Boys swimming: Scouting the 2021-2022 season in the Northwest suburbs

  • Barrington's Griffin O'Leary swims backstroke in the 200-yard medley relay during the 2021 Lake County boys swimming meet.

      Barrington's Griffin O'Leary swims backstroke in the 200-yard medley relay during the 2021 Lake County boys swimming meet. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

By Mike Miazga
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 12/8/2021 7:25 PM

Barrington BroncosCoach: John Valentine (11th season)

Top swimmers: Griffin O'Leary, sr., (fly, back), Judd Baron, Jr, (breast, fly), Rylan Anselm, soph., (200, 500), Adam Gaffney, soph., (100, fly)


Top new swimmers: Luke Bucaro, fresh., (IM, 200, 500), Will Guo, fresh., (fly, 200)

Outlook: O'Leary, headed to the University of Southern California to swim, was a 2020 all-American and is a six-time MSL individual champion who set multiple school and pool records in 2020. "We are fortunate to have Griffin for his senior year," Valentine said. "In addition to being one of the fastest swimmers in Illinois, he leads the team every day in practice, the weight room and teaching others how to be a leader. He is a rock star who dominates races from the start." Barrington has nine freshmen or sophomores on the varsity. Krish Patel leads the diving team. Valentine noted the medley and 400 relay teams will be tough to beat, while the 200 relay continues to improve with Bucaro the strength of the team's relays. Valentine also is high on Guo, also known as "Mighty Mouse." "Will is diminutive in stature, but beats older teammates every day in practice -- just ask his senior teammate and brother, Dylan." Valentine noted another calling card for the Broncos is great team chemistry. "In addition to racing each other during hard sets, they really do enjoy cheering their teammates on at meets," he explained. "Younger athletes are treated well, which will help us for many seasons to come." Valentine said Fremd will be tough in the MSL, while multiple MSL East teams, he added, will have top-tier individual swimmers. Barrington started the season with a win against Hersey and a second-place finish at the Barrington quad meet.

Buffalo Grove BisonCoach: Tom Cooney (5th season)

Top returning swimmers: Athan Rodrigues, sr., (fly, back, freestyle), Luke Czeryba, Jr, (sprint free, breast), Tucker Dombrowski, Jr, (IM, fly, breast), Edgar Rutkauskas, soph., (IM, breast)

Top new swimmers: Matt Olaru, soph., (freestyle, breast), Nolan Smith, fresh., (freestyle)

Outlook: The Bison are coming off a 2021 COVID-19 campaign where they won the MSL East and took second at the conference meet. "We are coming off what may be the most successful season in BG history," Cooney noted. Czeryba is an all-state performer in the 200 and 400 relay. "With many pieces still intact, we are looking to have another successful season this year," Cooney said. Cooney likes his team's relay makeup, particularly the medley. Czeryba, Rutkauskas and Dombrowski have state-meet-qualifying ability, Cooney noted. "I am happy the entire team is back together," he said. "We don't have to split up practices and meets. You can feel the energy on deck." Cooney said Prospect is the team to beat in the East this season and Barrington is the top contender in the West.

Conant CougarsCoach: Brian Drenth (21st season)

Top returning swimmers: William Erne, Jr, (sprints), Anthony Guarino, sr., (sprints, breast), Nathan Hall, sr., (sprints, back), Danny Kotchey, Jr, (distance), Bryce Loeger, soph., (sprints, back), KarlHeintz Megger, sr., (diving), Tyler Mitsuyasu, sr., (sprints, breast), Steven Rodriguez, sr., (diving), Spencer Vecchione, sr., (sprints, fly)

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Top new swimmers: Connor Kehoe, fresh., (diving), Yuuki Sato, Jr, (sprints, fly), Alex Seeman, fresh., (sprints), Kailey Visitation, fresh., (sprints), Ayden Woo, fresh., (distance)

Outlook: Drenth is excited about the larger size of his roster this season. "We have another large group this year that is working hard and pushing themselves and others at each practice," he said. "We are excited to see the guys hit their goal times/scores and in the process qualify to swim and dive in the state meet." Drenth said the Cougars' medley and 400 relay teams have a shot at state qualification. Drenth noted Loeger would have been a 100 and back state qualifier last year had there been a state meet. Megger is coming off a strong season last year and Drenth said he's another one to keep an eye on for state qualification. Woo continues to improve in the distance events, the coach noted. "I am super-excited with the work ethic and conditioning so far," Drenth said. "They have set some great goals and are focused and working hard to reach them." Drenth said Barrington, Fremd and Prospect are MSL teams to keep an eye on.

