Feb. 23, 2016
Columbus, Ohio— The 2016 Big Ten Championships kick off this week in West Lafayette, Indiana and the No. 15 Buckeyes will be looking for their 14th team title in school history. The meet will begin on Wednesday, February 24 and run through Saturday, February 27 and will be held at Boilermaker Aquatic Center on the campus of Purdue University. Fans interested in attending the championships can visit this link, which contains all relevant information regarding tickets, parking, and everything else needed to enjoy the opportunity to cheer on your Buckeyes.
The full event schedule can be found here. Wednesday will only feature two relays during the evening session- the 200 medley relay and 800 freestyle relay- and all other days will have a prelim session at 11 a.m. followed by finals at 6:30 p.m.
Follow the Action
Not planning on attending this week? No problem! The first six sessions of the 2016 Big Ten Championships — Wednesday evening, Thursday morning/evening, Friday morning/evening, Saturday morning — will be shown live via BTN Plus (subscription required).
The final session of the meet — Saturday night — will be available live via BTN2Go to fans with a Big Ten Network subscription through their cable provider. It will also air tape-delayed on the Big Ten Network on a yet-undisclosed time.
In the Rankings
Ohio State has held steady at No. 15 in the CSCAA top-25 rankings the last few weeks. Other ranked Big Ten teams include Michigan (5), Indiana (8), Wisconsin (16), and Minnesota (25). Iowa also received votes.
Ohio State at Big Tens
In its history, Ohio State has won 13 Big Ten Championships with the last coming in 2010, and its finished in the top-5 every year since 2006. The Buckeyes’ 13 team titles are third-most in conference history. Since Ohio State’s first Big Ten Championships in 1931, its claimed 196 gold medals: 93 in individual swimming events, 22 relays, and 81 in diving, which is almost twice as many as any other school.
If you want to check out anything else regarding past Big Ten Championships you can check out the official conference record book.
A couple Ohio State swimmers have earned weekly awards from the Big Ten this season. Matt McHugh was named Big Ten Swimmer of the Week back on Nov. 25 after his performance at the OSU Invite. The junior recorded NCAA provisional qualifying times in each of his individual events at the Invite, including the 50 freestyle (20.16), 100 butterfly (46.81), 100 backstroke (46.97) and 100 freestyle (43.88). His time in the 100 butterfly ranked ninth in the nation at that time. McHugh was also named CollegeSwimming.com’s National Swimmer of the Week just the week before.
Zeng was named the Big Ten Diver of the Week five times this season. The sophomore has had a dominant season, placing first in 20 of the 23 events he’s competed in this year. The last time an Ohio State diver was named B1G Diver of the Week was back in 2012-13.
Some Light Reading
Colin Zeng has had an incredible season as a sophomore diver and people have been taking notice. He was recently the subject of feature stories by both the Lantern and the Columbus Dispatch; read up on Colin before watching him compete this week!
A Chat with the Coaches
Head coach Bill Wadley has certainly seen his fair share of Big Ten Championships. The decorated leader of the Buckeyes has been in Columbus since 1990 and also spent time coaching in the Big Ten prior to that, and during that time his focus has settled on the young men he coaches every day.
“For me,” Wadley said, “this is my 33rd Big Ten Championships, so it’s all about the kids and their experience and walking away with something that will be a lifelong memory.”
This year, Wadley has his team in the top-15 in the country with just two other Big Ten teams ranked higher. The roster is littered with talent, though a lot of it is pretty young; a good number of Buckeyes will be experiencing their first Big Ten Championships this week.
“We’re younger this year so I think it might be a little more challenging,” Wadley said. “I think the good news is that we’ve got a good group of kids and they’re going to be here for a couple years, so we’re hopeful they can do really well and continue to do well down the road. We have high expectations and high hopes, that’s for sure.”
He continued: “It’s fun because, for a lot of kids, it’s their first experience at Big Tens and that’s a big deal. To be at the Big Ten Championships is a special thing for any athlete, to qualify and represent your school and the history of the program is really special. I know they all want to do well and they’re all going to give it a great go; I think they’re all going to do very well.
With all these swimmers experiencing a new environment for the first time, it can obviously be pretty nerve-wracking. But Wadley isn’t worried in the slightest; he knows his swimmers are ready to go physically, and that the real importance lies with what goes on between their ears.
“For any young person there’s that unknown and uncertainty, but the truth is that’s prevalent in every sport,” he explained. “What matters is how you handle what occurs in the moment. If you go in and your mind is in the right spot and you have positive thoughts then you’ll be just fine.
One strength of this team all season long has been its depth. All season long, Buckeyes have been clumped together near the top of almost every event of every meet, something that Wadley acknowledges he’s intrigued to see this week in West Lafayette.
“It’ll be interesting to see,” he said of his team’s collection of talented swimmers. “I think the quality depth of our team is the difference between top-16 A and B finals and the C finals. Our goal is to get as many guys in the A and B finals as we can.”
“Everybody’s excited,” Wadley said. “The optimism is high and the energy is in the right spot. Like anything else you just have to push ‘Go’ when the moment comes.”
Head diving coach Justin Sochor has already experienced a Big Ten Championship meet this season when he took his women’s team last week to Ann Arbor. Hannah Thek brought home a silver medal in the three-meter dive at her first Big Tens appearance, and Sochor will be looking for even more from his men’s contingent.
“Awesome,” he said when asked how he’s feeling heading into this week. “We’re all ready, we spend the whole season getting fit and putting our dives together the right way. Everyone seems pretty healthy and ready to go. We don’t do any last minute cramming, so we’ve been ready to go to this meet for weeks.”
Led by Zeng, Ohio State has arguably the best group of divers in the conference, so Sochor is expecting some big things from his Buckeyes this week, especially from his super sophomore.
“It’s been great,” he said regarding Zeng’ performance this year. “He actually needs this experience, this will be so valuable for him since he didn’t really have that many competitions until he came to college. So this is going to help him, and neither one of us know how he’ll handle the different atmosphere of a loud, exciting Big Tens meet.”
That different atmosphere is loud, lively, intense, whatever word you want to use for the biggest meet of the season so far. For a group of student-athletes who spend their season practicing in a relatively quiet diving well, it can be a big shock to your system, and it’s important to not let it affect the way you compete.
“You can’t get too pumped up, beating your chest and jumping up and down,” said Sochor. “The object isn’t to spin faster and jump higher, it’s to do your dive exactly the way you practiced it, and your practice environment is calm and controlled.”
“You can blow off as many bells and whistles and make as much noise as you want,” he said about trying to replicate that atmosphere of Big Tens. “But it’s impossible to mimic the energy that that environment creates. If you haven’t slept in three days and you’re tired, and you walk onto that pool deck, you’re not tired anymore. It’s such an incredible energy.”
Sochor continued: “The Big Ten Championships is different than any other diving meet you’ll ever go to. No matter how accomplished a diver is and no matter how many huge events they’ve competed in, they’ve never been to a meet like that before.”
That being said, Sochor has had experience coaching at not just Big Tens, but at World Championships and other prestigious diving events, so he has the knowledge and experience to prepare his team the right way, and the way they’ve performed this year gives off every indication that they’ll have an exceptional week in West Lafayette.
“What’s nice about the way we train is that we do it smart and we stay healthy,” said Sochor. “You get a lot of teams that show up to these meets beat up from cramming in all this extra training, thinking that they’re not ready for conference yet. The important thing is to make sure you’re ready mentally, being confident in what you’ve trained all season to do.”