The last time the Wilson Bruins lost a Moore League boys’ swimming championship, the average price for a gallon of gas was just $0.36. That was in 1972, and while plenty of things have changed in the 50 years since, the Bruin boys continue to reign supreme in Long Beach.
Wilson will be looking to make it 49 league titles in a row this season, but will have to hold off a stiff challenge from their oldest rival to get it done.
Bruins head coach Eric Berg knows his team will have to dig deep this season to keep their historic streak alive, but the expectation remains the same for Wilson.
“Winning is always the priority, but it’s always a challenge,” Berg said. “Poly and Millikan always pose a huge obstacle. We do have some wonderfully talented guys, but I’m always preaching to the younger guys that it takes a team to win a championship. Swimming is one of those sports that allows individuals to really shine, but it takes a collective whole to win the war. We’re going to have to depend on some guys who may not realize it, but they’re preparing to assist the program in ways they probably didn’t think they were going to.
“Nothing’s gonna be handed to anybody this year, by no stretch of the imagination.”
The Bruins have a strong senior core, led by returning Moore League Swimmer of the Year, Hank Rivers. During last year’s league finals, Rivers put on a record-breaking performance in multiple events, winning the 200 IM, the 100 breaststroke, and the 400 freestyle relay, setting league records in all three races. The Cal-bound senior is a must-see talent who will be an integral part of Wilson’s success this season. Rivers is a three-time CIF champion (twice in the 100 breaststroke and once in the 200 free) despite only getting two chances to swim at CIF finals in his high school career.
Fellow senior Gray Carson swept the 50 and 100 freestyle races at last year’s league finals and will be eager to defend those titles in 2022. In the junior class, Eduardo Dominguez and Sean Tunnicliffe should be key contributors for the Bruins. Berg also expects some sophomores to contribute as well, but acknowledges that the pandemic greatly altered the traditional training program the Bruins employ with their swimmers.
Berg knows that Poly will be pushing hard in every race, and isn’t taking much for granted going into what should be a highly competitive league season.
“I’m not taking away from any of my athletes, but Poly could win them all,” Berg said. “You know, minus whoever races against Hank. And I mean that humbly, we just have a very very special situation with this kind of athlete, that’s just who he is. But Poly could beat us in all races–they’re fast and deep this year and pose a huge challenge … We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Eddie Kim is entering his 10th and final season as head coach of the Poly boys’ swim program, and he’s hoping for a climactic ending to a successful tenure with the Jackrabbits. Kim said this is the most talented team he’s ever had, and the scary part is, Poly might end up being even stronger in 2023 due to their stellar junior class.
But perhaps the time is now for Poly to break up Wilson’s run of dominance. The Jackrabbits are led by junior standout Colin Geer, who won the 200 IM at last year’s league finals, and has a good chance to be a CIF State qualifier this season. Geer was the CIF Division 2 runner-up in the 100 fly last season, and has already drawn recruiting attention from colleges in the Big Ten and the Ivy League.
But it doesn’t stop there for the Jackrabbits. Senior Colin Jue and younger brother Evan Jue are both potential CIF qualifiers. Evan won the league title in the 500 free as a freshman last season and Colin will contribute in both freestyle and IM.
Junior Erik Fourzon is a talented swimmer in the breaststroke, and sophomore Sam Kuo will be a threat in the 100 back after placing second at league finals a year ago. Senior Charlie Pruett and junior Reece Hammond were both stars on Poly’s CIF championship water polo team, and have a chance to make more school history this spring.
The Jackrabbits also have some new talent on the roster, including freshman Mordox Sar in the butterfly. He is the younger brother of former CIF swimmer Ryan Sar.
“This team is hungrier and sharper,” said Kim. “They might be younger, but they have all been on varsity since freshman year and had a taste of it last year at Cabrillo.”
Poly will get to host its dual meet against Wilson this Friday, and fans can expect to see a ton of Jackrabbit alumni on hand hoping to see their alma mater make history this season against their rivals.
The Rams have a strong senior class, led by co-captains Logan White and Tony Garcia-Montes, and will be in the mix in a number of races this year.
Garcia-Montes could contribute in several events, but won the 100 back at league finals in 2021. The other event winner for Millikan last year was senior Max Miller, who showed great toughness in winning the 200 free title.
Davis Keller is another senior to watch, while Zack Montiel and Will Terracina lead the junior class. Freshman Lucas Smith is the only ninth grader on the varsity squad and could have a bright future for the Rams.
Millikan head coach Danely Smith hopes to see a few of his swimmers get a shot at CIF this year, and also thinks some school records could fall along the way.
The Lancers will be led by a quartet of seniors hoping to post some qualifying times for CIF Division 3.
John Borders used his elite size as a water polo goalie in the fall, but will swim the 50 and 100 free for the Lancers this swim season. He’ll be joined in those races by fellow seniors Vaughn Riggio and Andrew De La Riva, while senior Ryan Martinez will swim in the IM and butterfly.
The youngest swim program in the city continues to grow under head coach Lawrence Duran, breaking 12 school records a season ago. Their CIF prospects took a hit when the Jags were moved up to Division 3 this season, but Duran hopes to see his squad compete for a Top 4 finish in the Moore League.
The senior class of Chris Caracosa, Tlaloc Morales, Gabriel Casteneda, and Mateo Jimenez will help lead that charge, while junior Eric Castaneda has been racking up a bunch of wins so far this season. Sophomore twins Aharon and Mosheh Resendez are having a great year, consistently dropping times in the freestyle and butterfly. Mosheh shattered Cabrillo’s six-year-old school record in the 100 fly less than a month after starting the event.
All eyes will be on the Poly Natatorium this Friday for the dual meet between Wilson and Poly. After that, league finals are scheduled for Thursday, April 28 at Cabrillo.