Elk Grove GrenadiersCoach: Keith Kura (12th season)

Top returning swimmers: Jimmy McNamara, sr., (IM, 500), Raphael Lausa, sr., (fly, sprint freestyle), Miles Nenkov, soph., (200, sprint freestyle)

Outlook: Kura loves how McNamara, Lausa and Nenkov have prepared for their senior seasons. "These three kids have worked hard and persevered through the tough season last year," Kura said. "They are excited to get back to a full season of training and meets." As such, senior leadership will be a major strength, Kura noted. "With everything these student-athletes have been through, having the older guys show the younger/newcomers how we do things in the program is something I look to lean on this season. This group has put together a good start to the season. They are hardworking and very excited to come to practice every day to improve."


Fremd VikingsCoach: Andrew Adams

Top returning swimmers: Jaden Heinlein, soph., (IM, breast), Andrew Di, Jr, (back, IM), Kyler Bingel, soph., (distance)

Top new swimmers: Tyler Franke, fresh., (50, 100)

Outlook: It didn't take long for Heinlein to make some noise this season. He already broke the Fremd pool record in the breaststroke. He is the defending MSL champion in the IM. "Jaden is our top performer," Adams said. "He is looking to clear some names off the pool and school record board." Di has shown all-around strength in the back and IM, while Binger is the squad's top distance swimmer, and Adams noted has his sights set on state qualification. Franke is a strong addition to the team's sprint freestyle group, Adams said. "This year we have a greater depth of talent across both levels," he added. "This group is very focused on their goals for February. So far, that's translating into productive practices and a solid first meet." Two more names to keep an eye on: senior Colin Bolger, who is looking to bust under a minute in the breast and junior Ben Mears, already a school recordholder in diving. "Ben will be very strong in the conference," said Adams, who added Heinlein's breaststroke was the highlight of the night in Fremd's dual against Rolling Meadows last week.

Hersey HuskiesCoach: Matt Zimmer (1st season)

Top swimmers: Andrew Flight, Jr, (breast), Kevin Polina, sr., (100, 200, fly), Noah Thomas, sr., (breast, 50, 100, 200)

Top new swimmers: Cullen Watanuki, fresh., (50, 100), Joey Papanicholas (IM, back)

Outlook: Zimmer takes over the Hersey boys program from coaching great Dick Mortensen. Zimmer said the anchors of the squad are national qualifier Flight and seniors Charlie Schmidt and Pollina. "Our relays will be well-balanced, but the team excels in mid-distance and stroke events," said Zimmer, who is high on the team's medley relay in particular. Thomas is an adapted swimmer who is a four-time Illinois state champion and recordholder. Zimmer said his athletes had a strong summer of training and are looking to immediately improve times from last season. "Their emphasis will be on power development, so results should start to show in midseason," he said. "They recognize they are a smaller team than many of their competitors in the conference, but are enthusiastic about their chances and hungry to take on new challenges. A change in coaching is always stressful for an established team under a legendary coach in Dick Mortensen. They have been courageous about embracing something new." Zimmer said Prospect and Buffalo Grove will be strong in the MSL East.

Maine East Blue DemonsCoach: Brian Esposito (1st season)

Top returning swimmers: Adrian Sak, sr., Daniel Pietrzak, sr., Chris Dyminski, soph.

Outlook: "They are a very tight-knit group that works hard and picks each other up during practice and truly enjoys spending time together," Esposito said. "They are not afraid of working hard and are very confident in their abilities to learn and perform with the work they are putting in each practice."

