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Swiming Celebrates Stellar Seniors

By Joe Ginley '12, 01/08/21, 11:15AM EST


The Swimming & Diving Class of 2021 was honored on January 7

As it’s been written time and time again, the past year has been very different from normal. But that will not stop the Saint Ignatius Swimming & Diving program from continuing its tradition of honoring its seniors in a special way.

These young men have experienced many moments of difficulty and disruption yet  have remained strong, persistent, and smart amidst adversity. They deserve many accolades for their four years of hard work and for their diligence since mid-March.

The swimmers’ Senior Night will look different on Thursday evening due to COVID-19. A road meet at Gilmour Academy will serve as the event venue as opposed to the typical host location at Cleveland State University. Huge smiles from parents and athletes will be hidden by mandated masks.

Nevertheless, the essence of the event will still be the same. Tears will be shed by proud parents. You will still see the seniors’ cheeks turn red as their teammates coo “Awww” at the baby pictures of the swimmers displayed during a slide show. The coaching staff will beam with pride and hold back tears, having watched these 11 boys mature into fine young men.

It is befitting to say of course, that this is a distinct, special group. These 11 young men have paved a path for the next generation of Wildcat swimmers and divers. Building on the foundation implemented by those Wildcat swimmers before them, they have expanded and enhanced the swim program’s tradition with outstanding results and times. We keep saying it every year, but this is the fastest group of Wildcats in a long time.

The team expectations are high for the rest of the season. These Wildcats intend to be contenders for the State Championship. But no matter what the outcome may be, no one can deny that this is a special group of young men who will change the world some day as sons, brothers, husbands, parents, and eventually, grandparents.

So, let’s meet the 11 men who compose the Aqua Cats’ Class of 2021.

Michael Bednar

As we begin in alphabetical order, Michael Bednar leads off our seniors. Bednar is a very talented swimmer, but as good as he is in the pool, he’s unstoppable on the Spikeball court. Renowned for Spikeball RPR 3.0, Bednar is rumored to be considering playing competitive Spikeball in college rather than swimming. An East Sider with a dry sense of humor, Bednar is known for his even-keeled nature. A mentally tough swimmer, he’s not affected by much. His excellent work ethic will serve him well in life.

When did he begin swimming: Age 7

Grade school: St. Gabriel
Parents: Jeff and Carolyn Bednar

Siblings: An older sister, Allison

Why does he love Saint Ignatius swimming? He developed relationships and memories he’ll never forget.

Favorite event: 500 free

College[s] of choice and field of study: Michael plans to study biology in college and attend medical school. He will not be able to swim in college as he will be too busy playing Spikeball.

A special memory from Saint Ignatius swimming & diving: Becoming district champs

Piece of advice for younger swimmers: To really make an effort to form a relationship with the whole team.

Three words to describe him: Organized, particular and determined.

Quote: "Are you not entertained?"  - Maximus from "Gladiator".

Brice Cerar

Brice Cerar is the type of person you want on your team. A special young man, he’s stared down every challenge and won with his resilience. A blood sugar monitoring device would have slowed down some, but not Brice. He never gives up and plows through every piece of adversity. As a result, he’s loved by all, from freshmen to seniors to his coaches. A video game enthusiast, he works as a full stack developer. And an aspiring biomedical engineering major, he’s more inquisitive and smarter than most of us.

When he begin swimming: Age 10

Grade school:  Andrews Osborne Academy
Parents: Pete and Jackie Cerar
Siblings: A younger brother, Pierson

Why does he love Saint Ignatius swimming? The group of guys goes beyond just the pool. Whether it be at school or hanging out on the weekends, he made some of his best friends.

Favorite event: 200 IM

College[s] of choice and field of study: Brice intends to study biomedical engineering and then attend medical school for a career in endocrinology.

A special memory from Saint Ignatius swimming & diving: Getting the Varsity Letter cut his freshman year in the 100 breastroke at the last meet of the season.  This was his goal for the season and was so happy to achieve it on his last chance.

Piece of advice for younger swimmers: To never stop giving it your best effort no matter how bad you feel in practice or at a meet.

