COLUMBUS, Ohio –The moment is finally upon the Ohio State men’s swimming and diving team. And that moment would be the 2010 Big Ten Championships, which Ohio State will host Wednesday through Saturday at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion. It’s a week the team’s 14 seniors have been eyeing for almost a year-and-a-half, and for sure since its runner-up finish at the Big Ten championships last year at West Lafayette, Ind.

All 10 Big Ten schools with men’s swimming and diving programs – Illinois does not – will converge on the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion no later than Tuesday of this week to compete in a championship that has been won the last two years by Michigan. The Wolverines, ranked sixth in the College Swimming Coaches Association of America Top 25 poll, won the title last year by more than 300 points. And they return virtually the same team.

Ohio State, ranked ninth by the CSCAA, returns essentially its same team as well, but the 2010 Buckeyes are deeper than the 2009 team. And this year’s bunch is more experienced, having tasted what it’s like to finish among the Top 2 teams at the conference championships. They’ve had a year to think about what it may be like hosting this meet in their own pool. And they’ve listened poolside to the coaching and mentoring and stories of their calm, cool and collected coach for the past three weeks while preparing for this week’s big test.

Staying In, and Enjoying, the Moment  Coach Bill Wadley, now in his 21st year as Ohio State coach, has spoken to his team repeatedly on the notion of staying in the moment this week, but also enjoying the moment. 

“It will be critical for our guys to swim every event as if it’s their only event,” Wadley said. “I want them to have a singular focus when they step up to the starting blocks.

“And if we stay loose, take care of business, have fun, swim fast, do exciting things, then we’ll be competitive. We just need to stay in the moment. And enjoy it.”

Having an Open Mind, Too  Even though Michigan is mighty strong once again this year, one can expect a competitive and contested battle for not only the crown, but for second, third and fourth-place, too. Minnesota and Purdue are also among the Top 20 teams in the nation, and they were third and fourth, respectively, at last year’s meet. Indiana was fifth last year and is nationally ranked at No. 23, but the Hoosiers are red-shirting some key performers this year.

“I want the team to have an open mind about this championship,” Wadley said, “and to have no preconceived notions about how others think this meet will turn out. Because it is possible to surpass what others think. I’ve told the guys to have a better day than they’ve ever dreamed is possible. Be free minded and be free spirited.”

Some Top Seeds  It’s not official until the psyche sheets come out after the Wednesday coaches meeting, but several Buckeyes have the top times in the Big Ten according the USA Swimming Top Times database. Among them:

  • Sr. Stefan Sigrist has the fastest time in the 500 freestyle (4:20.36);
  • Sr. Sam Pelkey has the fastest time in the event he’ll defend his 2009 title, the 200 breaststroke (1:58.99); and
  • Jr. Justin Farra has the top time in the 200 individual medley (1:45.66).

Wadley: “Being seeded first doesn’t mean a thing. All that does is guaranty a middle lane. The guys won’t make more of it than what it is. They know they are going to have to earn that seed in that moment…when the horn goes off.”

And If You Go Fast…  Wadley seemed to sum up all of his talks about moments and focus and taking care of business with some rather simple advice for his team:

“If you go fast you’ll be happy. If you go significantly faster, you’ll have a chance to win. It’s time to get serious about winning the Big Ten championships. It’s in our pool. This could be our time. We couldn’t ask for a better scenario.”

The Buckeyes, indeed, expect to enjoy the moments this week at the Big Ten Championships. And just maybe, this may turn out to be the team’s moment.

Ohio State’s Championships History  Ohio State has won 12 Big Ten championships with the last title – 1956 – capping a string of eight consecutive for the Scarlet and Gray, all under the great Mike Peppe. Only Michigan (34) and Indiana (24) have more Big Ten team championships than Ohio State.

Individual Champions  Ohio State also ranks third in the Big Ten with 175 individual Big Ten champions (a total that includes all swimming, diving and relay events). Three current Buckeyes have won an individual title at the Big Ten championships:

  • Sr. Sam Pelkey (Muncie, Ind.) – won the 200 breaststroke in 2009;
  • Sr. Wes Wieser (Chesterfield, Mo.) – won the 10-meter platform in 2007 and 2008; and
  • Sr. Burkley Showe (Columbus, Ohio) – won the 1-meter springboard in 2007.

Buckeye Seniors  Ohio State has been lead all season by its class of 14 seniors, 11 of whom scored points in individual events for the Buckeyes’ runner-up finish at the 2009 Big Ten championships: Andrew Bretscher (100 fly, 100 back), Joel Elber (50 & 100 free, 100 back), Ryan Jefferson (1- & 3-meter diving), Daniel Malnik (100 & 200 breaststroke), George Markovic (200, 500 & 1650 free), Mark Neiman (1650 free), Andrew Olson (200 free), Sam Pelkey (100 & 200 breaststroke), Niksa Roki (200 fly), Burkley Showe (1- & 3-meter diving) and Stefan Sigrist (1650 freestyle).

