Loyola Academy

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Loyola Academy Ramblers
College Park, Maryland. Pictured above: Ian Torres, Morgan Venkus, Zach Hayes, Rosie Frehe after their 2013 NSC third place finish.
Coaches Denise Kreb
State Championships 2004 Iowa NAQT, 2013 Illinois Masonics
National Appearances HSNCT: 2006, 2008-2016, 2022
PACE: 2009-2013, 2017
Program Status Unknown
School Size Unknown
NAQT Page link

Loyola Academy is a private, coeducational, Roman Catholic, Jesuit high school located in Wilmette, Illinois, a north suburb of Chicago. It competes in Class AA, the "large school" division, of the Illinois High School Association's (IHSA) State Championship Series, as well as in the Metro North League. The team was coached for many years by David Riley, who was succeeded in 2011 by one of his former students, Matt Laird. In 2014, Laird switched schools and was replaced by Denise Kreb.



Regular Season - The 2008-2009 season is considered a radical turning season for Loyola, as they fully embraced good quiz bowl and began to excel. Headed by Captain Jack Glerum and Joe Ahmad, the A team was rounded out by Christian Kreb, Catherine Groden, "Mad Dog" Dan Maddalozzo, and Will Abraham. The team was widely regarded as top 4 in the state, along with Rockford Auburn, New Trier, and Carbondale. Notable finishes include 4th at NAQT State and 4th at IHSA State. Loyola attended both Nationals that year.

PACE NSC - At NSC, Loyola took 3 losses in their prelim bracket, Aston, to Maggie Walker A, Chattahoochee, and Southside A. Their 4-3 prelim record got them into the Pozzo playoff bracket, where they went 2-5, only beating TJ B and Bellaire A, finishing 29th.

NAQT HSNCT - As always, the date of HSNCT and Loyola's graduation were the same day, meaning that the team was short-handed for pretty much the entire prelims. For four rounds, the team consisted of Juniors Christian Kreb and Will Abraham and Freshmen Nolan Winkler and Marcel Youkhna. As a result of this, Loyola did make the playoffs, but with only a record of 6-4. In the playoffs, they won their first game (after a 1st-round bye) but subsequently lost their second game to Ransom Everglades in order to finish tied for 27th. Loyola also sent a B team consisting of C and D team members, which finished 190th out of 192 teams.


Regular Season - The 2009-2010 team had moderate success. The A team primarily consisted of Captain Christian Kreb '10, Nolan Winkler '12, Marcel Youkhna '12, and Will Abraham '10. The team's only tournament victories were both early in the season: at the UIUC Earlybird and the Wheaton North[1] IHSSBCA Kickoffs site. In IHSA: The Rambler won their IHSA Regionals with a 2-0 record and were eliminated by 3.3 PPG in a circle-of-death tiebreaker (along with victor New Trier and OPRF) at IHSA Sectionals.

PACE NSC - Loyola was eliminated from the first flight after their 6th game, going 4-2 with losses against Dorman A and DCC A. They then beat Walter Johnson to finish their prelim bracket with a record of 5-2. In the playoff bracket, Loyola then went 3-4 (losses to TJ B, Hoover, Seven Lakes A, and Dupont Manual A) to be involved in a 3-way circle of death with Hoover and Quince Orchard. Loyola beat Hoover 160-140 in their first half-packet match and went on to beat Quince Orchard 170-150 in their next half-packet match. This gave Loyola the 4th rank in the bracket, meaning they played St. Joseph's A in their crossover match, which they lost 290-270. After accounting for Southside's disqualification, Loyola finished 23rd.