Quote: "You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!" -Sylvester Stallone

Will Claus

When he graduates, Will Claus will walk away as one of the best divers in Saint Ignatius history. The Cincinnati commit now holds the school 1-meter dive record, his newest accolade. Claus is a 3-time state qualifier, 2-year district and sectional champion and winner of the best new diver award. But beyond his talents, what makes Will special is how much he cares. Divers sometimes are separated from swimmers, but not Will. He cares deeply about the team and his teammates, even once participating in a relay a couple of years ago. The humble Solon native has big things ahead of him, in the diving well and in life.

When did he begin diving: Age 8

Grade school: Solon Middle School
Parents: Scott and Liz Claus

Siblings: A sister Sydney and a brother Alex '18.

Why does he love Saint Ignatius swimming & diving? It brought him an amazing group of friends with great families, it makes him proud and is a lot of fun.

Favorite dive: Front 1 1/2 double twist. 

College[s] of choice and field of study: Will plans to dive for the University of Cincinnati while majoring in business.

A special memory from Saint Ignatius swimming & diving: Beating his brother Alex at the sectional meet when he was a freshman and Alex was a senior.

Piece of advice for younger divers: work hard and have fun because it flies by!

Quote: "Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."

Damon W. Durrah, Jr. 

If you ask his teammates or coaches to describe Damon, they would say “character.” Damon describes himself as energetic, fun and loud, though leaving out hard working. It’s impossible to miss him at practice, always laboring and putting in the work to improve. He’s always asking questions as an inquisitive swimmer. And importantly, he’s a great listener, with a genuine earnestness to improve. Whatever Damon does in life, he’s sure to be a success.

When did he begin swimming: Age 4

Grade school: Our Lady of the Lake School

Parents: Damon Durrah and LaJuanna White

Siblings: A little sister Laila and big brothers LaJuan and Donald

Why does he love Saint Ignatius swimming? He loves the brotherhood that the team builds.

Favorite event: 100 Breaststroke

College[s] of choice and field of study: Damon plans to study biology in college.

A special memory from Saint Ignatius swimming & diving: The Christmas parties and pancake breakfasts with the entire team

Piece of advice for younger swimmers: Don't give up when it gets hard, push yourself harder during that time, it's worth it in the end.

 Tyler Hong

We don’t need to tell you this, but Tyler Hong will leave the program as one of the best swimmers in Saint Ignatius history, without a doubt. The motivated, goal-oriented swimmer will graduate owning a bevy of school records and as a State Champion (2020, 200 IM). His list of accomplishments is impressively long, including Canadian Olympic Trial Qualifier 2020/2021, 2019 World 100 Ranked Swimmer in 200 IM, 3x High School Swim team MVP Award, 3-time Saint Ignatius Athlete of the Week (12/18, 1/19, 2/20), 3x NISCA All American Swimming Award winner, and 3x USA Swimming Scholastic All American. However, it’s one thing to be an outstanding swimmer, and quite another to be a great leader. Tyler manages to make his teammates better. People follow him, and not just because he’s a captain. Folks who know his parents will tell you he takes after his mom in many ways, particularly with his mentally strong attitude and sunny optimism. He’s a star with a bright outlook. 

When did he begin swimming: Age 5

Grade school: Lee Burneson Middle School, Westlake

Parents: Richard and Kyoko Hong

Siblings: Three brothers - Marcus '17, Nicky '19 and Jaimeson (future Wildcat '27)

Why does he love Saint Ignatius swimming? The brotherhood bond that he made with his teammates. From having fun at team events to being nervous before a race, Tyler is always with them and knows they're right beside him.

Favorite event: 200 Individual Medley

College[s] of choice and field of study: Tyler intends to study economics or pre-med at Princeton University where he has been recruited to swim for the Princeton Tigers Swim and DiveTeam.

A special memory from Saint Ignatius swimming & diving: Placing 2nd in the 200 medley relay with his teammates at the 2020 State Championship meet followed by winning the 200IM individual event. Also, swimming with his brother, Nicky, on the 200 medley relay for the first two years of his high school career. 

Piece of advice for younger swimmers: To not give up.  Always believe in yourself. Trust in the process and always believe you can do it no matter how physically sore or mentally tired you are.

Quote:  "I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life." - Michael Jordan

Last Word: Tyler is thankful to have made new friends as well as built stronger ties with swim team friends that he knew before coming to Saint Ignatius. It's been one crazy ride with many ups and downs but Tyler will always remember how the class of 2021 swim team was insanely talented, from top tiered sprinters to amazing distance swimmers.

