Ryan Holec didn’t have much experience swimming the butterfly.
He’d swum the 100-yard race just a handful of times in the regular season. Once, in a meet at Sheboygan South, he came within a few seconds of breaking his own school’s record.
Still, the junior on the Plymouth boys swimming team was better known for his quickness in freestyle races, where he seemed to shine brightest and swim fastest. It seemed a given he’d compete in those events come the postseason.
Instead, he asked to make the switch to the butterfly for last weekend’s Division 2 sectional. He was confident he could break the school’s record — and do it in his school’s own pool — and make it to State in that event more easily than he could in some of the races with which he’d built a stronger familiarity during the season.
Would’n’cha know it? He was right. Holec broke Plymouth’s record in the 100 butterfly by nearly two-tenths of a second with a 54.64-second run in the event last Saturday at a D2 sectional hosted by Plymouth. He didn’t win the race, instead coming in less than a second behind winner and automatic state qualifier Sean O’Connor of Grafton. But the next day, the WIAA confirmed Holec would be swimming the same event at State.
“That was my third time swimming that and I just really wanted it,” Holec said during a team practice on Tuesday. “… I knew I could do it. I just had to show up at that (sectional) meet.”
Holec and eight other Plymouth boys swimmers and divers are projected to compete Friday in the WIAA Division 2 State Boys Swimming Championship in Madison.
Kiel/Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah’s co-op team is sending a pair of swimmers to race in Division 2.
And Sheboygan North moved a 200 freestyle relay team through sectionals and will compete in Saturday’s Division 1 state meet.
The winners of races in each of the divisions’ sectional races earned automatic berths to swim at State. Plymouth picked up a win in the 200 freestyle relay, and Kiel’s AndresMueller managed a win in the 100 backstroke.
In Division 1, the next 18 fastest swimmers or best-performing divers behind the sectional champions also advanced to State. In Division 2, it was the next 12 best finishers across all sectionals. The WIAA announced on Sunday its official list of state qualifiers.
Plymouth’s strong run this year marked something of a forceful return to dominance in the Eastern Wisconsin Conference, where the Panthers secured their first title since 2011. The team regularly handled Division 1 competitors in larger meets this season, and it seemed obvious by the time sectional races came around earlier this month that Plymouth would be in the running to send multiple athletes to Madison.
This will mark the first time since 2009 that the Panthers have sent three divers to State. Plank-walkers Evan Klemme, Anghelo Gangano and Riley Josephs all moved on in sectionals.
The school is sending all three relays — the 200 medley and the 200 and 400 freestyles — with six athletes picking up legs in those races. Holec will be on two of those relays, and he also expects to swim in the butterfly and the 50 freestyle. Other teammates swimming on relays include:
• Harrison Strutz
• Chaz Halderson
• Brent Thiel
• Zach Gambrell
• Lucas Collard
“It’s very satisfying to have three relays, three divers and one guy swimming two individual events,” Plymouth coach Clare Sedlacek said Tuesday. “I think it says a lot about our program. It says a lot about how hard they’ve worked, and we are competing very well.”
This will be Klemme’s third trip to State, but the first time he’ll go with so many of his teammates. The experience, plus the comfort he’ll feel buoyed by Gangano and Josephs, should help, he said.
“We all get along just fine,” Klemme said. “We practice hard, we laugh and we good around like all teammates normally do.
“This is my third year, so that plus my whole team being there, it should feel just fine, just like another meet,” Klemme said.
Sedlacek said she’d like to see Klemme earn his first State medal — the top six finishers at State earn one. The 200 freestyle relay has a decent shot at winning a medal too, she said. And Holec, she added, could be poised to win hardware in either of his two individual races.
As of Tuesday, Holec’s name hadn’t been added yet to the big black board bearing the program’s record holders. But Sedlacek said the team would see to it that his name is up there soon. And she figures he isn’t done breaking records.
“He has designs on changing our record board,” Sedlacek said.
“I think he has designs on actually every freestyle record,” she added. “… As far as I’m concerned, all freestyle records are within his reach.”
The Golden Raiders’ 200 freestyle relay team of Ben Gerbitz, Alex Pfeifer, Brayden Schuh and Truman Scheibel came in third at last Saturday’s Division 1 sectional meet in Neenah.
But at less than 2 seconds behind the winning team, coach Jason Martin felt his swimmers’ chances of qualifying for State were good.
“We were more than a second ahead of the qualifying time from last year, and historically we were faster than any of the previous qualifying times,” Martin said.
Still, learning last Sunday that the WIAA had officially included North’s swimmers among the Division 1 state meet’s special qualifiers prompted a sigh of relief for Martin, who’d watched strong swimmers come close to advancing to Madison before, only to miss out on qualifying.
“We’ve had a lot of heartbreak in the past,” he said.
Getting this far wasn’t a given, but it was always in the relay swimmers’ crosshairs. Before the season began, the foursome approached Martin and told him they were aiming for a berth in the state championship.
Martin told the swimmers early in the year they’d need to cut “some significant time” to get to State. But now, the relay is poised to possibly break the program’s record in the 200 freestyle relay.
“I think it’s kind of a really big deal with me being a senior, leave my name up here,” Scheibel said of the prospect of breaking the mark. “We’re all pretty fast so I think we can do it.”
Martin said it’s been “tremendous” watching the four swimmers agree to working toward a run at State, and then continuing to work toward it during the season.
“We were dropping a lot during the season,” he said. “… It’s been a tremendous process working with them.”
The Raiders are sending junior Kipp Dietrich in the 200 freestyle and sectional champion Mueller, a senior, in the backstroke.
Both enter State seeded 15th in their events, but have hit their stride as the season’s worn on, according to first-year coach Joe Molitor.
“We’ve been training for State towards the end of the season and both Kipp and Andres have really hit it on the taper,” Molitor said.
At the small school state meet last month, Dietrich clocked in at 1:55.04 in the 200 freestyle, while Mueller swam the 100 backstroke in 58.48. Dropping almost two seconds off their times in the span of half a month is encouraging to Molitor.
“Kipp has had a strong end to his season,” Molitor said. “His times keep dropping and I think he’ll have a good finish because of the significant strides he’s made late in the season. Everyone has to watch out for him, he doesn’t have to worry about anyone.”
“I have really high hopes for both Kipp and Andres,” Molitor said.
Gannett Wisconsin Media sports writer Tom Dombeck contributed to this report.
UW Natatorium, Madison
1-meter diving — 10. Evan Klemme, Plymouth, 345.55; 11. Anghelo Gangano, Plymouth, 321.80; 13. Riley Josephs, Plymouth, 281.70; 200 medley relay — 16. Plymouth (Harrison Strutz, Chaz Halderson, Brent Thiel, Zach Gambrell), 1:44.29; 200 freestyle — 15. Kipp Dietrich, Kiel/Elkhart, 1:53.71; 50 freestyle — 9. Ryan Holec, Plymouth, 22.52; 100 butterfly — 6. Ryan Holec, Plymouth, 54.64; 200 freestyle relay — 8. Plymouth (Ryan Holec, Chaz Halderson, Brent Thiel, Zach Gambrell), 1:31.91; 100 backstroke — 15. Andres Mueller, Kiel/Elkhart 56.91; 400 freestyle relay — 10. Plymouth (Ryan Holec, Lucas Collard, Brent Thiel, Zach Gambrell), 3:24.16.
UW Natatorium, Madison
200 freestyle relay — 19. Sheboygan North (Ben Gerbitz, Alex Pfeifer, Brayden Schuh, Truman Scheibel), 1:31.11