When the teams take to the water for the 2005 Big Ten Men's Swimming and Diving Championship, the defending conference champion Minnesota Golden Gophers will enjoy a home pool advantage. The February 24-26 championship will take place in Minnesota's University Aquatics Center. The Gophers will look to win their fourth league title in five years, but last year's runner-up and current No. 5 ranked team, the Michigan Wolverines, and the rest of the Big Ten will stand in their way. Seven of the conference's ten teams are featured in the College Swimming Coaches Association of America's (CSCAA) regular-season ending Top-25 list. The Maize and Blue lead the way at No. 5, while the Maroon and Gold come in at No. 6. Big Ten teams claim the 13th-15th spots with Indiana, Northwestern, and Purdue respectively. Wisconsin finishes the regular season at No. 18 and Ohio State rounds out the ranked conference teams at No. 24. The conference championships will also showcase nine swimmers who have earned a combined 17 automatic qualifications to this March's NCAA Championships.
No. 13 Indiana Hoosiers
The No. 13 Indiana Hoosiers ran away from the conference field earning nine of the Big Ten's 31 Swimmer and Diver of the Week Awards. Fifth-year senior diver Marc Carlton won the first and last Diver of the Week honors and in between, won three more. Carlton also set the dual-meet platform school record with a 460.50 against Northwestern. The senior has won 19 of his 25 events this season and has set personal bests off the three-meter springboard in invitational competition, and the platform in dual competition.
One of the most productive swimmers for the Hoosiers this year has been Sergiy Fesenko. The junior generally excels in distance freestyle competitions, but has shown well in shorter-distance events this year, as well as in the 200-yard butterfly. His times in the 500-yard and 1650-yard freestyle and 200-yard butterfly rank in the top-10 of the conference during the regular season, while his 200 and 1000-yard free times rank ninth and sixth respectively. If Indiana is to going to make a strong showing in the pool, this former Ukrainian Olympian will have to play an important role.
Junior Kevin Swander is the Hoosier's top performer in the breaststroke and a contributor in the free style 50-yard sprint. Swander is the record holder in the 100-yard breaststroke in the Big Ten Championship meets. His 2004-2005 times rank fourth in the conference in both the 100 and 200-yard breaststroke events and he is third on the Indiana team in the 50-yard free.
One of the Iowa Hawkeyes' most valuable assets going into the Big Ten Championship is veteran leadership. The Hawks' had only one underclassman among their eight swimmers that posted top-25 Big Ten times this regular season. Freshman Dragos Agache, has made his name this year in both breaststroke events. With a time of 56.09 seconds, Agache holds the conference's eighth best time in the 100-yard race and the 12th fastest in the 200-yard event, with 2:02.89. Along with Agache, the Hawkeyes have two seniors that are contributing in breaststroke events. Calvin Shelangoski owns the 11th best time in 100-yard race in the league this season at 56.59 seconds and Eric Ptasnik has the 23rd in the 100-yard event and 22nd in the league in the 200.
Senior Alex Boyce has been one of the significant leaders for Iowa this season. His time of 49.87 seconds sits as the 10th best in the Big Ten during the regular season. Boyce also has the team's best 50-yard freestyle time. In the middle distance-freestyle races, Cameron Dye leads the way for the Hawkeyes. The junior owns the team-best times in both the 500 and 1,000-yard free events.
In the backstroke events, Iowa features juniors Andrei Ciurca and Eric Hahn. Ciurca set the mark for the rest of the Hawkeyes by finishing the 100-yard backstroke with the conference's 18th best time and 24th in the 200-yard. Hahn finishes the regular season with the league's 27th best time in the 100-yard back.
No. 5 Michigan Wolverines
The No. 5 Michigan Wolverines have dominated the freestyle events in the Big Ten this season, especially in the longer distances. As the number of meters increases, so does the amount of Michigan swimmers on the conference's top-10 list. Junior Peter Vanderkaay leads the pack of Wolverines sitting atop the 200, 500, and 1,650-yard lists. One of three brothers on U-M's team. he is also the Big Ten Championships record-holder in the 500-yard freestyle. Peter's brother, freshman Alex, cracks the top-five in the 500-meter freestyle. Peter has posted automatic NCAA Championship qualifying times in the 200, 500, and 1650-yard freestyle events and a provisional time in the 100-yard race. In addition to the Vanderkaay brothers, a trio of seniors represent Michigan well in the longer freestyle events. Andrew Hurd cracks the conference's top-five in the 500 and 1,000-yard freestyle events, with the third best time in both events, and the ninth best time in the 1,650-yard freestyle. Brendan Neligan finished with the league's seventh best regular season time in the 500 and 1,650 free, earning a provisional standard in the former and finished the season with the Big Ten's fifth fastest 1,000-yard freestyle race. Zayd Ma rounds out the senior trio. Ma is a distance specialist posting a provisional qualifying time in the 1,650-yard free, fifth in the conference, and the league's seventh-best 1,000-yard time.
