Wildcats Grab 10 Conference Titles (Men’s Swimming)

Brian Regan

By Brian ReganThe Daily Northwestern

Even though Northwestern could not bring home the team trophy this past weekend at the Big Ten championships in Columbus, Ohio, the Wildcats captured 10 conference titles.

Minnesota won the meet without winning a single individual event and Michigan finished second in the team standings and medal standings as well with six.

Despite losing out on the team championship, NU had five All-Big Ten swimmers in Big Ten Swimmer of the Year Matt Grevers, Big Ten Swimmer of the Championships Mike Alexandrov, Kyle Bubolz, Bruno Barbic and Eric Nilsson.

One of the marquee match-ups of the weekend was new Big Ten record holder Ben Hesen of Indiana going up against three-time defending Big Ten champion Grevers.

Although Grevers lost his first conference event of the season, the team had two swimmers in the consolation final where Bubolz placed fourth.

“The 100-back turned out to be our best individual event of (Saturday) evening,” coach Bob Groseth said. “I hope (Hesen) enjoys (his record) because I am sure Matt will be looking to wipe that off the books next month at NCAAs.”

The next day Grevers went out for revenge in the 200-yard back despite finishing second in his preliminary heat. But later in the day he demolished his own school and Big Ten records with a 1:39.53 win.

That victory elevated Grevers to one of the top-three collegiate racers in the history of the 200-back.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to win,” Grevers said. “I’m following in the footsteps of great swimmers and it’s a dream come true. I put a lot of emotion in this race and I think that is what defines a race.”

In the next event, the 100-yard free, the finals turned into a dual between Barbic and Bubolz. Barbic narrowly won the event for his first Big Ten title. His time was the fifth-fastest in the nation so far this year.

“This is my first Big Ten championship with (NU, after transferring from Washington),” Barbic said, “but the team helped me get ready for this meet and it feels great.”

To make it three in a row, Alexandrov added to his already strong weekend by imitating Grevers’ earlier performance.

His winning time of 1:52.93 seconds was almost four seconds better than the second place finisher and was the fourth-fastest time in NCAA history.

“I felt myself pulling ahead and once that happened I gained more confidence,” Alexandrov said. “It’s hard to put into words what it’s like to win a Big Ten championship.”

The senior achieved his pre-meet goal of winning three individual events and all his relays making him the most decorated swimmer of the meet.

The team won three of the five relays and set pool, school and Big Ten records in all three and narrowly won a fourth, the 400-yard free relay, but were beat out in the meet by Minnesota.

Since accolades were piling up for the Cats, not even Groseth could escape recognition when he was named Big Ten Co-Coach of the Year.

“I am very excited to have two seniors who made me look good by earning the swimmer of the year and the swimmer of the meet awards,” Groseth said.

Reach Brian Regan at [email protected]