October 25, 2007

Gauchos Dive into Season Looking to Seize Another Big West Championship

Oct. 25, 2007

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Twenty-six Big West Championships for men's swimming is undoubtedly impressive and adding one more to head coach Gregg Wilson's resume would be a nice touch. However, that is not the only thing coach Wilson is after this season. He is looking to have UC Santa Barbara recognized on the national level as a stellar program.

"Our intentions are not just to win conference, but to get more than one swimmer to the NCAA's and be more of a presence at the national level," Wilson said of the 2007-08 team's goals.

Surely, he will be feeling the absence of graduated Gaucho star Pat Cary, whose school record-breaking performance at the NCAA championships last season earned him All-American status. But Wilson is not too worried, "You hope when good people leave, that other people will step-up and fill in the gap, and that is what we are seeing."

Two athletes in particular stepping-up are senior co-captains Brooks Felton and Mason Edwards. Wilson's confidence is these two is quite apparent, "now this is all packaged by our team captains. These guys are in control. Over the summer they laid down a plan and a foundation. Everything they do is for this program and they are two exceptional student-athletes."

Coming into this season, Wilson believes that the team has done very well, "because of the returning people improving during the off-season and the new people coming in and infusing talent," he continued, "we have positioned ourselves very well for the dual meets, for daily training, for the championship meets, and for the NCAA Championships."

Sprint Freestyle
Junior Bradley Matsumoto, defending Big West Champion in the 100 free, returns as the lead sprinter. Right on his heels is senior Matt Sullivan, who is ready to get in the pool for his last year of eligibility. If Sullivan is able to duplicate or better his times from last fall, he should be a top contender in the Big West this season.

Helping out will be Curtis Bauer, Scott Vogelgesang, Chris Felton, and Edwards, who have all been working hard in the off-season and are expected to produce results in the sprints. Sophomore Jon Kraetsch is anticipated to help in the relays. Originally a butterflier, Kraetsch surprised everyone last year when he developed into one of UCSB's top relay swimmers.

Newcomers Dan Morris, of Fountain Valley, Calif., and Kevin Kuhn, out of Sierra Madre, Calif., are freshman with great potential and Wilson is looking for them to produce points for the team.

Adding further depth and experience to the sprint freestyle group will be Tennessee transfer Jeff Sudbury, who was a two-time All-American that made the NCAA championships as a member of the 200 free relay team with the Vols.

Middle Distance
The Gauchos will be very competitive in the middle distances due to an accomplished returning group. Last season, Vogelgesang earned Big West Freshman of the Year honors and broke UCSB's 200 free record as a member of the BWC Champion 800 free relay team. This season he is looking to come back even stronger with more individual wins and more school records. Co-captain Felton will be swimming the 200 and 500 freestyle after a strong performance at league championships in 2007.

Auburn transfer Matt Bartlett, from Atlanta, has "the best credentials of any recruit [Wilson] has ever had in 33 years". He will lead the pack in the 200 and will sometimes swim the 500.

Sophomore Joe Plume is also expected to progress after placing in the top-20 of the 200 free at the Big West Championships. Edwards and Junior Brock Roverud will swim the 500 free, while freshman Chris Day, of Seattle, Wash., and Golden West College transfer Joe Wood, out of Long Beach, Calif. round out the middle distance field.

Distance Freestyle
Felton, the cornerstone of the Gauchos' distance group, had a strong summer in which he qualified for the Olympic Trials in the 400 meter free and took third place at the National Championships in the 25 kilometer free.

The team will also rely on Spencer Holbrook to win points after his top-ten performances at the Big West Championships in the 1000 and 1650 free events. After a promising fall last year, sophomore Brett Chamberlain looks good for the upcoming season.

Day and freshman Charlie Patch of Denver, Colo., have performed well in practice and Wilson is excited to see them develop as swimmers.

Breaststroke
Last season, the team relied heavily on sophomores Dan Nyaradi and Travis Jepson in the breaststroke, this season the stroke will see a huge improvement in depth.

Nyaradi and Jepson both return, but the addition of Sudbury bolsters the Gaucho line-up. Sudbury not only brings his fast times, but his experience from the South East Conference to the team. He is an explosive swimmer and is already swimming close to his personal bests including the top finish in the 100 breast at the Gaucho's intrasquad meet earlier this month.

Freshmen Adam Gonzales of Fountain Valley, Calif., and Sheldon Magner out of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. have been impressing Wilson during the off-season.

"Both these freshman are doing what we hoped they would do: they are surprising us," Wilson said of the duo, "they both are training hard and have four strokes."

Butterfly
Even though the team expected a rebuilding year after the loss of All-American Cary, from the looks of Chris Wiggin's summer, the team has already rebuilt. Over the summer, Wiggin qualified for the Olympic Trials and in doing so beat his best time by over two seconds.

"He has established himself as a real force in the nation," Coach Wilson said of Wiggin.

McClary also sees an opportunity with Cary gone. His explosive style will help him top his sixth-place finish in the 200 fly at conference last season. Kraetsch will also step-up in the 100 and 200 fly after a respectable freshman season.

Sophomore Kristof Igloi is already looking improved this year and is expected to contribute. Gari Altamarino, a freshman out of San Diego, Calif., is a 200 butterflier and Wilson expects him to "make his presence known".

Backstroke
The consistent and reliable Chris Good returns for his junior season after qualifying for the Olympic Trials in the 200 meter backstroke and is expected to contend for the Big West title in both the 100 and 200 back.

Morris and Matsumoto will contribute significantly as will Plume. Plume is one of the best shaved swimmers on the team and his off-season training in the 200 back is expected to pay-off. Bartlett is going to be the big surprise for UCSB. With his powerful kick and aggressive style, he should be exciting to watch.

Freshman Stefan Ferenchek out of Haddonfield, N.J., has the potential to be very competitive in the 100 and 200 backstroke events.

Individual Medley
Good, who placed second last season in the 400 individual medley at conference, is once again expected to be one of the Big West's top swimmers in the event.

Dany McClary, Ben Malcolm, Holbrook and Nyradi will all provide the Gauchos should all provide solid options for the Gauchos in the 1M. Felton will race in the 400 and Plume will race in the 200 for UCSB.

Jon Garvey, Magner, Gonzales, Altamarino all have four strokes and will add much needed depth to the team.

Bartlett has the fastest time coming into this season and Wilson is predicting that he can be "the fastest swimmer in just about every event."

Relays
Coach Wilson is predicting that this will be the year that the Gauchos will break a record older than any of the swimmers on the team: the 400 freestyle relay set in 1983. The UCSB 200 freestyle relay should be the team's closest bet for making the NCAA Championships.

Three out of the four swimmers from last season's 800 free relay team, but Wilson is confident that several Gauchos will be ready to step-up and fill in the voids.

The UCSB men will open the 2007-08 season this Friday, Oct. 27 when they head to Tempe, Ariz. along with the Gaucho women for a two-day dual with non-conference opponent Arizona State.

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