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Published: Thursday, 11/24/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

ALL-BLADE FOOTBALL TEAM

Whitmer's Wormley stands above all

Intimidating force on the field is player of the year

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Whitmer defensive end Chris Wormley is the 2011 All-Blade player of the year. Whitmer defensive end Chris Wormley is the 2011 All-Blade player of the year.
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At 6-foot-7 and 270 pounds, Whitmer's All-Ohio defensive end Chris Wormley travels in style on the football field.

The University of Michigan recruit gets around on a pair of size-18 cleats when he is steamrolling opposing linemen en route to preying on quarterbacks and running backs.

"I haven't been able to buy shoes at a regular store since I was in about fifth grade," said Wormley, who usually special orders his footwear over the Internet.

Fittingly, a talent as big as Wormley's is also pretty rare and hard to find. The senior has been named The Blade's 2011 player of the year.

In addition to his imposing dimensions, Wormley also happens to be fleet in those big feet, physically strong, agile. He carries a 3.3 grade-point average.

"I study the game," Wormley said.. "I watch film on the opponents, and see what they do on the other side of the ball. My size and strength help, and I think my speed does as well.

"Coach [Joe] Palka always says you've got to be mentally and physically tough. Those are the attributes you should have when you're a high-level player."

Wormley has collected many accolades since becoming a starter as a sophomore, a three-year stretch that has included two City League championships and, this year, the Panthers' first title in the new Three Rivers Athletic Conference.

Wormley was an All-TRAC first-team selection and twice was named All-City first team. He recently was selected Division I all-district first team for the third straight year, and district defensive player of the year for the second time. He is expected repeat his status as All-Ohio first team when that is announced next week.

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But the one thing Wormley most seeks is a Division I state championship trophy for his team.

Whitmer senior defensive end Chris Wormley (6-foot-7, 270 pounds) is the focal point of a defense that has allowed six points in three playoff games. He has committed to play at Michigan. Whitmer senior defensive end Chris Wormley (6-foot-7, 270 pounds) is the focal point of a defense that has allowed six points in three playoff games. He has committed to play at Michigan.
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"Chris could have been about a million things this year, and all he's been about is having team success," said Palka. "He almost hides from individual accolades.

"Since he's been here he's been measured against greatness. We ask him to play up to a great standard every week, and he's really been able to do that. He's lettered all four years and he's been a dominant player ever since his sophomore year."

The next step toward reaching the goal comes Saturday when the Panthers (13-0) take Cleveland St. Ignatius (11-2) in a state semifinal at Mansfield.

"It's been a great experience playing with all my high school teammates," Wormley said. "I'm just glad to be a part of it.

"Actually I was going to go to St. Francis up until the summer before ninth grade. But I was still coming to the Whitmer football games, and something just clicked in me that I wanted to stay here and be a part of this great tradition. I wanted to be a Whitmer Panther."

The first three semifinals for Whitmer have resulted in losses, including a 23-13 setback to eventual champion Lakewood St. Edward last year.

The next step for Wormley will be at Michigan.

"Chris has the greatest [NFL] potential of any guy I've had," Palka said. "Our team really follows his lead."

Wormley had scholarship offers from all Big Ten schools, except Penn State and Minnesota, as well as Alabama, Florida, Tennesse, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Texas A&M, USC, UCLA, and others

This season Wormley has been the anchor of a vaunted Whitmer defense that has allowed its 13 opponents averages of just 160 yards and eight points per game. The Panthers have outscored their three playoff foes 94-6.

For his part, the three-sport star has recorded 85 tackles, including a team-high 24 for losses. He also leads the Panthers with 13 quarterback sacks. Above all of that, he leads the team in, well, leadership.

When football is finished, Wormley will shift gears to the basketball court, where he will play his third season on the varsity, his second as a starter. Last year he helped the Panthers finish 20-2 and win their first City League championship. In the spring, he likely will resume his track and field pursuits. Last spring he placed at the state meet in both the shot put and discus.

"You just have to be focused on what your job is and what you have to do," Wormley said of his year-round sports schedule. "It starts with the grades you get in the classroom first and foremost, and then you just try to perform the way people expect you to.

"It's just great to be on winning teams and have all those memories with my teammates."

Since he saw significant backup duty as a freshman in 2008, Wormley has contributed greatly to teams that have gone 40-9 overall, 24-3 in league games, and 6-2 in the playoffs. The Panthers are 34-4 since he became a starter in 2009.

Whitmer's Chris Wormley pushes Anthony Wayne's Grant Judson in a playoff game. Wormley has 85 tackles and 13 QB sacks this season. Whitmer's Chris Wormley pushes Anthony Wayne's Grant Judson in a playoff game. Wormley has 85 tackles and 13 QB sacks this season.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Opposing coaches who have witnessed Wormley's imposing talent include:

■ Mark Ritzler, Findlay: "He's got the size, and certainly that's the first thing that stands out. But then you see the quickness and the athleticism. When somebody can be that athletic and be that big, boy that's just a frightening combination."

■ Greg Dempsey, Central Catholic: "Chris obviously has great natural ability and he's a great player. His motor is relentless, he's great against the run, he's great at the point of attack, he's great chasing down the run, and he's obviously a great pass rusher. He's one of the biggest guys we've ever had to deal with, and he makes the guys along the line better because he's so good. He's just a game changer.

"This kid's ready to step in and play [at Michigan] right now. He's probably the most college-ready guy we've gone against."

■ Doug Pearson, St. John's Jesuit: "Chris Wormley doesn't take plays off. He's long, he's strong, his first step is really good and he really stepped his game up this year. He's a guy who has required a lot of extra attention [from opposing coaches] the last couple years, and thank God he's graduating. He's one of the best I've seen over the years from northwest Ohio."

Contact Steve Junga at: sjunga@theblade.com 419-724-6461, or on Twitter @JungaBlade



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