The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.
One of Long Beach’s premier sports programs is undergoing a big change.
The Wilson administration confirmed Wednesday that longtime boys’ swim coach Eric Berg has stepped down after 16 very successful seasons coaching the Bruins. The school also announced that fellow Bruins alum Brandon D’Sa has been hired as the next Wilson boys’ swim coach.
“Over the past 16 years as head coach, I’ve had the opportunity to live out a professional dream as the head coach at Wilson,” said Berg. “I’ve been blessed to work with incredible, gifted young men who allowed me to coach them and brought me unmatched joy…It’s been an honor and a privilege to be a part of the rich Wilson Aquatics tradition.”
Berg has been a coach on one level or another in the Wilson aquatics program for nearly three decades, and will remain as a mentor and resource for the Bruins’ two new young boys’ aquatics coaches: D’Sa running the swim team, and Zac Polmanteer with the water polo team.
“I am excited to remain a part of Wilson and look forward to working with Brandon and Zac,” said Berg.
The Bruins swim team currently has the longest active league championship streak in California, at 49 years–it’s also the longest streak in state history. Berg was the head coach for a third of that stretch, going 78-2 in Moore League meets while winning 16 league titles. Berg coached six All-American in his tenure, including most recently Hank Rivers, now at Cal.
Beyond the success in the pool, Berg has been widely respected on campus and in the Long Beach sports community at large for his positive attitude and great sense of humor. Wilson boys’ athletic director Warren Smitheran said his impact went well beyond the stack of trophies he brought home.
“He’s led our program with class, humility, and grace,” he said. “He will forever be known to our community as one of Wilson’s winningest coaches, who did things the ‘Berg’ way, guiding, developing, and empowering the student-athletes who swam for him to not only be better in the pool but in their personal lives.”
The reigns are passed to D’Sa, who swam under Berg while a student at Wilson during an All-CIF water polo career, before going on to UCLA where he won a national collegiate title as a player. D’Sa started his teaching career in the LBUSD at Poly, where he coached girls’ water polo. After being hired full-time as a history teacher at Wilson he’s looked to get back into coaching; D’Sa is a Bruins legacy whose mother, Kristen D’Sa, is a long-time science teacher at Wilson as well. His brother Zach was also a standout water polo player and was an NCAA champion at USC.
D’Sa inherits the Wilson swim program on the brink of history, as a Moore League title this year would give the Bruins the first and only 50th consecutive league championship in California history. Poly returns a ton of talent from a team that beat the Bruins at a dual meet last year. In a perfect Long Beach twist, the Jackrabbits have a new coach this year as well: Ish Pluton, a close friend of D’Sa’s.
“There’s been a little conversation back and forth,” he said with a laugh Wednesday. “The appropriate amount.”