Junior Chris Dejong, the Big Ten Championship 200-yard backstroke record-holder, has been an important factor in Michigan's success this year. His versatility has allowed him to earn automatic qualifying times in both the 100 and 200-yard backstroke races and provisional standards in the 100-freestyle and 200-individual medley races. Both of Dejong's backstroke times top the conference. Junior Davis Trwater leads all Big Ten swimmers in both butterfly events, and holds the conference championship meet record in the 200-yard butterfly. His 200-yard time earns him an automatic berth to the NCAAs and his 100 time, a provisional one. In addition to his freestyle times, Peter Vanderkaay holds the Big Ten's top 400-IM time, earning him another and NCAA automatic qualification. His brother, fifth year senior, Christian picked up a B-standard time while Alex earned two of his own. The Wolverine 800-yard freestyle relay team posted the conference's best time and earned Michigan an automatic NCAA berth.
Michigan's divers are led by junior Jake Boehm. Coming into the championships, Boehm is coming off his best score of the season, a total of 269.70 in the three-meter at Ohio State, the Wolverines' last regular season meet.
Michigan State Spartans
The Michigan State Spartans come into the 2005 Big Ten Championships led by Ian Clutten. The junior is one of the top breaststroke swimmers in the conference, evidenced by his two top-five times this regular season. In the 100-yard breaststroke, Clutten recorded a time of 54.51 seconds, the second best in the conference this year, and in the 200-yard race a time of 2:00.61, the Big Ten's fifth best time in that event. Both breaststroke times earned Clutten NCAA provisional qualifications. Clutten is the only Spartan swimmer to earn two top-20 Big Ten times this season.
A stable of other juniors will be called upon to provide Michigan State with their next best chance to score at the championships. Matt Wisniewski holds the Spartans' best time in the 50-yard freestyle race, a time that is also good for 13th best in the Big Ten this year. David Habel will look to provide a spark in the distance-freestyle events. His 9:32.00 is the top Michigan State time in the 1,000-yard free and is the 18th fastest in the conference, as is James Steele 100-yard butterfly time. Johan Sunryd owns the Big Ten's 18th fastest time in the 200-yard backstroke and Rudolf Wagenaar sits at 15th on the league's list of 100-yard backstroke finishes.
With two Big Ten Diver of the Week awards this season, Justin Laskowski leads the Spartans off the boards. The senior sits atop all of Michigan State's diving categories this year and earned his best score of the year off the three-meter board at the Georgia Invitational with a score of 391.90.
No. 6 Minnesota Golden Gophers
The sixth-ranked Golden Gophers return home to the University Aquatic Center in hopes of repeating as Big Ten Champions. The Maroon and Gold have won three of the last four conference crowns and have won each of the last two times that they have hosted the event. However, tradition and history are not the only things that the Gophers have on their side. Minnesota also has a set of strong freestyle sprinters and top-line relay teams.
Senior Terry Silkaitis leads the freestyle charge earning the team's top time in the three shortest events. In the 50 and 200-yard freestyle races, Silkaitis owns the Big Ten's second fastest time of this regular season, while he sits atop the 100-yard free category. His times in the 100 and 200 both meet the NCAA's A-standard. As the length of the freestyle races increases, senior Justin Mortimer takes the lead from Silkaitis. Tenth in the conference in the 200-yard free, Mortimer has earned the conference's second fastest time in both the 500 and 1,650-yard freestyle and the fastest regular season time in the 1,000-yard race. Along with steady performances from sophomores Mario Delac and Igor Cerensek and junior Travis Beckerle, the freestyle events provide the best opportunity for Minnesota to score big points in the individual events.
Gopher junior, Adam Mitchell earned the regular season's third fastest time in the 200-individual medley, a time that earned him an automatic berth to the NCAA Championships. Throughout the regular season, the Gophers have been most impressive in the relay races. The only relay that the Gophers do not have the conference's fastest time in is the 800-yard freestyle relay, which they hold the second fastest time in. The other four relays the Maroon and Gold come into the championships as the favorite.
