A poster hangs in the men’s locker room at Canham Natatorium that senior Chris Brady takes notice of every day.
The poster celebrates the Michigan men’s swimming and diving team’s recent success. It reads “Big Ten Champions 2008.” But if you look again you’ll notice it goes on. Someone has handwritten the words “— 2017, the new Decade of Dominance.”
The name “Decade of Dominance” is a reference to a period from 1986 to 1995 when the Wolverines won 10 consecutive Big Ten Championships under legendary coach Jon Urbanchek.
Since Michigan won the 2009 championship last February — and thus its first back-to-back conference titles since 1994-95 — there have been mentions and whispers inside the program about winning 10 straight conference titles for a second time.
The Wolverines are currently tied for first heading into day three of Big Ten competition, with aspirations of winning its third-straight championship in Columbus.
And as the team went through final preparations for the meet last week, Brady, a team co-captain, was reluctant to admit that his squad is thinking about winning eight more conference championships before they have even won three. He insisted that it is just a goal be the best team.
History, at least, is on his side. Michigan’s 34 team championships and 423 individual titles is by far the most among Big Ten schools. Indiana is second in both categories with 24 and 282, respectively.
Last year, the Wolverines won 13 of the 18 swimming events at the Big Ten Championships. No other team won more than two. Michigan racked up 829 points on its way to the title, beating second-place Ohio State by the second-largest margin of victory in conference history — more than 300 points.
Of course, past championships are no guarantee for future success. It may be presumptuous to think Michigan has already started another decade of dominance, but with a strong winning tradition behind them and an undefeated season this year, the Wolverines are favored for a third straight title.
But instead of trying to remember the way it felt to win championships, Brady and fellow co-captains André Schultz and Shaun Weinberg have taken a different approach. The three seniors have reminded the team of Michigan’s performance at the 2006 Big Ten Championship. That year’s team had a lot in common with this year’s squad. Both entered the conference championship undefeated in the regular season, both had top swimmers favored to win their events and both had strong freshman classes.
“In 2006, Peter Vanderkaay, Davis Tarwater and Chris DeJong thought, ‘We’ve got Big Tens locked up. We have three guys who can win their events and an awesome freshman class and we can just go in there and roll through it,’ ” Brady said.
The 2006 team fell short overall, finishing in third place, more than 235 points behind the Hoosiers, who won the meet.
This year’s captains hope that memory will combat any complacency that the Wolverines may be feeling in Columbus. Archrival Ohio State will be Michigan’s toughest opponent at this weekend’s meet and Brady knows the difference may come down to not who wins first in events, but who finishes after them.
“We really need those sixth places and eighth places because Ohio State has the depth to win,” he said. “We’ve tried really hard the last month to not underestimate our opponent.”
Notes: Yesterday, the Wolverines swept the top three places in the 200-yard individual medley, with junior Tyler Clary winning the event for the second-straight year … Michigan won the 400-yard medley relay as well, with a time of 3:07.97 … With two days of competition left, the team is tied with Ohio State with 274.5 points while Minnesota sits in third with 179 points.