The state’s longest league championship streak will be on the line again this year, as Wilson tries to win a 47th consecutive Moore League title. The Bruins are led once again by a coach steeped in the tradition of the school’s storied aquatics program, Eric Berg.
“We were lucky that the top seniors that graduated last year, some of the key spots we’ve got some really up and coming talented freshmen,” said Berg. “And we have a supermajority of the program returning. If we can keep the eye of the tiger in training, it’ll be good things.”
Berg also emphasized that while the Bruins want to keep the league streak going, they’re trying to find success beyond that.
“League championship is always a priority, but swimming at that next CIF level is what we’re about,” he said.
Berg’s son Max is the reigning league champion in the 100 and 200 freestyle, and will lead a talented but small senior class that also features Gabe Fields and Shane Nantais. Wilson’s junior class is the largest group in the program, led by distance specialist Mazen Abouelela, 200 IM champion Brandon Samaniego, Ian Escoto, and Owen Gurich.
What has Wilson coaches in all the aquatic sports excited this year is the arrival of some really talented freshmen, including Hank Rivers, who already has a heap of age group medals to his name.
“The great thing about a kid with his kind of talent is he’s a piece that we can move around to fill holes in other spaces,” said Berg. “We’ve got some key sophomores and then these freshmen, there’s a lot of diamonds in the rough.”
Long Beach Poly
The Jackrabbits have been the leader of the chase pack for Wilson the last several years, and even beat the Bruins in a dual meet two years ago before ultimately falling in a thrilling Moore League finals.
The Jackrabbits are led by seventh-year head coach Eddie Kim, who is facing some tough circumstances having graduated almost his entire varsity squad, and lost returning Moore League champion and CIF-SS finalist Chris Correa to transfer (he’s enrolled in a music school in Michigan). Poly will also be without Casey Lait for the first half of the season due to illness.
When healthy, Lait will lead a young team that includes just two other seniors, Garrett Lundeen and Mead Puckett. The Jackrabbits have a talented freshman of their own in Colin Jue.
“This year is the youngest team I’ve had since my first year at Long Beach Poly,” said Kim. “I’m excited to see what my underclassmen can do.”
Rams coach Danely Smith has a large group of seniors and the expectations have risen accordingly.
“We are looking forward to a competitive year with Wilson and Poly, I’ve got 11 seniors this year and a decent-sized group of strong juniors and sophomores, so hopefully they will turn it on when it counts,” said Smith.
The Rams’ top swimmers this year will be Brendan Stratford, Cade Brounley, Ben Weldele, Nick Yoon, Nick Watkins, Rory Klevin, and Justin Hostler.
Third-year Lancers coach Phil Geiger is looking at a young squad this year with only three seniors on varsity. Daniel Nellermoe is leading the way for the Lancers, and Geiger is hoping he can surprise some people at Moore League Finals.
“Other than that, our aim is to finish top three in league and send at least two relays to CIF,” said Geiger.
The aquatic revolution continues on the Westside, where Cabrillo boys’ swimming coach Lawrence Durand just led the Jaguars’ boys’ water polo team to the CIF-SS semifinals in the Fall. This year, Durand has high hopes for top Cabrillo senior Cory Thompson, who he thinks can be the first Jaguar ever to qualify for CIF-SS Finals.
“With our small squad we will try and duplicate last year’s first-ever victories at the Moore League finals,” said Durand. The Jaguars swept Jordan and were a few points shy of repeating that feat with Lakewood.
Durand’s squad will try to overcome the loss of senior Noe Villalon, who is out for the year after having had major surgery.
The Jaguars will host the Moore League finals on April 17 at 5 p.m.