The potent attack of Silkaitis, Mortimer, and Mitchell is not the only area of scoring potential for the Badgers. Junior John Schmidt and sophomore Shaun Kennedy have had steady years off the boards as well. Both have shown an ability to perform off each apparatus and will be valuable team members if Minnesota is to retain its conference crown.
No. 14 Northwestern Wildcats
The Northwestern Wildcats' success has primarily come on the backs of two sophomores. Matt Grevers is a multi-dimensional, multi-talented, swimmer who has posted top-two conference times in six events in three different disciplines. He already holds the Big Ten Championship records in the 50 and 100-yard freestyle races and the 100-yard backstroke. This year he has the fastest time in the 50-yard freestyle sprint and his performances in the 100-freestyle, 200-backstroke, and 200-IM have earned him automatic qualification to March's NCAA Championships.
Fellow sophomore Mike Alexandrov has provided consistent times in the breaststroke events and individual medleys. His times in both breaststroke events top the conference and his 200-yard time met the NCAA A-standard for automatic qualification. Alexandrov has also been valuable in the IM events as well. His 200-yard IM time is good for sixth in the Big Ten during the regular season and his 400 time is fourth best this year.
Northwestern will need significant contributions from other members of the team to place high at the Big Ten Championships. The Wildcats will turn to junior Brian Davis in the middle to distance freestyle events. He placed ninth in the conference through the regular season in the 500-yard freestyle and fourth in the 1,000-yard free. Freshman Kyle Bubolz is often overshadowed, due to the fact that his best races are also those that Grevers excels in. However, Bubolz will be looked to as a strong candidate to make the finals in his three primary events. His 50-yard freestyle time sits as fourth best in the Big Ten's regular season and his 100-yard time as eighth. His best showing this season came in the 100-yard butterfly, where his time was the third fastest in the league. Senior Louis Torres will also be one that the Wildcats turn to. He has earned conference top-ten times in both breaststroke events this season.
The Wildcats are led off the boards by junior Michael Oxman and freshman Ryan McIntosh. Both have taken home individual titles this year, and McIntosh set a new Northwestern record with a 297.30 on the one-meter board.
No. 24 Ohio State Buckeyes
The Ohio State Buckeyes come into the Big Ten Championships led by senior Rob Kauscher. His 200-yard breaststroke time is the sixth fastest mark of any Big Ten swimmer this season, while his 100 time is seventh. He is only Ohio State swimmer with two top-ten conference times. Senior Matt Jefferies will also be counted on to perform well in the breaststroke events. During the regular season, Jefferies posted the 14th fastest time in the Big Ten in both breaststroke events. In the backstroke races, sophomore Nathan King leads the way for the Buckeyes. His 100-yard time is 20th in the Big Ten this regular season and his 200-yard performance was the 14th fastest this year.
Marty Tomes leads the way for the Buckeyes in both butterfly events. The junior posted a top-ten time in the 200-yard butterfly and the 11th fastest 100-yard time during the 2004-2005 regular season. In the freestyle events, the Buckeyes tend to be more productive in the shorter distances. Freshman Matt Voelker posted the conference's 11th fastest time of the regular season in the 50-yard sprint and senior Tommy Seay did likewise in the 100-yard event.
The Buckeye divers are headed by senior Mitch Richeson. The three-meter Big Ten Championship record holder, scored a season-high 381.52 points on the one-meter against Michigan. Last year's Big Ten Diver of the Year has earned six titles off of the one-meter springboard and five off of the three-meter this season. Richeson has twice been honored as the Big Ten's Diver of the Week in the 2004-2005 season.
Penn State Nittany Lions
The Penn State Nittany Lions enter the 2005 Big Ten Championships with a strong mix of upperclassmen and newcomers. Seniors Daryl Northrop and Dustin Thompson and junior Shawn McLin have provided steady leadership in freestyle, butterfly, and backstroke events, while freshmen Kyle Miranda and Sean Biedermann have led the way in the breaststroke and individual medley races. Northrop has provided the team's best times in the two shortest freestyle races, with times of 20.71 seconds in the 50-yard and 45.41 seconds in the 100-yard race. Those times are good for 12th and 16th fastest in the Big Ten this season, respectively. Dustin Thompson has the fastest Nittany Lion time in the 200-yard butterfly this year with 1:51.82, the 16th fastest in the league this year. McLin has consistently produced the team's best breaststroke times this season clocking in with the Big Ten's 14th and 19th best times in the 100 and 200-yard events during the 2004-2005 regular season.
