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SWIMNERD Visits NC State

SWIMNERD Visits NC State

SWIMNERD Visits NC State

NC State Swimming & Diving, arguably the coolest program in college swimming, has gone through a resurgence since hiring Braden Holloway as Head Coach almost 6 years ago. 

They have accomplished some impressive feats throughout their fight to the top:

  • 161 All-American swims
  • 19 individual and 20 relay ACC Championship titles
  • 53 athletes named to the All-ACC Academic Team
  • 1 NCAA title (Men’s 400 Free Relay, 2016)
  • 1 Olympic Gold Medal (Ryan Held, Men’s 400 Free Relay, Rio Olympics)
  • 1 World Championship Gold Medal (Simonas Bilis, 100 Free, Windsor SC World Champs)
  • 4 Olympians in Rio: Anton Ipsen (Denmark), Ryan Held (USA), Simonas Bilis (Lithuania), and Soren Dahl (Denmark)

The 2016-2017 season isn’t accounted for just yet but they looked particularly strong this weekend as the Men & Women defeated both UNC and UVA in back to back dual meets. 

Their recruiting classes continue to be jaw dropping, commentators on SwimSwam are beginning to throw stones, and everybody wants to know what they are doing.

Lucky for me, NC State is just down the road; so, I reached out to Assistant Coach Bobby Guntoro and asked if I could spend the day with him from beginning to end to have a look under the hood.

While the 9 minute video showed you quite a lot, here’s a bit more…

January 27, 2017

The University of North Carolina Tarheels came to town for NC State’s first dual meet since November. To say that the Wolfpack were chomping at the bit to race would be an underSTATEment.


Sprinters started the day lifting weights with Nate Brookreson, the Director of Strength & Conditioning for Olympic Sports. They began with a combination of full body exercises and stretches that morphed into some ab work with plenty of focus on their hip flexors. The short interval warm up finished up with some pushup/burpie/squat combinations.

Afterwards, they recorded each swimmer’s vertical jump without the use of their arms. Associate Head Coach and Sprinting Maestro, Todd Desorbo explained to me that the vertical jump results will soon become a measuring stick for recovery. As they enter championship season and taper sets in, the swimmer’s will see massive improvement. This is very positive for the athlete’s mindset as it instills confidence by providing the athlete with quantifiable results.

They proceeded to go through a circuit of athletic jumps on and off boxes as well as a few select lifts and, more push ups.

The mid-distance and stroke group came in behind the sprinters along with Braden and Assistant Coach Mallory Houchin

Swim Practice

The sprinters joined the distancers at the pool who had already been in the water. No weights for the distance group today.

Todd had the sprinters doing some hip starts where the swimmer begins by pulling their hands behind their back upon the “take your mark” signal. The focus was to work on reaction and power from the lower body without any assistance from the upper body.

Cullen Jones (2006) and Simonas Bilis (2016) of Wolfpack Elite were also in attendance. Cullen took 6 months off after Olympic Trials and is in only the 3rd week of building back his aerobic base. Their main set was 8×100’s hitting specific paces with specific stroke counts. It was quite inspiring to see and hear about Cullen’s decision to move back to Raleigh and start anew. Simonas, on the other hand, is coming off winning his first individual World Championship title in the 100 SCM Free. His raw power on those 100’s was impressive. He’s a huge guy (6’5) with long, strong arms. It was quite the sight to see. 

The D group is led by Associate Head Coach Gary Taylor who provided his set. He is very much a student of Jon Urbanchek’s color coded energy system as seen in this LCM practice. Gary previously spent time coaching for Dynamo in Atlanta, as seen by this adapted set and play on words: “Danish Dynamo”.

Bobby Guntoro grew up in Indonesia. He was lucky enough to learn to swim from a couple of Australian surfers on holiday when he was just a young boy. Swimming led him to train in Australia with Grant Stoelwinder before coming to America on a swimming scholarship. Grant taught him the importance of proper body position.

One thing that surprised me was the amount of individualized training being provided from the coaching staff. There were several different practices going on. People were coming and going according to their schedules.

Having a full staff of coaches certainly helps. So does having two pools and a decent amount of space. NC State also has two volunteer assistant coaches (Lyle Robelot and Logan Arnold) that work their tails off and a full time trainer (Ashley Doozan) that shows up first and leaves last every single day.

There seemed to be an inordinate amount of trust between coaches which I believe stems from their collective goal of becoming the best. Their work ethic, attention to detail, and positive energy was felt throughout the entire day. I don’t believe their hunger will be satisfied until they have raised team titles on both sides. 

Swim Meet vs. UNC Chapel Hill

NC State’s pool is quite old but provides you with that homey type feel. The competition pool is surrounded by seating on 3 sides making for an electric atmosphere. The alumni section was packed. There were kids running around covered in face paint looking to get an autograph from Ryan Held.

Ashley Twichell was in the stands. As was Sue Walsh, one of the most decorated Tarheels in UNC swimming history. 

The Wolfpack came out to Guns N’ Roses like it was Monday Night Raw; spotlight and fog machine both included. They absolutely dominated the dual meet, not losing an event until the Men’s 200 Breast.

It was closing in on 9 PM before the team was warmed down, fed, and out the door. While the athletes got to go home, the coaching staff continued to work. Friday was National Junior Day for NC State, meaning many of the best Junior recruits and their parents got an inside look into what it means to be a part of the Wolfpack family. 

Parents and swimmers sometimes take for granted the immense hours and emotional stress that coaches are forced to consume. Braden has four children. Todd has two. Mal has one. Thankfully their spouses were either collegiate swimmers or divers themselves. They understand the dedication and passion it takes to be the best and are the critical support staff behind the scenes.

A special thanks to the entire NC State coaching and athletic staffs for allowing me to tag along and put a GoPro behind their heads.