Big Ten Points Scorers  In addition to the seniors listed above, returning Buckeyes who scored individually at the 2009 Big Ten meet include Itai Chammah (100 & 200 back), Andrew Elliott (100 back), Justin Farra (200 & 400 IM), Elliott Keefer (100 & 200 breaststroke), Quincy Lee (200 fly), Sean Moore (1-, 3- & 10-meter diving), Phil Seleskie (200 back & 200 IM) and Markus Sievers (100 back & 200 IM).

So Far This Season…  Ohio State went 9-1 in the dual meet season, 3-1 in the Big Ten, with its only loss coming to Michigan in a two-day quadrangular meet at the end of January that also featured Northwestern and Penn State. Some notes on the year…

  • Aside from the loss to Michigan by a score of 197-135, Ohio State was absolutely dominant in the dual meets, winning its nine meets by an average score of 184-102.
  • Ohio State swam Big Ten duals against Indiana (a 224-74 win), Penn State (263-70) and Northwestern (263-63).
  • At the Ohio State invite, the Buckeyes took first in the five-team swimming field that also included Minnesota. The Buckeyes  outscored the second-place Golden Gophers in the Invite, 1,364-784.
  • Ohio State was second at the four-team Purdue Invitational, won by Louisville.
  • Ohio State swimmers have achieved 41 NCAA “B” consideration times so far, including five different individuals with “B” cuts in the 200 individual medley, the 400 individual medley and the 500 freestyle, respectively.

Team is an Academic Heavyweight, Too  Ohio State is dominant in the classroom as a team. Last year the team had the fourth-highest team grade point average – 3.37 – in the nation and the highest among all public schools, and it was awarded College Swim Coaches Association of America Scholar-Athlete Team honors. Ohio State currently ranks 15th in team GPA so far this season.

Seven Big Ten Distinguished Scholars  Seven Ohio State swimmers and divers are part of the Big Ten Conference’s inaugural class of recipients for the Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award, announced last spring. Distinguished Scholars must have earned a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.7 or higher for the academic year. Six current Buckeyes were named to the list:

  • Junior Itai Chammah, a business major from Yavne, Israel;
  • Junior Justin Farra, a political science major from Clarksville, Ohio;
  • Senior diver Ryan Jefferson, an education and human ecology major from Madison, Wisc.;
  • Junior diver Sean Moore, a business major from Englewood, Colo., who was one of only 69 student-athletes across the Big Ten with a perfect 4.0 GPA last year;
  • Senior Mark Neiman, a business major from Cherry Hill, N.J.; and
  • Senior Stefan Sigrist, a business major from Schaffhausen, Switzerland.

Rather Impressive Academic Numbers  One final two-part note on the academic accomplishments of Ohio State’s swimmers and divers: last year the team had 35 OSU Scholar-Athletes and 16 Academic All-Big Ten Conference honorees. (Both lists have GPA thresholds of 3.0 for the year but one must be a key performer to qualify for the Big Ten honor.)

More on Coach Bill Wadley  Bill Wadley is in his 21st year at Ohio State and has a dual meet record of 210-44. He has coached 15 Olympians and his teams have been ranked in the NCAA Top 25 for 17 of the past 20 seasons. Buckeye swimmers and divers have qualified for the NCAA championships in 18 of Wadley’s 20 years as coach. His Ohio State dual-meet record of 186-34 represents the most dual meet wins in Ohio State coaching history. Wadley has also produced more than 35 world-ranked swimmers and 15 of his student-athletes have reached the Olympics, including current Buckeyes Itai Chammah and Niksa Roki.

Assistant Coach Jessen Book  Jessen Book is in his second season as the team’s assistant coach. Book was a three-time Academic All-American and an All-America distance swimmer for Kenyon College.

Diving Coach Vince Panzano  Mike Peppe. Ron O’Brien. Vince Panzano. The strong and respected Ohio State University diving program has had only three coaches in its remarkable history and it only seems right that all three are Ohio State graduates. Peppe started the program and coached 44 NCAA champions, including O’Brien, and 25 Olympians. O’Brien coached eight NCAA champions and eight Olympians before turning the program over to Panzano, who was one of O’Brien’s divers between 1970-72. Panzano, who has coached 12 NCAA champions and eight Olympians, has been coach at Ohio State since 1977 and now, 32 years later, he is the dean of all Ohio State head coaches.

The Major Meets are at McCorkle This Year  The McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion will play host to the two biggest meets of the season: the Big Ten championships Feb. 25-27 and the NCAA championships March 25-27.

For a whole lot more on the Buckeye swimmers and divers, including rosters, pronunciation guides, school records, “B” consideration times, bio updates and much, much more, click on the attached Big Ten Champs Notes link.