Performance: Trenton's Michael Wolsek

January 31, 2020

Michael Wolsek
Trenton senior - Swimming

The Trenton senior standout set meet and pool records in the 200-yard freestyle (1:43.85) and 100 butterfly (50.03) at Allen Park on Saturday in helping the Trojans to the team victory at the Downriver Classic. Wolsek also was part of a meet and pool record-setting 200 medley relay (1:39.17) and meet record-breaking 400 freestyle (3:18.13) in earning the MHSAA “Performance of the Week” as Trenton claimed the Classic championship for the first time in five years.

Wolsek grew up in the pool; his father Robert was a Trenton record holder at one time and helped create the community’s youth swim lesson program, and three older siblings also starred for the Trojans. Michael holds school records in the 50 (21.52), 100 (47.60) and 200 freestyles (1:42.72), 100 butterfly (49.89), and as part of the record 400 free relay (3:17.52). All four of his individual school records also are league records, and he was also part of a league record 200 medley relay (1:39.14) as well. Wolsek finished second in the butterfly and fourth in the 200 free and swam on two scoring relays at last season’s Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals, where Trenton finished ninth – also its current team state ranking this winter. He called his winter “just a culmination of all the great coaches I’ve had the opportunity to work with,” and obviously it’s paying off – Wolsek’s season-best fly time of 50.03 ranks first in the state by nearly a second, and his top 200 free time of 1:43.85 is eighth-fastest.

He’s part of a talented cast; among teammates, junior Spencer Boling-Hamer won the teams’ first Finals individual championship last season since 1969. Wolsek is one of three team captains and the first from his family to wear the “Helmet” – an honor bestowed on a senior annually to wear while leading the team into competition. Wolsek will continue his academic and athletic careers at Wayne State University. He carries a 3.7 GPA and is interested in majoring in kinesiology and studying exercise sciences.

Coach Jim DeRupa said:Micheal has been a huge asset to the team. He has been focused on leading a younger group of swimmers. We have 18 new swimmers on the team this season. He shows his leadership as a captain by giving speeches at practices and meets to get the team fired up. He has helped the program significantly not only by winning events but by encouraging a team culture where everyone works hard and everyone is a part of the team. He is excited to see what the end of the season is going to bring for the team. He is focused on the current team, but is also excited to continue the sport in college.”

Performance Point: “This year, I feel like the whole team has come together in a way that I've never seen it come together,” Wolsek said. “I've had older siblings on the team, before I was in high school, and I've never seen the team come together quite like it (did) at the meet on Saturday. Everybody has been working so hard to make this team great. We're fighting for that league title this February. And the thing I take away (from Saturday) is when you're doing your swims for your teammates, the camaraderie and connection that we share, it helps. It makes it easier. I don't think I'm ever going to forget that sense of camaraderie that I felt on Saturday.”

Ready to lead: I’ve always loved taking every opportunity to be a leader on the team. I’ve been granted the opportunity this year as a senior leader to be able to not only help the freshmen and underclassmen and rookies with technique after practice, but I can also give speeches and have a more hands-on approach with my team. It’s just been absolutely awesome – the people I’ve met this year, the freshman are working so hard, and it’s probably been one of my favorite experiences just getting to meet and pass on what I’ve learned through my four years at this school to the younger guys.”

Wear ‘The Helmet’ proudly: “It’s a Trenton swim tradition. I believe it started in the 90s. Every year a senior who has the helmet passes it down to a junior who will be a senior the next year. And we have a very unique team chant that’s unlike anything else in the state of Michigan – we march out and align to a cowbell, and the person at the front of the line is wearing the Trojan helmet. … I’m so blessed to be a part of this culture. At Trenton High School, we’re very proud of our community, and our symbol, The Trojan, we’re very proud to represent that. Last year at our swim banquet, senior Donny Grocki passed it down to me … and after he gave it to me, he told me he gave it to me because he saw the work I put in and he saw the leadership that I demonstrated. When I found out I was the one who had it, I was very, very excited. It’s been my dream ever since I saw my brothers’ teams as a kid; you always see the guy wearing the Trojan helmet. I was very excited when I found out I got to represent our school like that.”

Watched and learning: “It’s definitely changed the way I think about the sport. I attribute a lot of my success to the opportunities I’ve had at home. My parents have always been extremely supportive of my swimming, and having older siblings that have all gone through the sport grants me the opportunity to be able to learn from their mistakes and to improve upon what I saw them doing. So I think the biggest thing is the culture at my house – every day I’m coming home and it’s swimming for breakfast, lunch and dinner, always swimming, and that’s definitely helped me.”

