Year that season. He also played for the Cubs, Pirates, Padres and Brewers. From 2003 to 2010, the outfielder hit .262 in 1,992 career plate appearances and hit for the cycle in 2010 with Milwaukee. He retired before the 2011 season. The Stanford graduate is coaching at Chicagoland Baseball Academy in Niles.
Willowbrook class: 1971
Highlights: After starring at Willowbrook, where he was an all-state linebacker in 1970, Hicks continued his career at Illinois. In his final year at Illinois, Hicks was named the team’s defensive MVP and was a first-team All-Big Ten selection. At the time, he broke Dick Butkus’ school record for unassisted tackles with 274. The Chicago Bears drafted Hicks in the sixth round in 1975 and he played all five years of his NFL career with the Bears. He totaled five interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown.
Sport: Volleyball, basketball, softball
Willowbrook class: 1992
Highlights: Plenty of athletes are three-sport stars in high school and a select few are lucky enough to continue playing two sports in college, but playing all three in college? That’s what Kenny, known as Andrea Miller, pulled off at Austin Peay. She wasn’t just a roster filler either. She remains fourth on Austin Peay’s all-time career 3-point percentage, 10th on the career aces list and 15th in career digs, and holds five single-season and five career hitting records in softball.
Willowbrook class: 1975
Highlights: Mango won the state title in still rings in 1975. In college at Northern Illinois, he won the national title on rings in 1979. After his competitive career ended, he coached gymnastics and volleyball for 17 years. Mango wrote a book title “Becoming a True Champion: Achieving Athletic Excellence from the Inside Out” and has been a motivational speaker.
Willowbrook class: 1984
Highlights: Pizzotti helped the Warriors to a 94-17 record in her four years and went on to play at Southeast Missouri State, where she was a two-time captain. After her playing career ended, Pizzotti started coaching. She was the head coach of St. Louis University women’s basketball from 1996 to 2005 and is an assistant coach at DePaul.
Willowbrook class: 2001
Highlights: Roth was a highly recruited football player and wound up at Iowa, but also was an elite wrestler at Willowbrook. He won the state title at 275 pounds in 2001. At Iowa, he was a two-time All-Big Ten defensive lineman and an All-American his senior season. The Miami Dolphins drafted him in the second round in 2005 and he racked up 23.5 career sacks in seven NFL seasons with the Dolphins, Browns and Jaguars.
Willowbrook class: 1971
Highlights: Rowland played football and baseball at Willowbrook and continued his pitching career at Millikin University. The San Francisco Giants drafted him in the 22nd round in 1975. He made his Major League debut in 1980 and totaled 28 career appearances, 27 as a reliever, and picked up one win in 42 2/3 innings with a 2.74 ERA.
Willowbrook class: 2005
Highlights: A three-sport athlete at Willowbrook, Scahill dominated as a two-way player in baseball. In three seasons at Bradley University, he struck out 187 batters in 214 2/3 innings and was selected in the ninth round of the 2009 draft by the Colorado Rockies. He made his Major League debut in 2012 and currently is coming out of the bullpen for the Rockies.
Willowbrook class: 1972
Highlights: Schatzeder has arguably the best résumé of any of Willowbrook’s pro athletes. He spent 15 years in Major League Baseball and was a part of the Minnesota Twins’ World Series winning team in 1987, even earning the win in relief in Game 6 of the seven-game series. He made 504 career appearances, 121 starts and totaled 1,317 innings. Schatzeder had a 3.74 ERA with 748 strikeouts and a 69-68 record. He was drafted in the third round by the Montreal Expos in 1976, debuted in the Majors the next season and also played for the Tigers, Giants, Phillies, Indians, Astros, Mets and Royals before retiring in 1991.
Willowbrook class: 1964
Highlights: Schmitt was Willowbrook’s first individual state champion and was on the first state championship team in school history. He won the all-around title and the horizontal bar his senior year. In college at Iowa, he was a two-time Big Ten champion on high bar and an All-American on the event in 1967.
Willowbrook class: 1966
Highlights: Scorza also was a member of the 1964 state championship boys gymnastics team and followed in the footsteps of high school teammate Neil Schmitt by going to Iowa. He was a state champion on horizontal bar in 1966 and a Big Ten champ on high bar and vault in 1970. That year he also was an All-American on high bar. Scorza was a member of Iowa’s 1969 national championship team.
Willowbrook class: 1991
Highlights: Sheldon went undrafted out of Grand Valley State, but worked his way to the NFL and played three seasons for the Miami Dolphins as an offensive tackle from 1997 to 1999. He played in 29 games and made two starts. Elsewhere in his pro career, he was an All-World League offensive lineman with the Rhein Fire in 1997 and an All-XFL player with the Memphis Maniax in 2001.