Thomas Metz

Thomas Metz is an overcomer of obstacles. At Saint Ignatius, he was sick quite a bit as a freshman and sophomore, but has blossomed into a phenomenal swimmer. A member of the 2019 District Runner-Up 200 free relay runner up and a swimmer on the 2019 State Qualifier 200 free relay, Thomas is an integral part of the Wildcats. Thomas is just as noted for his sense of humor as his swimming talent. Afterall, when asked to give three words to describe himself, Thomas wrote, “Sleeps on floor.” His self-confidence and his ability not to be bothered by things around him are well-suited for swimming but also for college and beyond. He’ll overcome whatever life throws at him. 

When did he begin swimming: Age 4

Grade school: Kenston Middle School

Parents: Mark and Carol Metz

Siblings: Three older siblings - Sam, David and Rachel

Why does he love Saint Ignatius swimming? He loves the sense of camaraderie, friendship and unity that is always a part of the team.

Favorite event: 100 Free

College[s] of choice and field of study: Thomas would like to study computation and cognition and potentially doing research in neuroscience in the future.

A special memory from Saint Ignatius swimming & diving: The honor and privilege of being a part of the Maryland B 200 free relay his freshman year.  Advice he would give to his teammates is to work hard and don't stress about the results; you can't control those.

Quote: Thomas' favorite quote is "If you win each day with a consistent work ethic, preparation, and expectation for excellence, the results will take care of themselves."- The CSU Wall (Wally Morton)

Joseph Richmond

Joseph Richmond is the type of person every parent wants their kid to be like. He listens, he follows, he leads the right way, he’s authentic, and has a solid personality. Joseph has been an anchor for Saint Ignatius Swimming & Diving all four years, but particularly this season. One of two captains (along with Hong), Richmond is a strong leader. Leading in any year is tough, but particularly in a pandemic. A vocal captain, Joseph uses his voice without being fake. His teammates look up to him and listen to his every word. He’s a top notch young man, as well as a dynamic swimmer, an All-American and 3x State Qualifier. Along with that, he earned the Mike Lehto Award and Distance MVP award last season. He’ll bring in more awards at this year’s banquet, but his genuine nature will win him much more than medals in life.

When did he begin swimming: Age 7

Grade school: St. Mary's Mentor

Parents: Michael and Bonnie Richmond

Siblings: Two older sisters - Morgan and Emily

Why does he love Saint Ignatius swimming? He loves the energy and intensity everyone brings to every practice and every workout.

Favorite event: 100 Breast

College[s] of choice and field of study: Joseph plans to major in engineering in college.

A special memory from Saint Ignatius swimming & diving: The hotel toga party his sophomore year.

Piece of advice for younger swimmers: Always set your standards higher than you think you should each day and train each day with your goals in mind.

Quote: "Thanks for coming to school today" said by anyone who's not the late guy.

Last Word: Joseph says that this class has been leaders since the start of freshman year and it's been an honor to be a part of a program that has grown the way it has the past few years. 

Zach Toothman 

A swimmer from a young age, Zach is a natural. But that doesn’t stop him from being a hard worker, as you won’t lose because of a lack of effort on Zach’s part. He’s served as the Central Zone Junior Athlete Representative where he represents all athletes and athlete initiatives in the Midwest and Central United States, qualified for the 2020 State Meet in the 100 Breast/Medley Relay, received All-American status, and helped the Wildcats set the District mark for the 200 Medley relay. Outside of the pool, he’s a genuinely spiritual person, caring for others. Zach lives up to the motto of Men for Others, always keeping an eye on his younger teammates to ensure they feel comfortable and accepted. He even manages the team’s GroupMe, assisting the coaches. That’s just who Zach is.

When did he begin swimming: 12 months old

Grade school: Saint Bartholomew

Parents: Jim and Debbie Toothman

Siblings: A brother Josh '24

Why does he love Saint Ignatius swimming? It's an incredible experience that leaves him with so many unforgettable memories.

Favorite events: 100 Breast and the 200 IM

College[s] of choice and field of study: Zach intends to swim in college while majoring in chemical engineering and applied math.  He would like to eventually earn his Ph.D. in his field of study.

A special memory from Saint Ignatius swimming & diving: Going to the Cathedral with the team in Maryland for mass. 

