Shortly after the Wilson boys’ swim team took a celebratory dive into the Cabrillo pool on Thursday night, chants of “Forty-Nine! Forty-Nine!” rang out through West Long Beach. The Bruins once again asserted their generational dominance of Moore League boys’ swimming, earning a 49th consecutive league title.
The Bruins were tested this season, as old rivals Long Beach Poly won the dual meet between the two programs back in March. But Wilson left no doubt at league finals, winning by an impressive 588-479 margin over the Jackrabbits.
Wilson head coach Eric Berg took an extra moment in the pool with his senior class, taking photos and sharing some extra words with the accomplished group.
“I’ve been a part of the Moore League for 27 years coaching here at Wilson, and I’ve had a lot of senior classes go through,” said Berg on what message he had for his seniors. “I’ve had my two children go through here, and I just wanted to let (the seniors) know that this was one of those special groups and I was really proud of them. I basically thanked them, I thanked them for being the best leaders that any coach could ever ask for. We just had such good leadership, and that made the difference.”
Wilson’s senior class was at the forefront of the championship performance, led by Gray Carson and Hank Rivers. Each swimmer won two individual events and also contributed to a pair of relay victories for the Bruins.
Carson accomplished the sprint double, winning the 50 Freestyle and the 100 Freestyle. He said he was motivated to preserve Wilson’s streak, which dates back to 1973 and is the longest league title streak in California sports history.
“Definitely it’s just the tradition,” said Carson, who is signed to play water polo at UCLA after high school. “When we lost that Poly meet, we got a little worried, but we knew we had a month. And in the past couple days, we’ve gotten texts from alumni–some that graduated a couple years ago and some from years and years back. You see how important the tradition is and it really makes you want to keep it alive. It’s 49 now, and you don’t know how long it could go, but it’s important to keep it going.”
Rivers, meanwhile, doubled up in the 200 Freestyle and the 100 Breaststroke. He also anchored Wilson’s victory in the 200 Free Relay as the Bruins beat their own league record with a time of 1:26.14. That mark was set in 2019 when Carson and Rivers were freshmen on that relay along with Coach Berg’s son, Max.
“I'm very stoked. Yeah, totally stoked right now,” said Rivers, who will swim for Cal next season. “I'm also really cold, but I'm really energized at the same time. That final championship for me and the rest of my team meant a lot. I'm super fired up right now. That was awesome.”
Rivers agreed that the dual meet loss against Poly was a great motivator going into these finals, not just for the top swimmers, but for all levels of the program.
“Failure is the best teacher,” Rivers explained. “We learned from that and our coach got us prepared. We pulled guys up from the JV level who had some grit in them and they performed at the greatest level on varsity and it really all worked out so well. Everyone blew up the pool tonight with fast times, it was awesome.”
Poly already knew they had their work cut out for them based on qualifying times from prelims, and the meet got off to an inauspicious start for the Jackrabbits. Poly’s 200 Medley Relay team appeared to set the meet record with a time of 1:34.54, but they were disqualified when it was ruled that a Poly swimmer left the blocks early. That cost the Jackrabbit a 40-point result and gave Millikan the win in the event with a time of 1:40.88.
“(Wilson) came out strong at prelims, and we kind of fell flat and we left some food on the table,” said departing Poly head coach Eddie Kim. “Mad respect to Wilson, and I want to give a shoutout to my former assistant at Poly and now the new Wilson assistant coach Brandon D’Sa and Coach Berg, they performed well. Especially the water polo boys that kind of underperformed at the dual meet, they showed up here at the Moore League championships. I tip my hat to them.”
The Jackrabbits won four events on the night, with junior Colin Geer winning half of them. He won the 200 IM and the 100 Backstroke and looks forward to competing at the Division 1 level at the CIF finals.
“I was really pleased with that first race, the 200 IM,” Geer said. “It was a good swim, but I have a lot to improve on going into CIF. I haven't hit my full taper yet, so I’ll make a couple changes and move on to the next meet. And I think I can show out at CIF and have a really good day there.”
Poly also got individual event wins by freshman Mordox Sar, who won the 100 Butterfly, and sophomore Evan Jue, who took the 500 Free title. The Jackrabbits also broke the league record in the 200 Free Relay with a time of 1:26.46 but lost the race to Wilson by a little more than three tenths of a second.
Antonio Garcia-Montes had a nice day for Millikan, finishing second in the 100 Free and the 100 Back.
Ultimately, Wilson’s elite senior class and depth throughout the program won out. Key contributions from swimmers like Sean Tunnicliff, Wyatt Mitchell, Zach Crenshaw and others helped Wilson secure the title before the final relay even went off.
As Coach Berg attempted to warm up following his annual celebratory swim, he tried to put the past five decades of Wilson swimming in context.
“This is not me. This is generations,” he said. “It started with Bob Gruneisen and Klaus Barth and I've just tried to keep the streak going. These kids that we've had have really proven to be hard workers towards that Wilson goal of keeping that going.”
Complete Varsity Results:
200 Medley Relay: Millikan (1:40.88 - Garcia-Montes, Montiel, Terracina, Miller)
200 Free: Hank Rivers, Wilson (1:39.66)
200 Individual Medley: Colin Geer, Poly (1:49.29)
50 Free: Gray Carson, Wilson (21.17)
100 Butterfly: Mordox Sar, Poly (54.07)
100 Free: Gray Carson, Wilson (46.14)
500 Free: Evan Jue, Poly (4:45.09)
200 Free Relay: Wilson (1:26.14 - Carson, Tunnicliff, Torres, Rivers)
100 Backstroke: Colin Geer, Poly (51.28)
100 Breaststroke: Hank Rivers, Wilson (55.10)
400 Free Relay: Wilson (3:09.12 - Rivers, Dominguez, Torres, Carson)
Wilson - 588
Poly - 479
Millikan - 295
Lakewood - 155
Cabrillo - 144
Jordan - 54