Hampton senior shows off all-around ability in IM

Saturday, January 8, 2022 | 11:01 AM

Hampton swimming coach Morgan Zweygardt quickly spotted something about then-freshman Will Retsch.

No matter what stroke the Talbots were working on at early season practices, Retsch went fast.

“We realized he really had four solid strokes,” Zweygardt said. “It was very natural. As we are training, you realize, ‘Whoa, he’s really doing the sets well.’”

Retsch, now a senior, had found his calling in the 200 individual medley, performing the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle in one versatile 200-yard race.

“I never really thought of the 200 IM as my main event until high school,” Retsch said. “Then my first time I swam it as a freshman, I think I got the WPIAL (qualifying) cut and did really good. So I always had it in the back of my head as something to train and focus on.”

Retsch has developed into the top 200 IM swimmer in the WPIAL Class 2A, winning the title last season and placing third in the PIAA finals. He is looking to win another WPIAL crown and bring home his first state title in March for the defending WPIAL Class 2A champion Talbots.

Retsch started swimming in third grade after pleading with his mom to join the local swim club. She agreed, and he’s never slowed down. He took 17th in the 200 IM at WPIALs as a freshman — placing third among all ninth-graders — and fifth as a sophomore before claiming the gold last season with a personal-best time of 1 minute, 54.79 seconds.

Retsch also swims the 100 butterfly and leads the defending WPIAL Class 2A champion and record-setting 200 medley relay team as well as the 400 freestyle relay team for the Talbots. He has already qualified for this season’s WPIAL Class 2A championships in all four events.

“Personally, it’s going great,” he said. “It’s my best season yet. I am faster than I ever have been in my best events. I’m really happy with that right now.”

Retsch is a team captain for the Talbots, who are looking to repeat as WPIAL champion after winning gold last season for the first time in 22 years.

“He’s very encouraging,” Zweygardt said. “He is obviously the fastest, and he doesn’t gloat about it. He’s encouraging to everyone and cheers everyone else. He’s earned being as fast as he is because he definitely puts in the work.”

Retsch has shifted his focus from the 100 backstroke — an event in which he finished fourth at last season’s WPIAL championships — to the 100 fly. He swam the fly last season for the Talbots’ WPIAL-record setting 200 medley relay team. The 200 medley also placed third at the PIAA championships with a school-record time of 1:36.02.

Retsch was undefeated this season in the 200 IM and the 100 butterfly heading into a Jan. 11 dual meet with North Allegheny.

Like almost all 200 IMers, Retsch has one event that’s his weak link — the breaststroke. But long hours in the pool — the Talbots typically swim between 5,000 to 6,000 yards a day — has made him more comfortable in the event and lowered his times.

“I was never good at breaststroke,” he said. “In recent years, I have gotten much better.”

Zweygardt said Retsch has no weak link in the four 200 IM strokes. He’s just not as blazing fast in each one, she said.

“He doesn’t really have a bad stroke,” she said. “He will tell you it’s breaststroke and of all four it probably is, technically, his weakest. But I mean if we wanted to, we could send him to WPIALs in it, and he’d probably do really well.”

Zweygardt noted that Retsch swam the 100 breaststroke at a “random weekend club meet” this offseason and timed 1:01. That would have placed him sixth in last year’s WPIAL Class 2A championships in the event.

The 5-foot-9, 145-pound Retsch, who is considering Gannon, RPI and Roger Williams, has another goal before leaving high school. He wants to break the long-standing 200 IM school record of 1:51.50, set by former Hampton great Matt Harrigan in 1997.

“That is my goal,” Retsch said. “That is the time that I’m going for.”

Harrigan is the best swimmer in Talbots history and — a quarter-century later — his name still dots the record list at the Hampton pool. But Zweygardt believes Retsch could be the one to do it.

“Absolutely,” she said. “I really think so, especially where he is right now. I definitely think it’s achievable.”


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