Will Retsch ends Hampton swimming career with record-shattering flourish
Saturday, April 2, 2022 | 11:01 AM
Hampton swimmer Will Retsch is proof that water is the universal solvent.
When he’s around, records disappear.
Retsch will graduate with his name etched in the WPIAL record books and all over the Talbots’ all-time leaderboard.
On his way to bringing home the school’s first PIAA swimming title since 2007, Retsch set a WPIAL championship meet record in the 200 individual medley and then, two weeks later, broke one of Hampton’s longest-standing records in the same event to win gold at states.
“Everything went to plan, which was awesome,” Hampton coach Morgan Zweygardt said. “He just did everything so perfectly.”
The 200 IM gold at the PIAA Class 2A finals March 18 at Bucknell highlighted one of the most successful seasons by a Hampton swimmer in program history. Retsch touched the wall — after doing personal-best 50-yard splits in the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle — in 1 minute, 50.59 seconds. He dominated the race, finishing nearly two seconds ahead of runner-up Braelen Mowe of Boiling Springs (1:52.50).
“It definitely was a surprise,” Retsch said. “As I was swimming, I had a general idea that I had a lead, but I had no idea it was that much.”
Retsch set school records in the 100 fly — an event he didn’t focus on until this season — and the 100 breaststroke earlier in his senior season. But when he saw the clock in the 200 IM at the PIAA finals, he knew he had broken a school mark that “had been a distant kind of dream of mine all of my high school career.”
The time of 1:51.50 set by former Talbots great Matt Harrigan had stood untouched since 1997 on the pool’s record board. Year after year, Hampton swimmers took their best shot and were always denied.
Until Retsch showed up.
“It was incredible to be able to break that,” said Retsch, who became the first Talbot to win a PIAA title since Mike Seiferth won 100 fly in ’07. “I knew that’s what I wanted to do, but I also knew there was a very real possibility that it wouldn’t happen.”
Retsch made so much happen in his final high school season. He defended his WPIAL Class 2A title in the 200 IM in early March with a time of 1:51.81, shattering the meet record set by Shady Side Academy’s Brett Murphy (1:53.92) in ’03. Retsch also won the WPIAL title in the 100 fly — breaking Seiferth’s school record along the way — and was part of the gold medal-winning 200 medley relay as the Talbots defended their WPIAL team championship.
Retsch also brought home a silver medal from the PIAA finals in the 100 fly, tying Mowe for second.
“It was a phenomenal season,” said Retsch, who competed March 25-27 at USA Swimming Speedo Sectionals in Christiansburg, Va. “It couldn’t have gone any better. We had great swims at WPIALs. We met all of our goals.”
Other Talbots also fared well at the PIAA meet. Junior Ben Sheets took fourth in the 100 back (51.77) and sixth in the 200 IM (1:54.64), and the 200 medley relay team of Sheets, Zach Sutterlin, Retsch and Dan Bratu placed third. The Talbots settled for sixth in the team standings after the 400 freestyle relay team was disqualified when anchor Sheets left early on his start. Freshman diver Pax Carslaw placed 16th at the PIAAs.
Sheets, the WPIAL runner-up in the 200 IM and the 100 back, will be the top returning swimmer in the Talbots’ WPIAL three-peat bid. Other expected returnees are sophomores Sutterlin, Bratu and Vitaliy Pikalo, and freshman Christopher Belch.
Graduating seniors are Resch, Michael Belch, Davis Gindelsperger and Ethan Oh.
The girls team will graduate Belle Donato, Danielle Sutterlin and diver Annelise Craig, while returning juniors Teresa Grimm, Rita Khoury and Emma An and diver Kayla Berkebile for their enrollment-based drop to WPIAL Class 2A.
“They are very excited to be going down to Class 2A,” Zweygardt said. “I think we will see a lot of success in Class 2A for the girls.”
For sure, Retsch’s performance at the PIAA finals opened the eyes of college recruiters.
“It has increased a bit after states,” he said, “and I would expect to see a little bit of an increase after my times.”
Retsch is considering Lehigh, Bucknell and Gannon. He was scheduled to visit Lehigh on March 28. Bigger D-I programs might come calling, but he wants to major in environmental engineering and said academics “is the first thing I look for.”
“He’s always been really good,” Zweygardt said, “but when you are a 1:50 2/5ths IMer, that kind of swims you into a different level of people that would be interested in you.”
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