Water Polo Wilson

PREVIEW: Wilson Boys’ Water Polo Visits Millikan Today

The top two Moore League boys’ water polo teams will do battle this afternoon as defending league champions Wilson visits Millikan. The game is scheduled for 4 p.m.

The Bruins (8-12, 2-0) have won the last 11 league titles, and the Rams (9-8, 2-0) are trying to avenge a 13-2 loss at the Belmont Outdoor Pool last year.

Wilson is growing rapidly as a unit this season with freshman starters Zac Crenshaw, Gray Carson and Hank Rivers playing key roles for the coach Jeff Nesmith. However, Nesmith said his most important player is senior captain Max Berg.

“He is one of the hardest workers in the pool and helping before and after practice with the team gear,” Nesmith said. “That clean up is usually only for the freshman, but Max is different. He has a special character that is rare among high schoolers.”

Berg said he’s “slightly” jealous that he doesn’t get to keep playing with the young Bruins coming up, but that he relishes the senior leadership role he’s played this year.

“It definitely puts you on a higher pedestal of responsibility and positivity,” Berg said. “You can’t be that negative guy. You always have got make sure that the kids see the best program that you know. It’s elevated my leadership skills and helped me be a more positive player.”

Yesterday we talked with Berg about this season and his future plans…

Question: Your dad, Eric, is an alum and the swimming coach at Wilson, so were you destined to be a part of Wilson aquatics?
Answer: Yeah, pretty much. I tried baseball, football, soccer and those kinds of sports, but once I got into the water it kind of stuck. We’ve always been a competitive family, obviously all out of love, but my dad tried to channel the competition between me and my brother Jack into sports. That worked out pretty well.

Q: So you’re pretty much an aquatic family, right?
A: I love surfing, and we go on a 10-day trip to Catalina every summer where we can snorkel, jump off cliffs and wake surf. I want to surf internationally one day, but I have to start making some money to do that.

Q: What’s it like playing with three freshman who are this talented?
A: So far it’s been a very developmental season. They’re all looking very solid for the rest of their careers because they have the physical gifts and they’re monstrous 14-year olds.

Q: How does being a senior leader change the way you play?
A: I need to play my best every game, as well as trying to get the best out of the rest of my team with motivation and holding everyone to the same standard.

Q: Why is coach Nesmith the right type of coach for this team?
A: He’s a ridiculously intellectual coach, and he knows what he’s doing. With this young team, he’s implementing the fundamentals first. He wants to establish a driving offense and a hard press defense. The point of that is to shine a light on our speed as a team, and developing strength to defend.

Q: Where do you want to be in two years?
A: I want to play water polo for another four years, but I plan to walk-on. I’m doing early applications for Harvard in December.

Q: What do you want to study?
A: Biology. I took AP Bio and it just grew on me. I want to go to medical school.

Q: Do you have other hobbies?
A: I started playing the saxophone in third grade, and now I play in the Wilson jazz band. I also play some guitar at home because my bother and I found my dad’s old guitar in a closet. We taught ourselves to play with Youtube videos. We thought guitar gets the girls so we might was well learn it.

Q: When Wilson hosted Millikan last year, Wilson alum and five-time Olympian Tony Azevedo was honored before the game. What is it like to have him around?
A: It’s an absolute blessing. He’s the gold standard of water polo. I can’t even describe how awesome it is to have him on the deck. I geek-out every time he’s there. I can’t even contain it.

Q: Is there more pressure on you as a Wilson water polo player than anything else in your life?
A: There’s a reputation to maintain. I think that it makes me more proud to be part of it.

VIDEO: Moore League Boys’ Water Polo Showcase

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.