Pressure doesn’t bother George Wolkow.
Standing an imposing 6-foot-7 and 237 pounds, the Downers Grove North senior is a towering presence. So it’s no wonder pressure, high expectations and even taunts from fans don’t faze him.
Wolkow committed to South Carolina to play baseball when he was 14 years old, reclassified his class to move up a grade and was a key figure in Downers Grove North’s historic run to a Class 4A fourth-place state trophy in basketball this month.
“Pressure is a privilege,” Wolkow said. “Every day working to chase my dreams and reach my goals. Pressure is just part of that path. I like to use the pressure as motivation to get better and keep working.”
Wolkow, who averaged 3.5 points and 3.6 rebounds this basketball season, pointed toward the success of the basketball team as a motivating chip for baseball. The Trojans have a wealth of talent on the diamond and should be among the top teams in the West Suburban Silver.
“The state basketball run really motivated our team,” Wolkow said. “Being a part of the run and having the whole community supporting us was unforgettable. Now it’s time to seal the deal in baseball. Just like basketball season, our team is unranked and hungry to prove people wrong. We know we have something special and after our run downstate in basketball, it makes our team even more motivated to rally the community back and win a state title.”
Wolkow is the headliner on the Trojans after batting .384 with three home runs and 25 RBIs last season.
And the Trojans have an impressive lineup around him, capable of scoring runs in bunches.
In their season opener March 20, the Trojans slugged six home runs for a comeback win over Plainfield Central. Jimmy Janicki and Ean Czech, a Texas recruit, both belted two homers and Wolkow smacked a grand slam.
In an 11-4 win over Plainfield East on March 22, Wolkow drilled a pair of home runs and Tony Konopiots hit a homer.
“Our team this year is scary,” Wolkow said. “Nobody on our team can be pitched around. That’s the best part. From one to nine, we have guys who can put together quality at-bats. If you try to pitch around one bat, the next bat will make you pay. Everyone throughout the team can hit, and six home runs was just the start.
“The group of guys we have are motivated through the roof to get better every day. Bonding as a team and growing as a whole is only getting us closer to our goals. ... This team’s potential is something none of us take for granted, yet something that motivates us to bring home the state championship.”
Downers Grove North coach Kyle Briscoe said Wolkow, one of the top players in the country, is leading the charge to make his baseball season memorable.
“His basketball experience helped raised the bar,” Briscoe said. “His attitude and expectations are higher after seeing the basketball team having a nice postseason run. It’s something all of the kids are talking about. This whole team is motivated. We thought we had a talented team last year. We have a little bit of a chip on our shoulders. Our strong suit is our lineup. We’re still working on our pitching, but our lineup is strong.”
Lemont’s high hopes
Lemont headed into the season with optimism after a memorable run last season when it finished with a 25-9 record.
Lemont coach Brian Storako said his team is full of experienced players, the most returnees since 2015. His top four pitchers are back, raising expectations for another 20-plus win season.
“I think we’ve done some things well, especially defensively and on the mound,” Storako said. “It’s a long season, so we just try and get better and work each day. Our guys are working hard and pushing each other and holding each other accountable. We will be a hard-nosed team with above average speed. We will put pressure on teams. … Our experience, versatility and depth will play a large role in our success.”
Storako cited a large batch of players who will be essential to the team’s success, helping fill spots on the pitching staff and contributing at the plate. That list includes Brandon Johnson, Pat Gardner and Carter Storit. Storako said Ryan Klukas and Mike Biscan will headline the pitching staff and the outfield is solid with returning starters Luke Wallace, Dylan Swanstrom and Joe Pender.”
“We have a number of two-way players this year that will have big roles on the mound and at the plate,” Storako said.
Nazareth has not missed a beat in the first few games of the season, winning its first five games. The Roadrunners, who won the Class 3A state title last season, entered the season ranked No. 2 by Prep Baseball Report Illinois.