WARSAW – The proof in Warsaw boys swimming head coach Tony DeBrota’s words early in the swim season were evident Saturday at the Warsaw Boys Swimming Sectional championships. As his team fell back a bit into the pack, other teams emerged with champions as five programs had at least one blue ribbon in the meet.
Warsaw would pull off its tenth straight team championship, using depth and four championship swims to score 467 points to outdistance Culver Academy’s 331 and Rochester’s 261.5. The Tigers won all three relays and had freshman Grant Knight claim the blue ribbon in the breaststroke.
Despite the meet’s lopsided team scores, Warsaw wasn’t dominant by any means. Knight’s 1:00.00 in the breaststroke was really the only title anyone took without much fanfare all afternoon, and the Tigers’ 1:38.41 in the medley relay, which wasn’t challenged after Knight and Evan Borchers finished their middle legs of the medley. Nick Zogbi and Alex Cook started and finished the race.
Warsaw also won the 200 relay at 1:31.91, with Knight, Ian Deming, Zach LaLonde and Hudson Snyder doing the honors, and the 400 relay team of Cook, Snyder, Borchers and Zogbi nailed a 3:19.10 in a respectable finish.
“I think it’s great having the competition and other swimmers in here doing good things, I think that’s what makes sectionals great,” DeBrota said. “I think it’s going to be good for our sectional to see that close competition. We’ve won 10 in a row, but this one took a lot of work. While this isn’t a typical Warsaw championship that we’ve seen, I think this is the shift that will start to make up more of what our teams will look like. We won’t have the Jayden Parrett’s and Spencer Davidson’s like we have had, but it will take more from more guys to put something like this together.”
Zogbi and Cook both took second in a pair of individual events, Zogbi in the IM and backstroke in a pair of near misses, and Cook was just off in the 50 and 100 freestyles, each time a little short on the reach at the wall.
Tippecanoe Valley’s Chase Brower made good on his preliminary success Thursday. Taking the top spot in the 50 prelims, Brower turned around and edged Cook at the finish of the championship, Brower pulling it at 22.42 to Cook’s 22.66. The first state appearance for Brower in his junior season will be very gratifying.
“I was nervous as heck,” stated Brower, still clinching his championship ribbon in the parking lot. “This was my first time ever in a big, big race. Being ranked up near the top. I knew I could get it done, but the nerves happen and got to me, but I pulled through and just got it done. It worked out.
“I saw (Cook) over there and I was getting nervous. Definitely my height is to my advantage. An 81-inch wing span helps a lot. He just kicks a lot harder than I do.”
Columbia City had four championship swims, led by Matt Webber in both the 100 free (48.86) and 200 free (1:47.34). Ryan Devito claimed the 500 in a good head-to-head matchup against Snyder, winning going away at 4:55.31. Aaron Fix took the blue ribbon in the backstroke at 55.27, edging Zogbi by .09.
Culver Academy’s Forest Baumgartner pulled a double, taking the individual medley at 1:59.79 and then the butterfly at 53.44.
Diving had maybe the most memorable take from the meet. During finals warm-ups, early-round leader Connor Matthews of Plymouth slammed his shin into the diving board and needed several minutes of medical attention. Returning to the board, Matthews was able to go, despite having to take a two-point deduction on one of his attempts after his ankle nearly gave out.
Even with all the drama, Matthews piled up a 322.50 to win the sectional championship, garnering a standing ovation from much of the crowd while wearing a brace to keep his ankle from buckling.
Plymouth would go one-two in diving, Justin Moser taking second at 311.75 while Warsaw’s Cameron Bowell was third (298.80) and Valley’s Travis Shull was fourth (297.75) to make up the quartet that will dive for state berths Tuesday at the Mishawaka Regional.
“You have to figure out how bad you want it,” DeBrota said. “Sometimes other guys just want it more, and sometimes you have to dig down deep and do some things you don’t think you can do in the water. It’s when you get pushed to the limit, how do you respond. I think this is a great opportunity for us to reflect, work another week, and see what we can do on the biggest stage.”