NAQT HSNCT - As always, the date of HSNCT and Loyola's graduation were the same day, meaning that the team was short-handed for pretty much the entire prelims. For all but 2 rounds, Nolan and Marcel were the only regular A Team members present. Loyola generally played awful during HSNCT, which manifested itself early as shown by the Rambler's initial 1-2 record with losses to Culver and Danville. The Ramblers bounced back, winning 4 in a row - including a victory over LASA B by 5 points despite thinking the game was decided 3 tossups earlier due to the accidental addition of 100 points to LASA's score on the fault of Nolan's scorekeeping in his notebook. Loyola then lost to St. John's and beat Rocky Grove to ensure a playoff berth, despite their initial 1-2 record. The Ramblers then lost to St. Mark's and finished Saturday with a record of 6-4, meaning 1 more Loyola loss would eliminate them from the tournament. Loyola played intra-state competition (with their full A-Team Lineup) the 1st match of the playoffs, beating Carbondale soundly. Loyola then lost a close match to Hoover 295-265 to end their tournament, resulting in a final place of tied for 43rd.


Regular Season - The 2010-2011 team showed a marked improvement, being ranked as high as 12th [2], 16th mid-season [3], and 19th pre-nationals [4] by Fred Morlan, but had a disappointing end to their season, finishing in the 30s at both nationals. The A team primarily consisted of Captain Nolan Winkler '12, Marcel Youkhna '12, Brian Peterson '11, and Morgan Venkus '13. The team's best finishes were both at NIU, 2nd at both Huskie Bowl [5] and ATROPHY [6]. In IHSA: The Rambler won their IHSA Regionals with a 2-0 record and were eliminated by a loss to St. Ignatius at IHSA Sectionals.

PACE NSC - Loyola was missing A-Team starter Morgan Venkus for the entire tournament, A-Team starter Brian Peterson for Sunday, and Morgan's replacement B-Team starter Patrick Rahlfs for Sunday. They went 2-3 in their first flight, getting demolished by Maggie Walker A and losing close matches to Olmsted Falls and Hunter B. In the playoff flight, Loyola went 3-2, losing to unofficial rival IMSA and Rock Bridge. On Sunday, the Loyola team became an undermanned 2-person team of just Nolan and Marcel, who started off their day with a loss on a half-packet tiebreaker to DCC B, who they had earlier beaten, which resulted in placement in the 5th superplayoff bracket. They went 3-1, with a win over New Trier carried over, losing to Clayton. This resulted in a 4-1 finish and 1st place in the V bracket, a 9-6.5 record overall and a final place of 31st.

NAQT HSNCT - As always, the date of HSNCT and Loyola's graduation were the same day, meaning that the team was short-handed for the entire tournament, as A-Team starter Brian Peterson was replaced by B-Team starter Patrick Rahlfs. Loyola generally played badly during HSNCT, which manifested itself early in their game 3 loss to Detroit County Day, wherein Nolan was 1/0/4 and Loyola combined for 1/3/5. The Ramblers won 4 of their next 6, with 2 close losses to Centennial and Santa Monica, to be 6-3 entering their last match. The Ramblers then repeated last year's performance with a loss once again to St. Mark's and finished Saturday with a record of 6-4, meaning 1 more Loyola loss would eliminate them from the tournament. Loyola was the top-ranked 6-4 team that did not receive a bye, so they cruised through their first 2 playoff matches, beating Treasure Valley Math & Science and Wayzata for the second time. They then faced Georgetown Day School and lost on the last question, 315-355, eliminating them with a 8-5 record to finish tied for 33rd.


Regular Season - The 2011-2012 season saw the strongest year yet for Loyola, who were generally considered third in the state behind Rockford Auburn and IMSA. Their Frankings tended to hover around eighth or ninth, ranking as high as fourth near the close of the season [7]. The A Team consisted of two seniors, captain Nolan Winkler and Marcel Youkhana, and two juniors, Morgan Venkus and Ian Torres. They also had a semi-competitive B team consisting of seniors Paddy Rahlfs, Nick Cummins, and Matt McBride with junior Zach Hayes; this team minus history player Zach attended the 2012 NSC and placed a disappointing 50th.

