COLUMBUS— Freshman Sam Hoekstra got his first taste of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry in Columbus last weekend. And it was bitter.
Hoekstra, who normally competes in swimming events, dove for the Wolverines as they competed against the Buckeyes, Northwestern and Penn State in the Big Ten Quad Meet so that Michigan could earn points in the diving events. To automatically score points in diving, a team must have two competitors and the Wolverines only had one, sophomore Chris Morrison.
The former high school diver was rusty, but Hoekstra scored over 100 points on the one- and three-meter diving events. No thanks to Ohio State’s diving coach Vince Panzano, who was upset Michigan entered a swimmer in its diving events.
“I don’t think he gave Sam a score higher than one out of ten, even on dives when other judges gave him four and a halves,” Michigan coach Mike Bottom said. “He referred to our athlete in a derogatory way and (his scoring) was a statement he decided to make and that upset me.”
After Michigan’s dual meet victories against all three schools, Hoekstra was showered with pats on the back and praise from Bottom. Teammates joked he was the “diver of the meet.”
But don’t call Hoekstra a diver. And don’t call him a swimmer, either.
“Mike preaches and preaches to us about not thinking of ourselves as swimmers but being athletes, and I thought this would be a way to show how athletic we are as a team,” Hoekstra said. “When we got here yesterday their coach was complaining a lot and it got to me at first, but then I just approached it as something fun and a way to help my team score.”
The competition between the two rivals was no less fierce in the swimming pool. Despite Michigan’s 197.5-135.5 win over Ohio State, the Wolverines faced their greatest adversity as a team this season, dropping two of the four relays in the two-day meet to the Buckeyes and facing tight races in nearly every event.
“I’m very proud that lot of our guys stepped up and some of them got knocked down and then got up quickly,” Bottom said. “The rivalry and racing gives us a purpose, and I thanked the Ohio State swimmers for the good races.”
Three Wolverines won two individual events. Senior co-captain Chris Brady won the 100-yard butterfly and the 50-yard freestyle. Junior Tyler Clary won the 200-yard backstroke and individual medley, and sophomore Dan Madwed won the 200-yard freestyle and butterfly events.
Overall, Michigan had two of the top three places in seven of the 12 individual events, including the top three finishes in the 500-yard freestyle.
Winning this weekend’s meet will help make the Wolverines feel more comfortable in an environment they will need to get used to. This was just the first of four trips Michigan will make to Columbus in eight weeks. This season’s Big Ten and NCAA Championships are also being held there.
Bottom said his goal was for Michigan to think about being the better team instead of worrying about beating Ohio State. He encouraged his team to focus on being excellent in every detail of their swims. Brady agreed, saying a victory would surely follow as long as the Wolverines stayed focused on their own business.
“There were plenty of momentum swings in this meet,” Brady said. “When Ohio State wins an event, they like to get really loud but I just looked at it as a chance to take our team a step closer to winning the Big Ten title.”
The emotion of the rivalry was more motivation than distraction for some swimmers like Clary, a two-time national champion and reigning NCAA Swimmer of the Year. The California native admits he doesn’t fully understand the depths of the rivalry, but has already rendered a decision about the Buckeyes.
“I’m not afraid to say that I absolutely despise that school,” he said. “I’ve seen the way they act at football games and swim meets and the petty things they do just gets me fired up. And typically when I’m angry or pissed off at something, I move through the water a little faster.”