Four years ago, Ohio State men’s swimming coach Bill Wadley told his current seniors that one day soon OSU would win the Big Ten Championships, something the Buckeyes had not done since 1956.
On Saturday, Wadley’s squad, along with some help from the OSU divers, made him a prophet.
The Buckeyes won the Big Ten Championships on Saturday, ending a 54 year drought. OSU finished with 860.5 points, good for the second-highest point total in Big Ten Championship history. Two-time defending champion and heavy favorite Michigan, who won last season’s Big Ten’s by 308 points, came in second with 715.5 points. Minnesota placed third with a score of 497. However, the story of the weekend was the total team effort of the Buckeyes.
“This was four years in the making,” said senior co-captain Joel Elber. “That’s what makes this [Big Ten Championship] so special. Everyone on this team was here for each other and we made it happen. [Winning Big Ten's] was not a reality my freshman year.”
Before the meet started Wednesday night, Wadley made it clear that OSU’s goal was to get as many swimmers into the finals as possible and to take it one session at a time. The Buckeyes executed their plan to perfection as they had 47 individual events scorers, 33 of those scorers coming from a final.
Another monkey on the back of the OSU swimming and diving program was that they had not outscored Michigan in a Big Ten Championship since 1978. Elber said topping the Wolverines is an indication of how far the program has come.
“Beating Michigan means as much as winning Big Ten’s,” Elber said. “They’re a great team, one of the best in the country. But this win is a testament of how far we’ve come and where this program is going.”
Entering Saturday, the Buckeyes held a slim 592.5-512.5 advantage over Michigan. The Wolverines, who boasted four swimmers who combined for six Big Ten titles in 2009, appeared poised for a comeback. But OSU would not be denied.
Senior Stefan Sigrist opened Saturday by smashing his own school and McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion mark in the 1,650-yard freestyle with a time of 14:50.46.
The Buckeyes also placed fourth through sixth in the race to lengthen their lead to 98 points. Entering the diving competition the Buckeyes had clinched the Big Ten title thanks to a 136-point lead.
Wadley, who won Big Ten Swimming Coach of the Year, deflected the praise to his team.
“We were blessed to [host Big Ten's] and blessed to win, especially at home,” a Gatorade-soaked Wadley said. “I give all the credit to my team, I’m so happy for them. When you work as a team you can accomplish anything.”
Aside from Sigrist, Big Ten Champion Buckeyes included sophomore Andrew Elliott in the 100-meter backstroke, senior George Markovic in the 500-meter freestyle, and junior Elliott Keefer in the 100-meter breaststroke.
The 200-meter freestyle relay team of Elber, sophomore Lincoln Fahrbach, senior Andrew Olson and freshman Tim Phillips also took home first place. All eight of the Buckeye champions were also named first team All-Big Ten.