By Mike Deak
WARSAW – Warsaw boys swim head coach Anthony DeBrota will be the first to admit his latest swim season wasn’t the smoothest and had its share of adversity. But DeBrota will also note that the accomplishments his boys team compiled, as well as the run it made, overstepped any of the distractions it had.
Warsaw competed hard in the Northern Lakes Conference, winning its first six dual meets that included a triumph over Northridge, its first over the Raiders in over 20 years. That set up the final weekend of the regular season and a showdown at Concord with the Minutemen. The hosts were able to clip Warsaw in some of the depth matchups to win by nine, 97-86, but it set up a lot of showdowns to watch at the NLC Championships.
Warsaw found itself in quite a battle with Concord, Northridge and Wawasee at the top of the team flight. The Tigers, however, saw its team title hopes take a crucial hit when its 200 free relay was disqualified in the prelims. The loss of potentially 34-40 points was crippling as Concord would go on to win Saturday’s finale 404-368 over the Tigers, with Northridge and Wawasee close behind.
“Back in February 2019, when I analyzed the meet for 2020, I was very surprised we were seeded as well as we were,” DeBrota said. “I’m so proud of the challenges this team overcame. NLC is fast! It would have been great to snag the title, but finishing second was something we haven’t done for quite a few years. I’m proud of them.”
The Tigers would have plenty of reasons to be optimistic from the weekend in Dunlap. Grant Knight was a two-time NLC champion, repeating as the expected breaststroke winner, but stepping onto the apex of the individual medley podium in his customary fuzzy aviator cap after running away with his first title in that event.
Knight would go on to win the breaststroke sectional title for the fourth straight time and later place 10th at the IHSAA State Finals, capping a remarkable career. Knight was involved with four swims at the state finals, also placing 30th in the 50 free and providing legs among a pair of relays.
Seniors Nick Bazzoni and Zach LaLonde were able to get state finals appearances with the Tiger relays that qualified, and both scored runner-up finishes at the NLC, Bazzoni in the breaststroke and LaLonde in the backstroke.
In the midst of the postseason excitement, Warsaw clinched its 13th straight sectional title and 21st overall.
“This class closed in on the talent that the Davidson-Parrett class had,” noted DeBrota, referring to the 2015 senior class that included school record holders Spencer Davidson and Jayden Parrett. “Our team was deeper in 2015, but I’ll argue our second tier guys are monumental to the success this season.”
Junior Michael Ray nearly doubled up at the NLC, finishing a close second in both the 100 and 200 freestyles.
Freshman Cooper Archer had one of the more interesting postseasons. Archer, who is also in the Warsaw Community High School band, had to split duties during the postseason, jumping in and out of the pool to make his swim events, then shuttle to band competitions. Archer would find himself benefitting from Knight’s switch from the IM to the 50 in the sectional, winning the IM for his first postseason title. Archer would place 31st at the state finals a week later.
“Most of our younger guys are eager to continue the success next year,” DeBrota said. “I think it will take consistent reminders from this coaching staff and future upperclassmen to reach our goals, but with trust and dedication, anything is possible.”