Carrying the torch

Lily Leung

By the age of 14, Kyle Bubolz already had set three national records, been named Wisconsin’s male High School Swimmer of the Year and competed against men twice his age.

And soon the 18-year-old high school senior, who has committed to Northwestern, may be swimming in the Olympics.

Competing at such a high level was something Bubolz didn’t expect anyone his age to understand — until he met NU freshman swimmer Matt Grevers at a meet in the spring of 2001.

“Matt and I got along really well because we were very good as we were growing up,” Bubolz said. “Some young kids don’t know what it takes to be so successful, but I can tell Matt, ‘I swam like crap today, ‘ and he’ll understand and tell me I can do better.”

Bubolz and Grevers grew closer after swimming at the Youth Olympic Festival in Australia in January 2003.

Now, as one of four high school seniors who have signed with the NU men’s swimming team, Bubolz will become Grevers’ teammate.

Bubolz, the No. 1 ranked male swimmer in Wisconsin, received more than 30 Division I scholarship offers from schools such as Texas, Stanford and Minnesota. But the seven-time All-American and member of the U.S. Junior National Team was convinced NU was best for him.

Wildcats swimming coach Bob Groseth made Bubolz think about not just his future in the pool but also in academics.

Bubolz also said he preferred NU’s “up-and-coming” swimming program to a larger program that is expected to win a championship every year, such as Texas.

“(NU) really landed on a golden nugget,” said David Bloomier, Bubolz’s swimming coach at Waukesha North High School in Wisconsin. “(Kyle’s) the best I’ve ever seen. And I’m no spring chicken. I’ve been around for a long time. Since Kyle was 12, he has been unstoppable.”

Bubolz, who began swimming at his local YMCA at age 6, holds 133 swimming records. He holds six national records, 30 state records, 74 records with the Waukesha Express Swim Team and 23 with his high school.

Blaine Carlson, CEO and head coach of Waukesha Express Swim Team, has coached Bubolz for six years and said he rarely has seen Bubolz lose a close race.

“Kyle is aggressive, and he has a lot of speed,” Carlson said. “He uses that to his advantage, and he always finds a way to get his hands on the wall.”

In July, Bubolz will try to make the U.S. Olympic team at the Olympic trials in Long Beach, Calif.

Bubolz met the Olympic trials time standard at the 2002 national championship meet in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., in both the 100-meter butterfly and the 100-meter freestyle. Since then, he consistently has met the time standard in long course meets.

“For swimming, the Olympics is the big thing,” Bubolz said. “It’s everything. For basketball, it’s the NBA. For baseball, it’s the major leagues. But for swimming, the Olympics is it.”

Bubolz said his parents keep him realistic about his dreams to be an Olympian, and he’s not too concerned about failing to make the cut.

“People think you’d be nervous and uptight,” he said. “For me, it’s going to be an exciting experience. I won’t be the oldest guy in the bunch, so I’m not expected to make the team. I just want to soak up the experience. Hopefully, if I swim well, I’ll have a legitimate shot at making it.”