The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.
There will be a lot of new faces in the pool and on the deck for the Bruins this year after a host of decorated seniors graduated and Zach Polmanteer has taken over as head coach.
Polmanteer, who graduated from Wilson in 2013, won a CIF title as a Bruin in 2011 and attended the University of Redlands. He’s coached with Whittier College, Shore Aquatics, Junior Olympics and has been an assistant for the Bruins for the last four years.
“To me, it’s the biggest privilege in the world to be able to join this legacy. It’s such an honor,” Polmanteer said. “It’s everything to me to continue the greatness of the community of Wilson aquatics.”
Wilson is trying to win a 15th consecutive league title this year, and Polmanteer thinks that relying on the history of the program will be key to duplicating its success.
“Tradition is a privilege,” Polmanteer said. “We’re really lucky to have strong alumni. I think the memories you create kind of inspires you to give back. Having alums around is everything. This program wouldn’t be possible without the alumni network.”
With that in mind, Polmanteer has kept former head coach Jeff Nesmith on staff along with fellow alums Brandon D’Sa and Jake Zuanich.
“There’s a lot of change from the top down but there’s also a lot of familiarity which is keeping us all stable,” Polmanteer said. “There’s a lot of opportunities to grow into roles, and for myself to grow as a coach.”
Wilson has 10 seniors on the roster who are led by returning goalkeeper Brady Simon and left side attacker Sean Tunnicliff and they have a good amount of experience despite sitting behind the vaunted Class of 2022.
Wiley Haga and Jonas Wyatt are tabbed to step up into the other offensive roles on the right side opposite of Tunnicliff. Defensively, Simon will rely a lot on center defenders Clinton Haltom and Robbie Merlo. All of those players are seniors looking to leave their own legacy.
In accordance with the way he played at Wilson, Polmanteer wants his team to be the most physically fit and fastest team in the pool during every game.
“We’re going to play man-on-man water polo with a huge emphasis on the counter attack and transition,” Polmanteer said. “We want to make sure that on defense we’re threatening with our speed and our attack. We want to play run and gun, high scoring water polo. We will look to be as aggressive as possible in all facets of the game.”
Wilson is on the CIF-SS watch list for Division 1, and the Bruins will play a schedule that matches that potential with games against powerhouses like Mater Dei, Servite and Los Alamitos.
“I’m really excited to schedule a team (like Mater Dei) that’s at the top of CIF,” Polmanteer said. “My goal is to always play as much of the top competition as possible. I have no interest in making an easy schedule. You can only know how good you are by playing the best teams, and I’m expecting to be competitive with all of the Division 1 teams we play.”