Few people have names more suitable to their sporting personalities than Spartacus Chino. The 5-foot-9, 160-pound sparkplug has emerged as a key reason why Wheaton Warrenville South High School is a major contender to win a second-straight Illinois Class 7A state football title.
But Sparty, as he likes to be called, isn't a quarterback or a fleet-footed receiver. Sparty Chino is a nose tackle; a 160-pound whirling dervish who goes up against 300-pounders in the middle of WW South's vaunted defensive line.
As the Chicago Sun-Times' Mike Clark profiles in a column, Chino is more than just a hole-plugging man in WW South's defensive line. In fact, as his size makes clear, hole plugging is not what he's good for at all. Instead, the diminutive defensive lineman who is also a national-caliber wrestler (he's the dark-haired wrestler in the video above) slips around the oversized offensive lineman he's pitted against and creates havoc in opposing backfields. Here's how Chino described his role to the Sun-Times:
"I see myself as a wrestler playing football,'' Chino said. ‘‘I really bring my wrestling mind-set to football. ...
‘‘I had a lot of games last year where the offensive linemen said some pretty nasty things to me. For me to come out on top -- sometimes I surprise myself how I get past those 300-pounders.''
Chino came up on top time and again for WW South last year, when he moved from his prior position at tailback to become the starting nose tackle for the Tigers. His swap to the defensive side of the ball paid almost immediate dividends.
So, how disruptive is Chino in the backfield? Consider WW South's win over Geneva in the second round of the Illinois Class 7A playoffs last fall. Chino had two sacks and a forced fumble as the Tigers ran roughshod past a tough Vikings team.
With Illinois-bound quarterback Reilly O'Toole at the helm, WW South didn't miss any beats in week one of its 2010 campaign, rolling to a 28-7 win against an overmatched Hinsdale Central. Not surprisingly, Hinsdale Central struggled to establish the run, with its leading rushers gaining only 59 and 54 yards, respectively. One of those runners was the Red Devils' scrambling quarterback.
It all added up to another win for Sparty Chino and the Tigers, and one step forward on a road that could make Chino's senior season as memorable as he is to the blockers twice his size, the ones he routinely beats after the snap.