Chris Wendt and Morgan Bonk have a lot in common. Both led their respective Fenwick water polo teams to multiple state championships, both were committed, gracious student-athletes during their time as Friars, and both are California-bound for college.
While Wendt (UCLA) and Bonk (Loyola Marymount) may be “California Dreaming” during their waning days in town, it’s quite obvious a part of the terrific water polo tandem’s hearts will always bleed Friar Black and White.
“We won the 12-and-under co-ed title together and everything [since then] has been awesome,” said Bonk, who played on that team with Wendt and several future Friars. “Since the fifth grade, we talked about taking the [Fenwick water polo] program under our wings.”
Wendt and Bonk headline a stellar 2009 Fenwick class, which includes 24 athletes who have committed to playing college sports next season.
Chris Wendt (water polo), UCLA
What do you do for an encore after leading your team to four consecutive state championships capped off by a remarkable senior season that produced a 33-0 record, 108 goals and 73 assists?
If you’re the challenge-driven Wendt, you look for more challenges. So the 6-foot-2 attacker is headed west to join UCLA, which has claimed eight NCAA water polo championships.
“I wanted to go to a California school because the highest level of water polo is played there,” Wendt said. “I fell in love with UCLA because it’s a great campus and right in the middle of Los Angeles. It’s everything I could ask for really.”
Wendt is part of the Bruins’ major recruiting haul that includes seven players from California and another from Sao Paulo, Brazil.
“I know most of the guys from playing on national teams together,” Wendt said. “The biggest adjustment will just be the physical aspect of going up against bigger and faster people. I’ll have to play smart right away.”
Wendt (304 goals, 224 assists at Fenwick) scored five goals when the Friars cruised to a 19-4 win over Sandburg in the 2009 state final. The landmark victory was the Friars’ sixth consecutive state championship, 78th-straight win over Illinois schools, and fifth undefeated season.
“It’s hard to leave all the guys,” Wendt said. “We have four guys [Wendt, Brian Barron (Bucknell), Dan Barron (Fordham) and Matt Napleton (Bucknell)], who will play Division I. Hopefully, we’ll all have our individual success, but we’ll always be proud of what we accomplished at Fenwick.”
Morgan Bonk (water polo), Loyola Marymount
When undecided about her future plans, Bonk followed in her sister’s footsteps (sort of) and heeded the advice of her coach, Jack Wagner.
“I really didn’t know where I wanted to go to college, but Emily [Bonk’s sister] went to Santa Clara,” Bonk said. “I’m not going to Santa Clara, but I chose Loyola Marymount, which is also in California. It’s a good school. Jack [Wagner] said Loyola Marymount fits my playing style.”
Teaming up with Mariclaire Bresnahan (Indiana University) and Lisett Calderon (Mercyhurst), Bonk propelled the Friars to a 15-5 state championship victory over Naperville Central. Bonk and Calderon each scored five goals and Bresnahan made five saves as Fenwick (33-0) captured its second straight state title and fifth championship in six years. Bonk registered a superb senior campaign, amassing 103 goals, 53 assists and 71 steals.
“Fenwick prepares you to handle anything that comes your way,” she said. “We learned if you work hard, you can be successful.”
Bonk’s true impact on Fenwick water polo transcends state trophies in the hallway and immortality in the record books.
“We have little girls playing girls playing water polo because Morgan worked with them,” Wagner said. “Morgan comes across as a very likeable person and a great athlete. I think she’s going to be fantastic at the collegiate level. The sky’s the limit for her.”
Cam Verbeke (baseball), Illinois State
Versatile, tough, competitive and talented. Cam Verbeke’s athletic “make up” elicits as many adjectives as his diverse pitching repertoire.
The recent Fenwick grad certainly impressed Illinois State, which signed the hard-throwing right-hander.
“Cam possesses one of the best arms in the entire state,” said ISU coach Mark Kingston on the university website. “The thing we like most about Cam is his competitiveness. He also plays hockey, and he brings that toughness to the mound with him.”
This summer, the 6-1, 190-pound Verbeke is playing baseball for the Berwyn Bulldogs and Downers Grove Longshots travel teams.
“I know I’ll need to get stronger,” Verbeke said. “The [ISU] coaches already want me to put on 25 pounds. I also need to develop more into a pitcher rather than a thrower.”
During his senior year, Verbeke excelled as a defenseman in hockey and a pitching ace in baseball, becoming the first Friar to reach 120 strikeouts in one season.
Possessing a low-90’s fastball, curveball, change-up and slider, the hockey-loving Verbeke will focus exclusively on baseball in college.
“Playing for the Kennedy Cup in hockey were some of the best experiences I had at Fenwick.” Verbeke said. “I felt the same way about baseball when I made the varsity as a sophomore. I waited for my opportunity and I was in the rotation my junior year.”
Bobby Barnhisel (wrestling), U.S. Naval Academy
Bobby Barnhisel ensured another state title for the Friars this season with his 5-0 overtime victory over Kevin Bialka of Lockport at the Class 3A wrestling state finals.
Barnhisel (168-17 career record), went 42-2 his senior year and joined Nick Bertucci (2005) as the Friars’ second state wrestling champion. Barnhisel is headed to Annapolis, Maryland, where he will wrestle for the U.S. Naval Academy.
“Going to Navy, Bobby is really pushing the bar for himself,” Fenwick wrestling coach Jerry Ruffino said. “When you consider the academics, physical demands and also wrestling, it will be a tough go but I don’t put anything past Bobby. He’s a totally committed wrestler.”