2008 Big Ten Championships Preview
Feb. 27, 2008
Some of the nation's top aquatic talent will converge upon the University of Michigan campus and the Donald B. Canham Natatorium this weekend at the Big Ten Men's Swimming and Diving Championships. The event will feature seven teams (No. 4 Michigan, No. 7 Indiana, No. 8 Minnesota, No. 12 Purdue, No. 13 Ohio State, No. 16 Penn State and No. 18 Northwestern) ranked in the latest CSCAA Top 25 and one more (Wisconsin) that is receiving votes outside the top 25.
The Hoosiers look to reclaim their 2006 status as Big Ten Champions after a fourth-place finish last year. Indiana is led by a wealth of seniors which includes Alex Brunfeldt, Ben Hesen, David Legler, Todd Patrick, Pat Penoyar and Taylor Roberts. Hesen is the Hoosier's only returning champion from last year's event in the 100-yard backstroke.
Iowa hopes to climb up from its ninth-place showing in 2007 with strong performances from underclassmen including Frank Van Dijkhuizen, Connor Dwyer, Richard Salhus and Wil Whaley. Van Dijkhuizen has garnered Big Ten Diver of the Week honors three times this season with Salhus taking home top swimming honors once.
Michigan's eyes are on the top spot this year as they fell short of the 2007 title by four points. Matt Patton (500-and 1650-yard free), Bobby Savulich (200 free) and Alex Vanderkaay (200 IM and 400 IM) all return as event champions from last year. Watch for junior Sal Barba (200 free) and sophomore Scott Spann (100 and 200 breast) to add quality points as well.
After finishing 10th at the 2007 Championships, Michigan State seeks guidance from a trio of seniors in Tony Grace, Matt McNichols and Adam Schmitt. This season Schmitt broke an MSU pool record in the 200-yard freestyle clocking in at 1:38.24. The Spartans also hope for contributions from sophomore Ian Zalessov. Zalessov proved to be one of the best young divers in the conference as he garnered Big Ten Diver of the Week on Dec. 11, 2007.
In 2007, the Gophers became only the second team ever to win the team title without claiming any individual events. In a team once again packed with depth, the Minnesota standouts include seniors Russ Payne, David Plummer, Tyler Schmidt and Mike Woodson, juniors Colin Lee-To, Jon Roberts and Cole Young, and underclassmen Ray Betuzzi, Curt Carlson and Alex Wold.
Northwestern claimed the fifth spot at last year's event as the team garnered more gold medals than any other squad with 10. 2007 All Big-Ten first team honorees Bruno Barbic and Kyle Bubolz return as the defending 100-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly champions, respectively.
Ohio State took home third place honors in 2007. Buckeye divers dominated the competition last year winning all three events. Twotime Big Ten Diver of the Week Wes Wieser returns as the defending platform diving champion along with Burkley Showe who won off the one-meter board. Teammate Ryan Jefferson finished behind Showe for silver. In the pool, look for senior freestylist Matt Voelker to rack up some big points.
Penn State finished seventh at last year's championships but looks to improve. Junior Pat Schirk was the lone All-Big Ten recipient in 2007 and was joined by Vincent Reydams in receiving a Big Ten Swimmer of the Week accolade this season.
Purdue heads to Ann Arbor with a great chance to up last year's sixth-place finish. In the well for Purdue is sophomore Kyle Mitrione and freshman David Colturi as they have combined for three Diver of the Week honors. Leading the swimmers is the 2007 400-yard IM runner up Romaine Maire.
The Badgers are led by juniors Scott Rice and Eric Johnson. Rice has picked up two Swimmer of the Week honors this season and last year placed fourth in the 200-yard butterfly. With the addition of freshman diving standout Caleb Percevecz, Wisconsin has a good opportunity to rack up major points.