Wolves' Wetzel eyes state bid, leaves school records in wake

Liam Wetzel owns three boys swimming records at Basic, including one that dated back to the days of disco and “Star Wars.”

Now, the sophomore has his sights set on becoming the school’s first boys swimmer since Cameron Roberson in 2005 to qualify for the state meet.

Wetzel owns the fastest time in the Sunrise Region in the 500-yard freestyle and is ranked in the top four in four other events entering the region meet, which begins at 5 p.m. Wednesday at UNLV’s Buchanan Natatorium and continues with the finals Saturday.

The top two finishers in each event automatically qualify for the Division I state meet May 18 at Carson Aquatic Center. The third-place finisher with the best time between the Sunrise and Sunset regions also advances to Carson City.

“It’s been great motivation right now,” Wetzel said. “I know that I was a good swimmer last year, but I feel that I’m an even better swimmer this year. Being more experienced ... I feel I have an even better chance at state. I have to say, I’m feeling confident.”

As a freshman, Wetzel finished sixth in the 200 freestyle and eighth in the 100 butterfly at the Sunrise Region meet. His season-best of 1 minute, 47.01 seconds in the former shattered the school record, a mark set in 1977 by Eric Munson. Wetzel also topped a 25-year-old record in the 200 individual medley (2:02.0).

In late July, Wetzel swept the 100-, 200- and 400-meter freestyle events at the Southern California Swimming Junior Olympics while competing with the Boulder City-Henderson Swim Team, an achievement he calls one of his “crowning moments” so far. And he has continued to impress this spring, picking off the school record in the 100 breaststroke that was set by Gary Thompson in 1982.

“Gary even came to one of the meets to meet him,” Wolves coach Jenny Osterholt said. “Especially because the records are so old — because Basic doesn’t have that many club swimmers — (Wetzel) has a huge appreciation for what he’s accomplishing.”

Last year, Wetzel began focusing on the distance freestyle events in workouts with his club team, and the 4:53.86 he posted in the 500 free on March 16 still stands as the Sunrise’s top time. Wetzel is expected to battle with Jackson Hawkins of Green Valley (4:54.62) and Valley’s Mitchell Rockey (5:00.58) for the state berths.

Wetzel will also compete in the 100 free, an event in which he has the third-fastest time in the region at 49.22. Hawkins (48:67) has the top mark, followed by Green Valley’s Michael Velazquez (49.01). Nicholas Morehead of Coronado (49.82) has also cracked the 50-second barrier.

“Right now, I really feel like I can give them a run for their money,” Wetzel said. “I have a really good chance to show the other swimmers what I can do under pressure.”

Osterholt said Wetzel, a straight-A student who eventually hopes to study aerospace engineering at the Naval Academy, has emerged as a leader for the Wolves. With the standout swimming the anchor leg, Osterholt is also hoping Wetzel can boost two of Basic’s relays into contention for a berth at state.

“I know he’s a hard worker just from the improvement I’ve seen from last year to this year, even though he doesn’t swim with me every day,” Osterholt said. “He’s got to be working hard to be dropping time.”

Contact reporter David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.