Maine South HawksCoach: Don Kura (21st season)

Top returning swimmers: Joey Roberts, sr., (diving), Zack Wagner, sr., (sprints, breast), Andrew Lyubashenko, sr., (IM, breast), Dominic Mazurek, soph., (IM, freestyle), Ljubomir Popovic, Jr, (sprints, back), Lukas Neilson, sr., (sprints), Zach Chapovalov, Jr, (fly, freestyle, IM)

Top new swimmers: Dragos Cozma, fresh., (freestyle fly), Sean Forrest, fresh., (freestyle, fly), Ben Przekota, fresh., (distance)

Outlook: Versatility is the name of the game this season for the Hawks. "We will be very deep and versatile," Kura said. "We have a lot of guys who can compete at a high level in many events. For this reason, lineup creation during the season will be a fun process because I can run out a different lineup basically every meet and compete to win." Kura said the possibility is there to have 3 relays with state-qualifying possibilities. Three other notables for South include sophomores Danilo Marsenic and Sam Sacor, along with junior Bart Kubis. Kura said Marsenic has a chance to be a significant contributor by the end of the year, while Sacor (breast) and Kubis (sprints, breast) are also on their way to meet significance. As far as the Central Suburban Conference race, Kura sees usual suspects New Trier, Glenbrook South and Evanston at the top, "but we hope we can force our way into that conversation as the season moves forward," he said.

Maine West WarriorsCoach: Chris Trella (3rd season)

Top returning swimmers: Max Blezein (50), Kamil Czarnik (100), Ian Turner (back, fly), Alex Zudor (breast)

Outlook: Maine West recently broke a team "off" event relay record in the 400 individual medley at the Maine East invitational, which will not appear on the record board due to the unique nature of the event. "I was very proud of them," Trella said. "We will see if we want to focus on the medley or 200 free relay." Trella said that group of Blezein, Czarnik, Turner and Zudor "like to race, so they will rise to competitive challenges," Trella noted. "It's no secret we are in one of the most competitive conferences in the state, but I think all of them have a shot at all-conference."

Palatine PiratesCoach: Katie Mroz (5th season)

Top returning swimmers: Hubert Dybinski, sr., (freestyle), Max Adame, sr., (freestyle, back), Shion Takashima, Jr, (IM/fly), Matt Slepp, Jr, (freestyle/breast), Kris Szulc, soph., (freestyle, back), Tyler Elzer, sr., (diving)

Top new swimmers: Matt Kutyna, soph., (freestyle, butterfly), Colin Vadergiessen, fresh., (freestyle, fly)

Outlook: "This season, we will definitely have strength in numbers, leadership, experience and versatility," Mroz said. "We have the most athletes out for our team in recent memory with more than 30 new swimmers and divers. We are excited to have so many athletes. It provides a lot of competition at practice and growth for years to come." Leadership is also abundant, Mroz said. "We also have excellent leadership from our captains and seniors. They have done a ton to teach, model and encourage everyone. They go out of their way to make sure all the athletes are a part of our team and traditions." Mroz is particularly excited about the prospects Dybinski, Adame and Szulc bring to the table. Dybinski's leadership and freestyle abilities stand out, Mroz noted, while Adame also is top-notch in the work ethic and leadership categories. Mroz noted Szulc's improvement has driven him to be someone who will be looked to as a key contributor for the Pirates this winter. In terms of the MSL, Mroz pointed to Barrington and Fremd as two teams to contend with.

Prospect KnightsCoach: Alfonso Lopez (12th season)

Top returning swimmers: Tim Hays, sr., (IM, fly, back), Andrew Tonkovic, sr., (200, 50, 100, 500), Ian McGough, sr., (50, IM, breast), Ben Zwolenik, sr., (50, 100), Hugo Arzbaecher, Jr, (fly, back), Sejin Park, Jr, (fly, back, 200, 500), Danny Tonkovic, soph., (200, 500)

Top new swimmers: Augustas Lapys, fresh., (fly, back), Max Dembowski, fresh., (breast, IM)