Piece of advice for younger swimmers:  Always stay true to yourself and never let anyone change who you are.

Quote:  "Never regret a day in your life: good days give happiness, bad days give experience, worst days give lessons, and best days give memories." - Unknown

Will Trenta

A late starter for swimming at age 12 and an undersized kid as a freshman, Will Trenta has developed into a man during his four years. He loves being on the team and has thrived the past four years, always practicing plenty and never complaining. There’s a spiritual sense about Will, a quiet living out of the ideals of Man for Others. He’d help anyone on the team in a heartbeat, an essential part of the Wildcats. His development is embodied by his efforts earlier this week during a relay, tabbing a 23:18 despite never hitting below 24 seconds. Asked how he did it, Will said glowingly, ‘I don’t know how I did it, it just happened!’ This hard-working Wildcat is a person who everyone loves to be around. He refuses to quit, a trait that will be necessary as he pursues a career in the medical profession.

When did he begin swimming: Age 12

Grade school: Westside Christian Academy

Parents: Steve and Melinda Trenta

Siblings: His sister is Anna Grace

Why does he love Saint Ignatius swimming? The friends he has made

Favorite event: 200 Free

College[s] of choice and field of study: Will intends to study biology and attend medical school to become a doctor.

A special memory from Saint Ignatius swimming & diving: Singing the alma mater after the senior night meet. 

Piece of advice for younger swimmers: Always give 100% because you will get out of swimming what you put it.

Quote: "I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.  -Thomas Jefferson

Will Van de Walle

Coming from good stock and an Ignatian family, Will had high expectations set for him. As a freshman, he came in and took a backseat to more veteran guys, but his work ethic has forged him into a leader. Now standing at a jacked 6’3, 190-pounds or so, Van de Walle is the example of what you can become if you have an insatiable work ethic and a heart of gold. Van de Walle cares deeply about his team and his teammates, which makes him a popular member of the squad. You’ll soon see him qualify again for the State Meet, but his proclivity for producing great times is not what sets him apart. What distinguishes him is his attitude and personality. Whatever Will does in life, he’ll do it with style, grace, and success.

When did he begin swimming: 5th grade

Grade school: Brady Middle School

Parents: Tim and Ann Van de Walle

Siblings: Two older brothers, Jake and Luke and a younger sister Quinn

Why does he love Saint Ignatius swimming? The brotherhood that the team forms is an unbreakable bond.

Favorite event: 50 Freestyle

College[s] of choice and field of study: Will's plans for the future are to have fun no matter what he ends up doing!

A special memory from Saint Ignatius swimming & diving: When the Maryland B 200 Freestyle Relay cleaned house at the National Catholic Championships (and was still denied a finals spot).

Piece of advice for younger swimmers: Make some friends and work hard. That's all there is to it.

Quote: "Live large. Die large. Leave a giant coffin." - Dom Mazzetti

 Kartar Vig

Four years ago, no one would have envisioned Kartar Vig being where he is now. Vig entered Saint Ignatius as a cross country hotshot, a talented runner who nearly qualified for the State Meet as a freshman. He originally joined the swimming & diving program for conditioning, to improve his lung capacity as a runner. But he fell in love with the team culture of the Aqua Cats and dedicated all of his efforts to swimming. He joined a club team and spent extra time in the pool improving. His efforts paid off as a sophomore, as he made it to the District Meet as the 23rd qualifier of 23, a big deal that earned him the Coach’s Award. He’s continued to progress since then, as his passion and caring attitude have never wavered. He’s quiet, but super smart and always thinking. Kartar, remember us all when you’re famous after having invented something magnificent. Your coaches won’t soon forget you, to be sure.

When did he begin swimming: Freshman year

Grade school: Lee Burneson Middle School in Westlake

Parents: Dr. Vinson Vig and Dr. Ashoo Khanuja

Siblings: Two sisters - Kara and Chloe

Why does he love Saint Ignatius swimming? Because of his teammates

Favorite event: 100 Breaststroke

College[s] of choice and field of study: UNC - Chapel Hill or Purdue University to major in biomedical engineering. He would like to invent something and build a business around it. He has plans to pursue a collegiate competitive triathlon.

A special memory from Saint Ignatius swimming & diving: Dominating the competition at the JV Champs his junior year. 

Piece of advice for younger swimmers: "Times get tough in the sport of swimming but it is all worth it."