Bringing with him 14 winning seasons in a row, head coach Bill Wadley has much to look forward to in a team made up of young talent and upperclassmen leadership and experience.

The Ohio State swimming and diving team saw the 2002-03 season culminate with a 7-2 overall record and an eighth place finish in the Big Ten Championships, adding to Wadley’s impressive 129-22 mark overall at Ohio State.

Even with the loss of three strong finishing seniors last season, Nick Rees, Vladi Dusil and Matt Rusnov, the squad returns this year with an experienced group of upperclassmen and experienced and highly touted freshmen. The 2003-04 squad is made of 15 returning swimmers and 14 freshmen, along with three returning divers and one freshman diver.

“Our returning athletes are very experienced – we have two seniors, a strong junior class and a young freshmen group this season,” Wadley said. “We only lost three seniors last year, keeping many of the same athletes and points for this season.

“It sets us up well for the future and allows us to make a strong run up the Big Ten ladder.”

Seniors Andreas Campioni and Sean Veit are in place to guide the team both in and out of the pool.

“It’s there turn as seniors now to be leaders and set the tone for the team in terms of leadership for both today and the future,” Wadley said. “The responsibility of the team falls squarely on their shoulders and they are committed, excited and ready to step up to that position.”

Campioni qualified for two consolation finals at the Big Ten meet last season, set career bests at the conference championships in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke, where his time of 50.07 ranked seventh all-time in OSU history for the 100-yard backstroke. Veit swam middle distance and distance freestyle last season, ending the season as an Academic All-Big Ten honoree and an OSU Scholar-Athlete. An experienced junior class is also coming into the season, with leading scorers Rob Kauscher and Tommy Seay looking to improve on what was an incredibly successful individual season last year.

Kauscher set lifetime bests in both the 50- and 100-yard breaststroke at the Big Ten championships last season, taking eighth in the 100-yard breaststroke and 13th in the 200-yard breaststroke. Kauscher returns as a team co-captain this season, a title bestowed upon him midway through last season.

“Rob has come back this season with real competitive attitude and has shown the leadership and stamina needed to compete in the Big Ten,” Wadley said.

Seay finished the season with eight individual and six freestyle relay first-place finishes, along with placing 10th in the 100-yard freestyle, 15th in the 200-yard individual medley and 24th in the 400-yard individual medley at the conference meet.

Also returning is junior Ryan Sciortino after setting two individual season’s best times in the 1,000- and 1,650-yard freestyle last season, along with placing 15th in the mile, 26th in the 500-yard freestyle and 25th in the 400-yard individual medley at the conference meet. Junior Matt Jeffries looks to continuing his progress as one of the team’s strongest leaders in the breaststroke, placing 15th over all after reaching the consolation finals of the 100-yard breaststroke at the Big Tens. Sciortino placed 28th overall in the 200-yard breaststroke and set a lifetime best of 1:54.75 in the 200-yard individual medleys at the Big Ten meet.

Sophomore Marty Tomes finished 14th in both the 100- and 200-yard butterfly at the Big Tens last year, setting a lifetime best of 1:49.79 in the butterfly, and posting three individual and three relay first-place finishes at the dual meets.

Sophomore Adam Braun joins Tomes in his second year on the team, coming back from five first-place finishes at dual meets in the freestyle events and setting two lifetime bests at the Big Ten championships.

The freshman class is made of all Ohio swimmers but one, bringing with them several national and state rankings. Freshmen to watch are Nick Keene, a YMCA national swimmer able to participate in most events. Gary Grant comes to the team with YMCA national titles in the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard butterfly and 50-yard freestyle, along with Michael Byrnes bringing speed to the sprinters.

“We’ve got a great group of young men that with a little time and development can become Big Ten swimmers,” Wadley said. “Our goal for them is to do really well academically and focus on developing good habits in their lives and improving and building a good base of technique for this year.”

The Ohio State program changes each year, Wadley said, but always builds on the same foundation.

“While we try to always change something, our foundation of technique and skill work and working hard never changes. Change and challenge is good, though, and we will continue to challenge our guys at a higher level each year,” Wadley said. “We have high ambition for practice and are always looking to increase our level of competition.

“We try to keep it fun and stimulating and enjoy the challenge of keeping the environment fresh for the guys.”

The Buckeyes look to a difficult fall schedule to begin the 2003-04 season, one building up to the Big Tens and NCAA championships.

“I think the schedule this fall is more challenging than we’ve had in many years,” Wadley said. “And we did that on purpose. We have a young team and want to prepare them for Big Ten competition.”

The squad begins the season with a home meet against Louisville and West Virginia, Nov. 7, followed by a full weekend at the Purdue Invite Nov. 21-23 and a meet at home against Cleveland State Nov. 25. Wadley said he plans to take several upperclassmen to the Auburn Invite Dec. 5-7 before the holiday break.

Ohio will compete against the squad at home Jan. 3, which will be followed by meet at Indiana with Southern Illinois Jan. 10 and another home meet against Miami (Ohio) Jan. 17. Penn State will end the dual-meet season Feb. 6 at home, after which post-season competition will begin.

“We have three pretty good home meets after the holidays, which should be fun for everyone to come out and watch,” Wadley said. “It’s a great schedule, one that will keep us busy and challenged throughout the season.”

Entering his 26th year as head diving coach, Vince Panzano looks to build on the success of the squad last year and maintain the high level of experience and skill, which has come to define his program.

Junior Mitch Ritcheson returns after finishing the season in 28th place in the 3-meter dive and 30th place in the 1-meter dive at the NCAA Championships. Richeson scored eight first-place and four second-place finishes in the dual meet season last year, along with earning Big Ten Diver of the Week and Second Team All-Big Ten honors.

Sophomores Mark Dreyer and Nick Hanneman together posted four first, eight second, and four third-place finishes during the dual meet last season. Hanneman finished 24th in the 1-meter and 18th in the 3-meter dive and Dreyer finished ninth in the 1-meter and 14th in the 3-meter at the 2003 Big Ten Championships.

Freshman Kellen Harkness, a two-time state 4A champion and state record holder, will back up the squad as the only new addition to the diving team.

“We have three returning divers, plus the addition of a freshman, and we have a very good junior record,” Panzano said. “I think our team will be very strong this year and should contend for individual titles at the Big Ten championships and also score high in the NCAA championships. There are some good meets along the way, but our main focus is the end of the year.”