Kyren DiMarzio was a first-team all-Western Athletic Conference selection for both water polo and swimming last year at Los Banos High School.
Now the freshman at Iowa’s Grinnell College can add a second-team all-Heartland Division selection from the Collegiate Water Polo Association to his resume.
“I thought it was pretty cool,” DiMarzio said. “Our team here, they’ve been up and down. They won the national championship four or five years ago, and last year we didn’t even make it to nationals. This past season was me and two other kids from northern California, and kids in California tend to have more high school experience with water polo. This year we won conference and went to nationals. I thought it was a lot of fun.”
A club team (Grinnell’s is nicknamed the Wild Turkeys) is different from a university varsity team in that it’s student run, but receives travel funding from the college. The team relies on the most experienced players to run practices and make decisions during games.
“In some ways it was a big change and in some ways it wasn’t, because a lot of (Los Banos coach Darryl) Barger’s style was hands-off,” DiMarzio said. “Whoever was most experienced and knew the most about water polo would contribute to practice, so guys would ask me if this was a good drill to do, what about this. It was cool having that kind of input.”
DiMarzio ran the point for the team, and spent much of the time passing the ball to Heartland Division MVP Tim Sherwood, a sophomore from Seattle who plays hole set.
“He makes playing point easy,” DiMarzio said. “It was a lot like Dylan Soares at Los Banos – it was like, when in doubt, toss it in. It let me focus more on defense.”
Now DiMarzio is in the middle of the most grueling two weeks of the season with the school’s swim team, which competes in NCAA Division III. He swims the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly.
“It’s eye-opening going from our small section in California to most of the Midwest that we swim against,” DiMarzio said. “We started training in October and we trained until winter break, and then I was home for nine or 10 days. Then they invite part of the swim team down to Florida to train for two weeks, and we were doing doubles. They didn’t want us to not swim for a month.”
It has been an adjustment to the lifestyle of a college athlete, where there’s no FFA meetings or pool breakdowns to take away from practice time. If you’re not in a hospital bed, DiMarzio said, you better be at practice.
“I’d say the intensity level is a big difference,” DiMarzio said. “And in high school, like Drew (Guintini, Los Banos’ swim coach) had another job and other commitments, but our coach here (Erin Hurley), this is her job. It’s a different dynamic, mostly with the consistency in the training. I haven’t missed a day of training since October, and we were doing water polo before that. It’s definitely the longest I’ve gone, so I’m excited about what I can do when we start tapering.”
With the Midwest Conference Championships approaching in mid-February, the Pioneers are in the middle of the season’s most intense stretch of training.
“We’re all pretty broken down right now. We had a big invitational the first week we were back here,” DiMarzio said. “But we’d all trained doubles for two weeks. She told us this is the toughest part of the season, and told us to not focus on times right now.
“I’m trying to get through the next two weeks. It’s tough with school and everything. Being dead tired doesn’t help with homework.”
In the middle of all that, the freshman has been adjusting to both college life and living away from home, in a place with snow on the ground.
“I moved halfway across the country, and that’s probably the best decision I’ve ever made,” he said. “It’s difficult – you miss being at home with friends and family, but I have definitely enjoyed myself here. I decided to come here, and I told myself I give it at least a year. Now I’m 99 percent sure I’m going to stay here all four years.”