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Chris Bukowski: from Bartlett High ‘Class Hottie’ to ‘The Bachelorette’

His rivals laugh as Chris Bukowski aims an arrow during “Bachelorette” episode Scotland.

His rivals laugh as Chris Bukowski aims an arrow during a “Bachelorette” episode in Scotland.

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Updated: August 3, 2012 6:10AM

‘The Bachelorette” hopeful Chris Bukowski played football, basketball and baseball at Bartlett High School, where he had a reputation as a standout athlete.

You wouldn’t know it based on a recent episode of the ABC dating show, where Bukowski donned a kilt and competed against fellow suitors in a mini version of Scotland’s Highland Games. Bukowski, 25, looked about as athletic as a manatee roller-skating uphill.

“I joked to one of my friends that he totally tanked those challenges to get the pity date,” said Keith Miles, who’s known Chris since fourth grade.

Whatever the strategy, it worked. Bachelorette Emily Maynard awarded Bukowski the “bravest man” mug, and he came out a winner on the competition that mattered most: the rose ceremony.

Bukowski has such a penchant for collecting roses on the show, he’s made it to the final four. And that means it’s time for hometown dates. On Monday’s episode, he and the three other remaining men bring Maynard to their old stomping grounds. Bukowski takes Maynard on a walking tour of the Windy City, where he bought a condo last year in River North. The single mom from Charlotte, N.C., also meets his family.

“It’s the Cleavers over there,” Miles said, referring to the close-knit Bukowski clan, a Catholic family that clings to its Polish heritage. Chris is the baby; he has two older sisters, one of whom moved to New York and another who’s a nurse and recently got engaged. (Until their relative is off the show, family members are, like the contestants, under contract not to speak to the media.)

His parents still live in west suburban Bartlett, where Bukowski got together on Memorial Day with some childhood friends to watch “The Bachelorette.”

“Chris has always been a real outgoing guy,” said one of those friends, Dean Prince. “When I heard that he was interviewing for the show, I can’t say I was too surprised.”

Miles was a little concerned about how his buddy would be portrayed on the program, which has showcased more tools than a Home Depot.

“I don’t know any of the other guys personally, but a lot of them look phony,” Miles said. “But Chris is exactly like he is in real life. The guy you see on TV — the charismatic, nice, Midwestern guy — that’s exactly who he is.”

On the show, Bukowski fessed up to Maynard that he’s only had one “real” relationship, and that was with his high school girlfriend. Friends say she’s a former cheerleader who now works as a bartender on the North Side. Prince said she’s being “a good sport” about having her ex on TV.

“She said it was a little weird because any past relationship he’s talking about, you can basically insert her name there,” Prince said, noting that he sees some similarities between Bukowski’s high school sweetheart and Maynard.

“Both very cute. Both blonde — well, she was blonde in high school,” Prince said. “Both have personalities.”

Maynard has something else: a 6-year-old daughter, Ricki. Even though Bukowski is a year younger than Maynard, Miles said his friend is ready for fatherhood.

“The other guys on the show kind of poke fun at his young age, but Chris has been mature beyond his years forever,” Miles said. “I could see him being a great dad if Emily picks him.”

And she should, as far as Miles is concerned.

“Emily is right up his alley, and she’s a good-looking blonde, which doesn’t hurt,” he said. “A Southern girl with great morals. I think that’s exactly what Chris is looking for.”

Looking for love on “The Bachelorette” wasn’t initially Bukowski’s idea. A friend nominated him to be on the show. She’s a pal from high school, where Bukowski was voted “Class Hottie.”

“We had a category, ‘Most Likely To Be on a Reality TV Show,’ but you could only win one,” recalled Prince. “I think he would have rather won ‘Class Hottie.’ ”

Bukowski also was known as the “Polish Assassin,” at least on the basketball court.

“The three-point shot from the corner — that was his spot and he was deadly from it,” said his high school basketball coach, Jim Wolfsmith.

Wolfsmith admits that reality shows “aren’t my cup of tea,” but he’s been keeping tabs on his former student’s search for love courtesy of the gossip he gets from the girls softball team that he coaches.

“I hope he wins,” Wolfsmith said. “Chris was a great kid, one of my favorite athletes. He works hard at whatever he does.”

Bukowski studied hospitality management and business at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. While in college, he took a job as a concierge at the chi-chi Wynn resort on the Strip.

“He would tell me stories about setting up hotel rooms and stuff for Lindsay Lohan,” said Miles, who left Southern Illinois University and moved near Bukowski in Vegas. Miles still lives in Sin City, where he’s a photographer at Graceland Wedding Chapel. Bukowski left after graduation to take a job in corporate sales for the New York Islanders hockey team.

Last year Bukowski moved back to Chicago, where he was corporate and premium sales manager at Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates. He quit that gig in March to go on the show. Before he left, his marketing-minded co-workers had some advice: Give the bachelorette custom-made, his-and-hers bobblehead dolls.

“It was a good first impression,” said Sears Centre marketing coordinator Georgieann Michels. “She ate it up.”

Maynard picked Bukowski to get the season’s first one-on-one date. Clearly smitten, she’s repeatedly mentioned how good-looking he is. But Maynard has been dissing him a bit as of late. On last week’s episode in Prague, Bukowski didn’t get a one-on-one date, and he walked away from the group date without a rose. That prompted a serious sulking session, which he later apologized for, tearfully, during the rose ceremony.

“I’ve never seen him have feelings for a girl like that,” Miles said. “To be brought to tears — I’ve never seen him swoon like that. Emily really captured his heart. He seems very in love.”

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