It’s funny how things work out sometimes. Bob Bartolomeo was a “hockey guy” back in the day. That was his first love and passion growing up in Gary on Seventh Avenue and Ohio Street.
Today, the 1973 Andrean grad is the head football coach at the University of Indianapolis, a strong Division II football program.
“No question the region is home,” Bartolomeo said. “Recruiting-wise we are up there a lot. I still have family there.”
That includes sister, Susie Woodward, whose sons played at Merrillville. His nephew, Tony, is Lake Central’s athletic director.
Bartolomeo, who is proud to call himself “an east side (Gary) guy,” has one of the hottest teams in Division II. The Greyhounds (9-1 overall, 6-0 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference) are ranked No. 11 in the latest Division II coaches poll – the highest ranking ever for the program.
With a strong backing of region players, the Greyhounds, under “Coach Bart,” are shooting for the playoffs.
Tight end Joe Bell, a Lowell product, has been instrumental in both the passing and running games. The 6-foot-5, 280-pound senior’s 40-yard catch in a key 27-24 victory over St. Joseph’s in Rensselaer two weeks ago helped extend a crucial drive and eat clock late in the game. He’s caught nine passes for 113 yards this season.
“Joe has played really well for us,” Bartolomeo said. “He’s a good tight end. He can do both (block and catch) and I think that makes him pretty marketable in our eyes.”
Elsewhere, Greg Wedow (LaPorte) starts at left guard. The junior has come a long way in a short time, according to Bartolomeo.
“Greg has been awesome; he’s been a pleasant surprise,” he said. “He stayed all summer and hit the weights. He never played last year. Going into the season offensive line, we thought, was going to be our nemesis with five new starters. It’s been a big plus.”
Brent Surface (Michigan City) is a senior defensive lineman and has just been cleared from injury to get back in the eight-man defensive line rotation. Unfortunately, West Side’s Chris Woods injured his knee in the preseason and hasn’t played. Bartolomeo said the senior has a redshirt, but he’s on track to graduate and the decision is up to him. A knee injury has also sidelined linebacker Taylor James (LaPorte). One up-and-coming player is sophomore Derrick Bryant (Mount Carmel), a starter at linebacker, who continues to pile up stats each Saturday.
Valparaiso’s Jake Grossnickle, who broke his arm in a motorcycle accident this past summer, has been getting more time at linebacker, while Matt Wagner (Valpo) is a back-up center. Another local player is Chesterton freshman Alex Bobos, the team’s starting long snapper.
Some locals redshirting but helping with the scout team are running back Andrew Kittridge (Valpo), wide receiver Joe Troop (Chesterton), linebacker Charles Sanders (Michigan City) and running back Eugene Walls (Clark).
The team moved up to No. 4 in the season’s first NCAA Division II Super Regional Four rankings this week and is on pace for its second straight playoff berth, as just six teams from each region advance to the 24-team NCAA Division II Championships next month.
Indianapolis has never lost a game in the GLVC (13-0), and its defense is No. 3 in Division II by allowing only 11.8 points a game.
Bartolomeo, who played at Butler and also coached there, spent six seasons as the Greyhounds’ defensive coordinator before taking over the program in 2009. If you think he’s building his resume for a bigger gig, think again.
“I’m too old to go anywhere,” Bartolomeo joked. “Seriously, I’m happy here. I’m in a great situation where people I work for want football to be successful. That’s a huge bonus.”