Outlook: Hays, Tonkovic and McGough were part of the Prospect 200 medley relay team that broke the school, pool and MSL records. Hays broke the IM and back school records, while Tonkovic set the pool record in the 500 and was MSL champion in the event as well. "We have a very large team this season with a seasoned varsity group," Lopez said. "Depth should be one of our strengths, and we have some pretty good top-end speed with our returning swimmers. Most of the sectional team from last season returns, and a good amount of our returning juniors made improvements in the offseason to solidify our varsity group." In addition to that medley relay, Lopez also likes the 200 relay's chances at making a state run. Hays is already 3 seconds faster than his school record in the IM. Tonkovic should make the next leap in the 500, while Lopez also likes the progress McGough has made, setting him up for a strong senior season. Lopez said keep an eye on defending MSL champion Barrington, along with Fremd and Buffalo Grove. The Knights opened with a win over Hoffman Estates.

St. Viator LionsCoach: Mike Miklius (4th season)

Top returning swimmers: Leo Marcinkus (sprints), Ricky Anesi (distance), Ronan Valera (breast)

Outlook: "We are focused on building a strong team bond via team-building and team service this year," Miklius said. "Our senior captains have done a great job taking the lead in this already. Our guys get along well and don't mind coming in and getting to work. They also know how to have fun, and they look out for each other." Miklius noted the Lions' relays will be a mix of seniors returning to their spots and sophomores jumping up to the varsity lineup. Miklius said Anesi continues to improve, while Marcinkus is the team's top sprinter. "I am excited to see how low he can go in the 50," he said.

Schaumburg SaxonsCoach: Tim O'Grady (6th season)

Top returning swimmers: Szymon Mieczkowski (500, 200, back), Andrew Georgescu (fly), Patrick Dima (breast)

Top new swimmers: Dennis Bobiv (sprints), Octavio Zemaitaitis (500)

Outlook: "This group is growing in age, yet no top swimmers are seniors," O'Grady pointed out. "They are improving fast and look to improve their standing in the conference again." O'Grady said Mieckowski will be looking for a state berth as a sophomore and combined with junior Georgescu, Dima and freshman Bobiv, "we look to have more dangerous relays," O'Grady said. Schaumburg defeated Wheeling in an MSL dual and took fourth at the recent Niles West invite.

Rolling Meadows MustangsCoach: Monika Chiappetta (25th season)

Top returning swimmers: Jeremy Leigh, Jr, (sprints), Kacper Pancerz, Jr, distance, Russell Matthews, Jr, (IM, breast), Kyren Whiting, soph., (diving)

Top new swimmers: Emanuel Anguelov, fresh., (sprints)

Outlook: "They had great leaders the last couple years showing them that working hard gets you good things," Chiappetta noted. "They have picked up right where they left off last year. They know the loss of our seniors will affect the bottom line, but they are young and willing to do what it takes to be the best they can be. They are also great at pushing each other in practice. I love how they all get along and have folded in Emanuel already. I also like that they know hard work is important." Meadows lost to Fremd in a dual, but Anguelov won the 100 and was part of the winning 200 free relay with Leigh, Matthews and Pancerz. Matthews also won the IM.

Wheeling WildcatsCoach: Tod Schwager (15th season)

Top returning swimmers: Alex Pavlov, soph., (freestyle, breast), Mason Hegert, sr., (fly, breast), Gavin Little, soph., (back, all-around), Jacson Schmitt, sr., (sprints), John Papaioannou, sr., (distance), Mark Zmojdzin, sr., (fly, sprints), Derek Dappert, Jr, (back, diving)

Top new swimmers: Van Paul, fresh., (all-around), Cristian Marin Saenz, sr., (sprints)

Outlook: Schwager said Wheeling has balance this year with heavy amounts of juniors and seniors, plus the veteran coach sees a competitive product forthcoming. "They are competitive, " he said. "They want to compete and win." Schwager said to watch Hersey, Buffalo Grove and Prospect in the East," always deep with talent," he said. Wheeling lost by three to Schaumburg. "Most kids are coming in near best times or breaking PRs, so that is promising," Schwager noted.

Did not provide requested information: Hoffman Estates, Leyden

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