PACE NSC - The 2012 Loyola team began Saturday with a strong performance, coming out on top of their bracket after defeating rivals IMSA and winning a protest on an odd common link myth question to come out ahead of St Joe's. In the afternoon, they began to choke in a series of increasingly crushing losses, eventually losing four games by a margin of 60 points or less, including a 10 point loss to Bellarmine. On Sunday morning, despite defeating Centennial, a 50 point loss to Thomas Jefferson kept them out of the superplayoffs. With the fifth highest ppb and 7th highest powers/game of the tournament, the 2012 Loyola team ultimately placed 13th of 60 teams.

NAQT HSNCT - Not wanting to miss out on his last HSNCT, team captain Nolan Winkler put the team on his back and ditched his graduation ceremony to play with the junior players of the A team. Nolan, classically bad on NAQT questions, was generally outscored by Morgan Venkus on Saturday, and in his most characteristic game, went 1/1/6 vs Georgetown Day en route to losing by 240 points. Despite trading wins with Torrey Pines and taking a hard loss to Ladue, the team of Nolan, Morgan, and Ian managed to go 7-3, entering into the winner's bracket for the first time in school history. Loyola ran a well-received trash tournament, CAHLFS, during HSNCT Saturday night, at which point final teammate Marcel Youkhana flew in from Chicago to play in the playoffs. On Sunday, Loyola opened up, for the second time in two years, against fellow Illinois team Carbondale, whom they defeated soundly for the right to play IMSA in the next round. After a close loss to IMSA they won three games in a row, beating Northmont and LASA B and avenging their prelim game against GDS with a resounding victory. They were eliminated by Detroit Catholic Central to tie for 8th place, their highest nationals placement to date.


Regular Season - Despite losing six players from the '11-'12 team, including team captains Nolan Winkler and Marcel Youkhana, the '12-'13 team reached a level unprecedented by Loyola teams; they were widely considered the best team in the state and were cited by Fred Morlan as championship contenders prior to nationals [8]. The team's two captains and core players, Morgan Venkus and Ian Torres, both had breakout seasons this year, with Morgan growing into a strong generalist and Ian becoming a deadly lit/fine arts/math specialist. They, due to efforts of coach Matt Laird, were one of the most well-traveled teams in quizbowl, going to over twenty tournaments, including trips to five states outside of Illinois. Regular-season highlights were clearing the field at Ultima while putting up 11.4 powers/game on the LIST set [9], a team of Morgan and Ian overcoming St. John's and two LASA teams to win MUT in Houston, Texas [10], Morgan and Ian defeating Montgomery Blair in a disadvantaged final to win BHSAT @ VCU [11], and clearing the field at Northwestern Prison Bowl by 4 games, in a strong field featuring Dorman A and B, IMSA, Northmont, Auburn, and Stevenson [12].

State Champions - The Loyola team, oft-inconvenienced by Morgan Venkus having to miss tournaments for his singing career, came up against an impasse when they discovered IHSA Solo and Ensemble for chorus/band was scheduled on the same day as the Masonic State Championships. Morgan, after much begging and bargaining with his choir director, was able to schedule his solo performance for 7:30 AM and skip the 3:30 PM ensemble performance. Coach Laird took the rest of the team down to Springfield Friday night: the following morning, they won their first two games, including a tense ten point win against Springfield where novice Loyola quizbowler Reid Furton managed to get a tossup on Yggdrasil to win the game. Meanwhile, Morgan had completed his solo performance (earning perfect marks) and had begun his three hour drive to Springfield. Loyola hit a snag when they dropped round 3 to Fremd; if they lost another preliminary match, they would be knocked out of the playoffs and Morgan's efforts would have been futile. With Morgan still 10 minutes away, Loyola stalled for time before their round 4 match against Latin. After frantically searching for the school following poor directions from Laird, Morgan reached the building in the nick of time, sprinting up the stairs to reach the room just before the match begun. With their full roster, Loyola won the next two matches and easily made the playoffs. They then proceeded to knock out IMSA in the semifinals and defeat Macomb in the finals in a nailbiting 10-point victory to win the school's first State Championship title in over 20 years of contention.

