Fourth-year talent abounds for Nennig-led Hawks as they fight for honors in North Shore Conference, beyond
Seniority will be the name of the game for Grafton boys’ swimming and diving this season.
One year after entering pool wars with a junior-laden lineup, the Black Hawks find themselves loaded with fourth-year talent.
“About half of our roster is seniors. It’s nice to have that kind of leadership,” said Mark Minz, who’s in his 11th season as Grafton’s head coach.
“We’ve got a lot of experience and talent with this group.”
Topping the Hawks’ skills list is senior Al Nennig. A three-year state qualifier, he shined in last season’s WIAA Division 2 finals by winning the 50-yard freestyle, taking second in the 100 breaststroke and contributing to top-eight finishes in 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
Nennig holds all but three Grafton records in individual races and is a member of both of its fastest freestyle relays.
“Al’s good enough to win state championships in a number of events. He’s that talented,” Minz said.
“When he puts his mind to something, he usually accomplishes it.”
Next year, Nennig will take his talents to Denison University in Grandville, Ohio, a power in NCAA Division III men’s swimming.
A number of other team members who contributed to Grafton’s ninth-place state finish last season are also back. They are seniors Brad Kempka (100 freestyle, freestyle relays), Kieran Paddock (freestyle relays) and Ben Gosselin (freestyle relays) and junior divers Zach Greenwood and Killian Mielotz.
Greenwood and Mielotz placed sixth and 16th, respectively, in their specialty at state as sophomores.
The Hawks’ other seniors and their likely events are Justen Hilgart (butterfly), twins Spencer Kish (individual medley, breaststroke) and Tyler Kish (distance freestyle, backstroke), Brett Rasmussen (sprints), Ben Stewart (butterfly) and Mike Stockhausen (breaststroke).
Minz said he’s also looking for varsity contributions from sophomores Brendan Larsen and Mike Zager and freshman Bailey Bodart.
“We have a number of other kids who could develop as the season goes on. It’s a good group with a lot of raw talent,” Minz said.
Grafton opened the season with a 115-71 loss to perennial power Cedarburg in a North Shore Conference meet Nov. 27
The host Hawks got wins from Nennig in the 200 individual medley (2 minutes, 2.95 seconds) and 100 breaststroke (1:02.38), Kempka in the 50 freestyle (24.37) and the medley relay of Gosselin, Nennig, Paddock and Kempka (1:48.96).
Grafton’s second-place individual finises came from Kempka in the 100 freestyle (52.73), Gosselin in the backstroke (1:05.41) and Greenwood in diving (182.05 points).
“I was quite happy with a lot of our races,” Minz said. “Cedarburg is a Division 1 team with a huge program and more than twice as many kids as we have.”
At last Saturday’s Nicolet Sprint Invitational, Grafton took eighth out of 16 teams with 151 points.
The meet, which featured a number of unconventional races such as eight and 10-swimmer freestyle relays, was won by Middleton with 348 points. Verona/Mt. Horeb was second with 314.
Nennig led the Hawks with victories in the 100 individual medley (53.08) and 50 breaststroke (26.82).
Rounding out Grafton’s top individual finishes were an eighth by Kempka in the 50 freestyle (23.81), ninth by Zach Greenwood in diving, 10ths by Gosselin in
the 50 freestyle (24.3) and Kempka in the 100 freestyle (52.22) and 12th by Gosselin in the 100 freestyle (52.9)
The Hawks’ best relay finishes were a sixth in the 500 freestyle, seventh in the 400 medley and eight in the 200 freestyle. “It was a fun meet with a lot of teams,” Minz said. “We did pretty well. We had the same place finish as last year even though we scored 16 more points.”
This Friday, Grafton will participate in the North Shore Conference relays at Homestead. Diving starts at 4 p.m., followed by swimming at 6 p.m.
New coach, young look for Port
A youth movement will help decide the success of the Port Washington swimming and diving team this season.
Although the Pirates have five proven seniors, most of their 20-plus members are freshmen and sophomores.
“We have some numbers, but we’re young,” said first-year coach Melissa Hoogester, who took over the Port girls’ swimming team this fall and succeeds Steve Schiessl as head of the boys’ program.
The Pirates’ seniors are led by Alex Mehre, who was their lone qualifier in the Division 2 state meet last season. He placed 15th in the butterfly and should be solid in the event again.
His classmates include Connor LaCosse (sprints), Rowan Norman (breaststroke), Stephen Nosko (butterfly) and Perry Schaefer (sprints).
Also expected to help at the varsity level are juniors Diego Anderson (butterfly), Nelson Benning (distance freestyle), Daniel Gardner (breaststroke) and Callum Toal (distance freestyle, breaststroke) and sophomores Conner Hayes (backstroke, breaststroke), Christian LaCosse (sprints), Stephen Lear (sprints), J.B. Nosko (distance) and Justin McClurg.
The team has no divers this season.
“I think we will be strongest in the 50 and 100 freestyle and butterfly,” Hoogester said.
The Pirates opened the season with a 62-32 win over host Milwaukee Lutheran in a North Shore Conference meet Nov. 27.
Port was paced by three double winners. Mehre took first in the individual medley (2:21.32) and butterfly (1:00.67), as did LaCosse in the 50 freestyle (24.31) and 100 freestyle (54.17) and Nosko in the 500 freestyle (6:03.07) and backstroke (1:11.62).
The Pirates also got wins from Toal in the breaststroke (1:20.14), the medley relay of Schaefer, Toal, Mehre and LaCosse (1:54.58) and the 400 freestyle relay of Mehre, Schaefer, Nosko and LaCosse (3:51.78).
This week, Port was scheduled to face Homestead in an NSC dual meet Tuesday, host West Bend West in a 6 p.m. nonconference meet Thursday and participate in the conference relays Friday at Homestead.
On Dec. 12, Port hosts Nicolet at 6 p.m.
Image Information: THERE IS NO SHORTAGE of experience on the Grafton boys’ swimming and diving team. Among the seniors on this season’s squad are (front row, from left) Tyler Kish, Brett Rasmussen, Justen Hilgart, Brad Kempka, (center) Kieran Paddock, (back row) Spencer Kish and Al Nennig. Photo by Sam Arendt