Men's swimming begins Big Ten meet with big aspirations

Cooper Hodge should make an impact this week. 

Image By: Brendan Maloney courtesy of UW Athletic Communications

All year, the stars of the No. 22 Wisconsin men’s swim and dive team have been seniors Cannon Clifton, Matt Hutchins and Brett Pinfold. Although the three will be heavily relied upon this weekend at the Big Ten Championships, head coach Whitney Hite believes that the meet will be his entire team’s time to shine.

With touted freshmen Cooper Hodge and Kevin Pomeroy leading the charge for a large group of underclassmen, success is expected no matter how long the men have been on the team.

The biggest challenge for the Badgers will be star-studded No. 4 Indiana, who by all accounts are the favorites to take the title. Featuring Olympians Marwan El Kamash, Blake Pieroni, James Connor, Ali Khalafalla and Anze Tavcar, Indiana is locked and loaded and looks to be extremely tough to beat.

Perennial challengers No. 7 Michigan, No. 18 Ohio State and No. 20 Minnesota are also in the mix, and from scoring out the psych sheet, if all goes well the Badgers are projected to finish fourth or fifth depending on the meet simulator.

Some of the biggest races to watch during the four-day meet are the distance freestyle races, which have extremely tight competition for Hutchins and junior Victor Goicoechea.

El Kamash, a transfer South Carolina, has seemingly come out of nowhere and is a serious threat to Hutchins for the conference titles in both the 500-yard freestyle and the mile. He only has one year of eligibility remaining, as does Hutchins, so this is do or die time for both. Also in both races are P.J. Ransford of Michigan and Jordan Wilimovsky of Northwestern, and Goicoechea will likely round out the top five.

El Kamash and Pieroni will face off against Pinfold in an extremely deep 200-yard freestyle field. The Badgers have ten swimmers that all have times that are within the top 24 scoring range in the conference rankings, but some of those ten may not swim the event. Last year Wisconsin put six men in the finals of this event, and Hite definitely has the intention to once again make the 200-yard freestyle a points party.

Diving has been a tough point for Wisconsin the last few years. In fact, last year it was Minnesota’s divers that were the determining factor between fourth and fifth place. Hite has a new weapon this year in the freshman Pomeroy, who has already made his mark as one of the most successful divers in program history. In addition to Pomeroy, a trio of sophomores, Ethan O’Neill, Andrew Pearce and Matt Aronson look to impress on the boards.

The Wisconsin relays are also expected to be ready to roll, with minimal changes from previous years and the swimmers on them only getting stronger. With freshman Griffin Back becoming a welcome addition to the medley relays, there’s a strong case to be made that there will be school records broken on at least one relay this weekend.

The Badgers start competition on Wednesday night at 5:00 p.m. at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion in Columbus, Ohio, and will continue to compete until Saturday night.

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