Loyola was less fortunate in the IHSA state series. Ian led the team to victory in the Regional after Morgan decided he'd rather attend a Muse concert, and they made it out of their sectional handily this year, despite perennial difficulties in the past (losing to an Andrew Wang-led New Trier in 2012 and Andrew Deveau's St. Ignatius in 2011). The finals packet, in classic IHSA fashion, contained tossups on topics as diverse as "anastrophe" and "pleiotropy", and also featured 4/4 computational math. Despite not converting a single comp math tossup, Loyola managed to get enough legitimate questions to tie the game after getting the final tossup on Gluck. Their final bonus, of course, was also computational math. They heroically tenned the bonus, allowing IMSA to win the game by ten points on the bounceback.

PACE NSC - Loyola went into PACE assuming a weaker finish than HSNCT, since their third player and history specialist Zach Hayes was moving to Los Angeles the week in between the two nationals. However, a week before the tournament, Zach agreed to be flown out to Maryland from Los Angeles on the school's infinty quizbowl budget, and another title run was born. Loyola struggled initially, with Zach suffering from an NAQT dropoff and Morgan struggling on the markedly more difficult science questions. They dropped a preliminary game to Hickman, entering into a three-way circle of death to make the top bracket along with LASA B. Loyola and LASA B emerged, and Loyola defeated Cistercian and Dorman but lost a closely contested match against Detroit Catholic Central to finish second in their bracket, moving on to the superplayoffs. In the superplayoffs, they lost a game to LASA with over 200 points contested by three different protests. Had all three protests been awarded in Loyola's favor, they would have won and been involved in a finals situation: However, they were awarded only two of three protests and placed 3rd outright.

NAQT HSNCT - Loyola, as usual, scheduled its graduation on the same weekend as HSNCT. Further complicating matters, Ian Torres was Loyola's valedictorian and was obligated to give the commencement speech, making it impossible to attend HSNCT Saturday. Morgan Venkus flew out to play HSNCT solo, with the hope of going 7-3 and making the winners bracket so that he, joined by Ian and NAQT wunderkind Zach Hayes for the playoffs, could make a legitimate run at the championship. Morgan, hampered by a lack of teammates and a mere three hours of sleep the previous night, struggled in early matches, winning his first two rounds unconvincingly before running into North Carolina's Early College at Guilford. Despite putting up seven powers, Morgan only managed to tie the game, losing on the tiebreaker. He lost another game to Northmont on the last question, running into serious doubts that he would be able to achieve a 7-3 record. However, he managed to win three straight games after lunch, taking him to 6-2 going into the final two games, meaning he would need to win only one of them. Against Richard Montgomery, his overconfidence, combined with a slow moderator, caused him to attempt to fraud tossup 20. He failed and lost by 60 points, the final four questions left unread. Falling apart, he lost to Dunbar by over 100 points, finishing a disappointing 6-4.

Armed with two new teammates and several more hours of sleep, Morgan grimly set his sights on clawing his way out of the loser's bracket. Loyola handily won their first two games, followed by close matches against High Tech and Maggie Walker, both of whom they eliminated. They ended up in a match against Illinois rivals Belvidere North, lead by Dylan Minarik. They eliminated him in a strong showing, 510-185, and went on to face former national champions and fellow Jesuit school Bellarmine. Despite an amazing performance by Sameer Rai, Loyola, bolstered by a 60-point game from Zach Hayes, was neck and neck. Going into the final tossup, they were up by 5 points: Morgan powered with an early buzz on "piezoelectricity" to clinch the match and a spot in the top seven.

