Boys' Swimming: Panthers maintain their hunger
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It is not often the defending WPIAL champions can enter a season hungry and with no pressure on them.
It is also not often that a WPIAL swimming program graduates five seniors who all advanced to swimming or diving in college. But that is exactly what happened with the Upper St. Clair boys swimming team, which, after winning the WPIAL Class AAA boys' team title last season, sent five swimmers -- Charlie Mosca (Allegheny College), Kyle Dudzinski (University of Virginia) J.T. Perryman (University of North Carolina Wilmington) and Patrick Davis and James Frauen (University of Rochester) -- to collegiate swimming and diving programs.
So when coach Tom Donati describes this season's team as hungry and competing without pressure, it is not coachspeak ... it is the truth.
"Anytime you graduate five seniors who are swimming and diving at the next level, there are some big holes to fill," Donati said. "We are extremely young, but it is nice to be young and hungry and we are really excited. Things are coming together, they are jelling. This is a fun team to coach."
Last season at the WPIAL championships, Upper St. Clair edged North Allegheny, 295.5-289, to win the boys' team championship and snap the Tigers five-year title reign.
This year, many expect North Allegheny to regain the label of WPIAL champions, with Upper St. Clair and Peters Township ranking as the top challengers.
"Do I think we will win [the WPIAL championship]?" Donati asked. "I would say [North Allegheny coach] Corky (Semler) is the favorite.
"Last year I was a little more confident. I think these boys will do a lot of good things. We might not see the same rewards but we will continue to build this foundation and we will be back there on that podium, hopefully sooner rather than later."
Upper St. Clair hung with North Allegheny at a dual meet on Dec. 22, with NA edging the Panthers, 99-79.
The Panthers rely heavily on senior Andrew Tomiczek. He qualified for the PIAA championships in four events (50 freestyle, 100 backstroke and the 200 medley and freestyle relays).
"Andy is back and he is a great leader," Donati said. "He is an athlete, one of the best athletes I have ever had. He has really taken his leadership role seriously and he is really excited to have all these young guys on the team."
Upper St. Clair won the boys' team championship last season despite having to replace a pair of college-bound swimmers, Eddie Jew (Bucknell University) and Matt Novak (Gettysburg College) who graduated in 2010. Combined with last year's graduating class, the Upper St. Clair boys' swim program has sent seven swimmers and divers to collegiate programs over the past two seasons.
Tomiczek is another collegiate-bound swimmer. He is looking at the University of Alabama, the University of Pittsburgh and Emory University among others.
"He is trying to figure out the best engineering school for him," Donati said. "I think that is great -- his priority is engineering, I think he will figure it out."
Tomiczek is the only swimmer returning on the Upper St. Clair 200 medley relay team that finished third at WPIALs last season, but Tomiczek and sophomore Alex Hardwick are both back from last season's WPIAL-winning 200 freestyle relay.
Hardwick won silver medals at WPIALs last season in the 100 and 200 freestyle.
In the dual meet at North Allegheny, Upper St. Clair's 200 medley relay team featuring Hardwick, Tomiczek and sophomores Avery Hsu and Nathan Novak took first place.
First Published January 13, 2012 12:00 am