WARREN, Mich. - To say De La Salle Collegiate's swimming and diving program has achieved a bit of success over the past half-decade would be quite the understatement.
Coach Jim Singelyn's teams have finished among the top seven at the Division 2 state finals four times since 2015 - including a runner-up finish at the 2016 meet.
But this year may be a little different. The Pilots graduated a bunch of talent from last year's team. And although the numbers are pretty healthy - with 37 on the roster - Singelyn said 2019-20 is going to be a challenging season. And he's looking forward to it.
"Let's call it what it is, this is a rebuild, for sure," said Singelyn, who is entering his 10th year as head coach at De La Salle. "We've still got a few studs, but we've got a lot of work to do this year. But it'll be fun. It's a lot cooler than walking in with a guarantee. They're going to have to earn it, whereas in past years we could have phoned it in."
The team graduated five seniors who qualified for the state finals a year ago, four of which scored for the Pilots - who finished 17th overall with 50 points. But Singelyn does have four swimmers and divers back who scored for their team.
Junior Juan DiCosmo and sophomore Max Swiatkowski each swam on the team's 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay teams - while DiCosmo also was a part of the Pilots' 200 free relay. DiCosmo also competed in the 200 individual medley, while Swiatkowski was an individual participant in the 100 backstroke and 500 freestyle.
"Juan is one of our co-captains and I know he's going to get back to states again this year, and I can put Max in just about any event and know he'll qualify for states," Singelyn said. "Max is real good. He's legit."
Also back this year are a pair of divers who should score extremely well for the team. Junior Joey Basha is the defending Macomb County champion who finished fourth at the state finals a year ago. Senior Justin Burke, who will dive at Northern Michigan University next year, will look to improve upon his 15th place state finish. Together they should give the Pilots a bump at every meet.
Others returning and expected to make an impact in the pool include seniors Isaiah Brundidge and Cameron Thompson, along with sophomores Michael Paluch, Dominick Cole and Brady McKay.
Freshman Carson Ricker joins the team with several years of club experience in his pocket. Singelyn is also hoping to see a surge from a handful of newcomers to the team, including several upperclassmen who decided to give swimming a try for the first time in 2019-20. Seniors Rocco Stroker, Leonardo Puchiaroni, Dario Bruglio and juniors Joe Marable, Jack Lubinski and Matteo DeMichele could also be big counted on right away.
"We had a lot of juniors and seniors who had never swam before come out," the coach said. "Maybe they had swam when they were little kids but for some reason or another, they stopped. Through teaching at the school, I found out who these kids were and I got them to come out. A little late, but it's better late than never."
Basha, Burke, DiCosmo and senior Gianluca Cavataio are the team's captains.
"We've got a lot of seniors out who have never really swam much, but they have a lot of potential," Cavataio said. "It's about getting them in shape. It's going to take hard work but the group we have, there are a lot of hard workers."
De La Salle enters the season having won each of the last seven Macomb County championships. It's going to be quite a challenge if the Pilots want to win an eighth-straight title.
"We're shooting for it, but it's going to be really hard to get," said Singelyn, who noted that the team graduated more than 160 points from last year's meet, while runner-up Dakota lost just 50 points to graduation. "We've got some work to do. I think they're up to the task. Why not? They don't want to let go what everyone built before them."
Also competing for the Pilots this season will be seniors Andy Janusch, Nicolas Lize, Tyler Looman and Jordan Rogers, juniors Mark Tanot Devereaux, Joseph Janusch, John Kafoury, Blake Knack, Evan Krass and Jaheim Pickett, sophomores Tyler Esch and Adrian Shaba and freshmen Sam Bickley, Jacob Bowl, David Griffith, Luke Horlocker, Michael Saad, Bryce Sanderson, Miki Simasko and Michael Slusser.
"Now it's back to the way we grew the program when I started 10 years ago," Singelyn said. "The formula is simple: We take anyone who wants to find out how good they can be, no matter the skill level or athletic ability. Every kid on this team takes ownership of the team and does whatever is needed to help himself get better and his teammates.
"All the guys have to pitch in and do their part. It's not going to be a couple guys doing it for us. It's going to be win by committee. I've been impressed by some of the new guys. They've been killing it. They've been working their butts off."