Hampton boys swimmers a WPIAL title threat in Class AA

Sunday, December 13, 2020 | 1:54 PM

The Hampton boys swimming team is looking forward to picking on someone its own size.

Coming off a memorable season in which Hampton placed third at the WPIAL Class AAA swimming and diving championships, the Talbots are dropping into Class AA, where they are expected to be a serious title contender.

“I knew we were going to be good last year,” fifth-year coach Morgan Zweygardt said, “and I think we are going to be good again this year.”

Last season, the Talbots trailed only nine-time defending champion North Allegheny and Seneca Valley in the final 26-team standings in the WPIAL Class AAA championships.

Senior Ethan Apaliski, one of five returning WPIAL qualifiers, said the top 3 finish shocked the Talbots.

“I could have never even imagined us placing even top 5 in Triple-A WPIALs,” he said. “I’m still speechless with it to this day. It was such a special moment, beating big schools like that.

“We want to get that gold at the WPIALs. We can only go up from here.”

While the Talbots will compete in the WPIAL Class AA championships at the end of the season, their regular-season dual-meet schedule remains in Class AAA against the likes of North Allegheny, Seneca Valley and Butler. The demanding schedule will harden the Talbots for the year-end Class AA meets, but the Talbots still expect regular-season success in a challenging year full of covid protocols for practices and dual meets.

“The bigger schools will provide bigger competition for us, and it will be pushing us throughout the season,” Apaliski said. “But as confident as we are for Double-A WPIALs, we’re not counting ourselves out against any team.”

Joining Apaliski as returning WPIAL qualifiers are senior Richie Donato, juniors Will Retsch and Davis Gindelsperger and sophomore Ben Sheets.

They are joined by a pair of talented freshmen, Zach Sutterlin and Vitaliy Pikalo, on the 18-man roster.

Zweygardt said when Sutterlin was 12 years old, he broke the Allegheny Mountain 50 breaststroke age-group record previously held by Upper St. Clair senior Josh Matheny, one of the WPIAL’s top swimmers.

“He’s definitely a rising star,” Zweygardt said of Sutterlin.

The newcomers along with improving sophomore Sheets, the son of Duquesne University swimming coach Dave Sheets, should help ease the loss of graduated PIAA qualifiers Drew Scheib and Matt Belch.

“Even though we lost Drew and Matt, who are two really big power players, we have Ben stepping up and we have other underclassmen who could fill in if we need,” Zweygardt said.

Sophomore Koda Carslaw, who placed ninth in the WPIAL Class AAA last season, is the only diver on the team for diving coach Keith Hart. Apaliski, who finished 12th in diving in the WPIAL last year, is giving up diving to focus on swim events.

Hampton’s depth is creating another year of formidable relay teams.

Apaliski and Retsch return for the school record-setting 200 IM relay team, which placed fourth in the WPIAL last season. They will be joined by Donato and Sheets. The first time the quartet was timed this season, in a mock meet, they matched last year’s fastest in-season time, Zweygardt said.

The 400 freestyle relay team, coming off a third-place tie in the WPIAL, features Retsch, Donato and Sheets with the fourth spot up for grabs.

Individually, Donato and Apaliski anchor the 100 breaststroke after placing fifth and seventh in the WPIAL last year. Retsch, who was fifth in the 200 IM and 10th in the 100 backstroke, is a versatile swimmer, and Sheets looks to build off last season, when he finished 20th in the 100 backstroke but was second among all freshmen.

Hampton, the sixth-biggest among 45 schools in WPIAL Class AA swimming, is working to win its first title since bringing home three in a row from 1997-99.

“The boys are excited to be Double-A,” Zweygardt said. “We were kind of a shock to get third last year. We lost only to North Allegheny and Seneca Valley, which are two way bigger schools than us. They are excited to be in a group with people a little more their size.”


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