In their first match after lunch, they eliminated Montgomery Blair 475-250 to make the final four. Matched up against the undefeated LASA, neither team had lost a game during the playoffs. Despite Morgan's questionable choice of negging the first tossup, on "bookstores", with "Pokemon Centers", Loyola managed to mount a massive comeback, with Morgan once again getting the game-clinching power on "flagella", defeating LASA 450-335. With eight straight wins, they began their ninth round of the playoffs against Ladue. In an especially disappointing match in which they failed to convert two of Ladue's negs and put up their worst bonus conversion of the day, Loyola was finally eliminated 385-300, taking 3rd place, the best national performance of an Illinois team and the best performance of a 6-4 team in the history of HSNCT.

2013-2014 With the graduation of the entire A team and Matt Laird's step back from quizbowl to pursue his master's degree, Loyola quizbowl has fallen from national relevancy: with luck, the torch will eventually be picked up once again.

Tournament Hosting

For many years, Loyola Academy was one of the centers for Midwestern quizbowl, with sometimes as many as four major tournaments being held there each year. Over time, their varsity and frosh-soph tournaments were dropped.

Loyola currently hosts 3 tournaments a year: Their flagship varsity tournament, the Ultima; a middle school tournament; and the NHBB Illinois State Championship. In past years, Loyburn was jointly held with Rockford Auburn, but with the departures of Coaches Riley and Laird from Loyola and Coach Greene from Auburn, it has fallen into abeyance. In the 2012-2013 competition season, Loyola also stepped up to run an IHSSBCA Kickoffs site and a mirror of Thomas Jefferson's JAMES set at the behest of Morgan Venkus.


Loyola competed for The Bloodstone Cup in an annual competition against Maine South for a few years. The annual competition was born from the back-to-back Regional upsets that the teams visited on each other. The award is a crystal goblet filled with hand-tumbled bloodstones and kept in a wooden presentation box, created and donated by then-frosh/soph coach Matt Laird. Through three competitions, Loyola led the overall series 2-1.

Many believe that a rivalry between Loyola and IMSA was born in 2010-2011 due to their players' conducts and their close matches and tournament finishes throughout the year. This rivalry continued through the 2012 season despite IMSA generally outperforming Loyola, and was a major catalyst behind Loyola's emergence as the top team in Illinois in the '12-'13 season.

Noted Team Accomplishments

  • PACE NSC: 3rd (2013, best national placement of an Illinois team to date)
  • NAQT HSNCT: 3rd (2013, best national placement of an Illinois team to date)
  • Midwest Championship: 2nd (2012, 2013)
  • Illinois NAQT State Championship: 3rd (2011)
  • Iowa NAQT State Championship: 1st (2004)
  • IHSA Regionals (10): 1st (1999, 2001-03, 2005, 2008-13)
  • IHSA Sectionals (3): 1st (1996, 2008-09, 2013)
  • IHSA State: 2nd (2013)
  • Masonic State: 1st (2013)

IHSSBCA Individual Awards

The following were honored by the Illinois High School Scholastic Bowl Coaches Association (IHSSBCA) for outstanding play through their All-Sectional/All-State Program. Each sectional comprises roughly 24 geographically concentrated teams, and thus roughly 125 starting players. Through the 2006-07 season, the top ten players were recognized in each sectional,(starting with 2007-08, the number was raised to 15) with teams restricted to no more than two nominations (three nominations starting in 2007-08). There are twenty All-State awards given each year (10 First Team, 10 Second Team) in each of Illinois' two classes.

All-Sectional Honorees

All-State Honorees

Playing for Team Illinois

  • Stephen Walker (2000)
  • Andy Mathews (2004)
  • Matt McKenna (2006)
  • Mike Verity (2008)
  • Nolan Winkler (2012)
  • Morgan Venkus (2013)

Current [A Team] Roster

  • Jack Ehlert (2025)
  • Mia LoGiudice (2023)
  • Jack Lopez (2024)
  • Colin McLaughlin (2024)
  • Ethan Santiago (2025)
  • Matthew Walsh (2023)
  • Ben Griesmeyer (2023)
  • Ryan McKinney (2023)

Notable Alumni