While the team's veterans have been productive this season, so have the freshmen. Sean Biedermann has Penn State's best 400-yard IM time, 4:00.60, the 17th best in the conference this season. Fellow freshman Kyle Miranda has had an even bigger impact this year. With the squad's top times in both breaststroke events, Miranda has earned the 15th fastest time in the 100-yard race and the 11th in the 200-yard event.
Senior Adam Pierce leads the way for the Nittany Lion divers. Having earned a Big Ten Diver of the Week honor, one of Pierce's highlights this season came when he won a one-meter title against Rutgers, with a score of 315.68. In that meet he also took second on the three-meter board with a point total of 327.30.
No. 15 Purdue Boilermakers
A trio of swimmers lead the 15th-ranked Purdue Boilermakers into Minneapolis for the Big Ten Championships. Junior Giordan Pogioli enters the event with team top-times in three events, two of which earned him provisional qualifications to the NCAA Championships. Pogioli's signature stroke is the breaststroke. Through the regular season, his 200-yard time was the second best of all Big Ten swimmers, while his 100-yard pace was good for fourth. Pogioli is also a factor in the butterfly, recording the team's fastest time in the 100-yard race. He is also a strong competitor in the individual medley events, posting conference top-15 times in both.
In his first season in West Lafayette, freshman Romain Maire has made an immediate impact. He leads the Purdue team with four times in the league's top-ten, in both backstroke and IM events. His time in the 200-yard back (1:46.80), the seventh fastest in the Big Ten, earned him an NCAA B-standard qualification. He also finished with the eighth and ninth fastest times in the Big Ten in the 400 and 200-yard IMs respectively. The most veteran leader that the Boilermakers have is senior Louis Paul. The Big Ten Championship record-holder in the 200-yard individual medley, Paul comes into this year's championships with five top-20 conference times, including his 1:38.38 in the 200-yard freestyle, which earned him a provisional qualification to the NCAA Championships. Paul's other strong finishes came in the 100-yard freestyle, both backstroke events, and the individual medley races.
The Purdue Boilermakers are one of only two teams in the conference this year that has had multiple divers earn Big Ten Diver of the Week honors. Junior Josh Karshen and sophomore Steven LoBue both garnered the honor in the 2004-2005 season. One of the highlights this season for Purdue occurred when LoBue broke the school's varsity record off the one-meter springboard with a score of 336.01 points.
No. 18 Wisconsin Badgers
In Madison not only is there a mania surrounding the men's swimming team, but there is a Mania on the men's swimming team. Senior Adam Mania, one of three senior leaders on the squad and a member of the 2004 Polish Olympic team, leads the Badgers in almost every event. Primarily a freestyle and backstroke swimmer, Mania has expanded his role on the team by becoming a top competitor in the breaststroke and in the individual medley events. With eight times in the conference's top-ten, Mania has earned six NCAA-B Standards and one automatic qualification, in the 200-yard IM. Much of Mania's performance will be determined by whether or not he is able to stay as productive as he has been all season, during the intense three-day championship event. Mania competed in two backstroke events in Athens, but will be called upon to swim in freestyle, back, breaststroke, individual medley races, and relays in Minneapolis.
The Badgers will also turn to Eric Wiesner for productivity in freestyle races. The senior earned two NCAA provisional berths in the 100 and 200-yard frees respectively, both races in which his times were in the top-five of the Big Ten. He also earned the seventh best time in the conference this year in the 50-yard freestyle sprint. The third major senior contributor is Tim Liebhold. While he does hold a provisional qualification in the 200-yard backstroke and the sixth fastest time in the Big Ten this regular season, he has made his mark in the individual medleys. Earning NCAA-B standards in both IMs, he finished the regular season with the fourth and second fastest times in the 200 and 400-yard IMs respectively.
The relay teams should prove to be an important factor in Wisconsin's success, with the points doubled. With provisional qualifications in three relays, if the Badger teams can finish well, Wisconsin could sneak up the conference ladder.
The freshmen quartet of divers on the Wisconsin roster are led by the Bonner twins. Along with fellow freshmen Ben Fjellanger and Ben Raznick, Josh and Justin Bonner have added an extra pocket of scoring potential to the Badgers already versatile attack. Josh, who took home an early season Diver of the Week award, owns the team's only two diving titles this season, but all four are capable of producing large point totals.