Science of speed: I’ve always been fascinated by locomotion and biomechanics, and they have a physical therapy and occupational therapy program at Wayne State which I’m looking to possibly pursue after getting my bachelor’s in kinesiology. Swimming’s been the one thing I’ve been consistently passionate about my entire life, and any of that that I can take into my professional career would just make it an absolute joy.”

– Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Past honorees

Jan. 24: Kensington Holland, Utica Ford bowling - Report
Jan. 17:
Claycee West, White Pigeon basketball - Report
Jan. 10: 
Seth Lause, Livonia Stevenson hockey - Report
Dec. 5: Mareyohn Hrabowski, River Rouge football - Report
Nov. 28:
Kathryn Ackerman, Grand Haven swimming - Report
Nov. 21:
Emily Van Dyke, Southfield Christian volleyball - Report
Nov. 14:
Taylor Wegener, Ida volleyball - Report
Nov. 7:
Carter Solomon, Plymouth cross country - Report
Oct. 31: 
Jameson Goorman, Muskegon Western Michigan Christian soccer - Report
Oct. 24:
Austin Plotkin, Brimley cross country
- Report
Oct. 17:
Jack Spamer, Brighton cross country - Report
Oct. 10:
Kaylee Maat, Hudsonville volleyball - Report
Oct. 3:
Emily Paupore, Negaunee cross country - Report
Sept. 26: 
Josh Mason, South Lyon soccer - Report
Sept. 19: Ariel Chang, Utica Eisenhower golf - Report
Sept. 12: Jordyn Shipps, DeWitt swimming - Report

PHOTOS: (Top) Trenton's Michael Wolsek, holding onto the Downriver Classic trophy with his right hand, is surrounded by teammates after the Trojans won Saturday's event. (Middle) Wolsek, in the team's Trojan helmet, provides some final motivation before an earlier meet this winter. (Photos courtesy of the Trenton boys swimming & diving program.)

Local Dominance Achieved Again, Dow Sets Sights on Statewide Success

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

January 25, 2023

Less than 24 hours after its 2021-22 season ended, the Midland Dow boys swimming & diving team had established its goal for the next year.

Bay & ThumbGet back to the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals, and put Dow back among the best swim teams in the state.

“Even at the state meet last year, we were like, ‘Where are we going to be at when we come back here?’” Dow coach Claire Fries said. “It was the day after the state meet last year, we were already in that mode for next year. The boys have worked hard to meet that goal.”

While the Finals are still more than a month away – March 10 and 11 at the Holland Aquatic Center – Dow has already punched several tickets back to the championship meet.

All three Dow relays have met the Finals-qualifying mark, and at least one Dow swimmer has hit the mark in all but one individual event. In some events, multiple Chargers have qualified.

That’s a far cry from a year ago, when nearly all of Dow’s qualifying times were met in the final meets of the season.

“We’ve had our mindset on it all year,” said Dow senior Thomas Bacigalupo. “We’ve been working on it, practicing in the morning three times a week. On a big piece of paper in our office here, it says, ‘We’re going back,’ and we’re going to succeed. We have a saying that when we can see our goals, we have a higher chance of achieving them.”

Bacigalupo is one of six returning Finals qualifiers for Dow, joining his twin brother Tyler, senior Harrison Schuster, juniors Noah Buist and Nathan Velez, and sophomore Eli Soderberg.  

That core made it easy to see why the Chargers were excited well before a single qualifying time had been accomplished.

Thomas Bacigalupo, second from left on starting block, prepares to lead off the B heat of the 400 freestyle relay. “From last year’s team, we had almost everybody come back, and our team is full of depth this year with the freshman class we brought in,” Soderberg said. “We still have all that talent and all that speed. Those expectations, last year, were for all of us just to get to the state meet and qualify top 16 and all of that. Now, this year, we can actually make a run for stuff.”

Qualifying as many swimmers for the Finals as early as they have is a good sign for the Chargers. So is winning their 20th-straight Tri-Cities championship, which they accomplished this past weekend at Saginaw Valley State.

It’s a streak that predates the birth of any current Dow swimmer, and very nearly their coach.

“I think our goal is to keep that streak going as long as we can,” Tyler Bacigalupo said. “It shows the work ethic of all the guys in the past. But we also try to think of it like every regular meet, and just go out there and do our thing.”

For Fries, who is in her fourth year with the program and third as head coach, the Tri-Cities meet is about more than just continuing the streak. 

“It’s more about a celebration of our community here,” she said. “What I stress to the boys is that this is really about representing Dow and the Tri-City community, and being able to compete and race with these kids that you’re with all year round. That’s more of what I put the focus on.”

With their local dominance established again, the Chargers continue to look to establish themselves on a bigger stage, and from what Fries has seen from her swimmers this season, it’s something she thinks they’re capable of accomplishing.

“We have nine seniors on our team, and they definitely are motivated,” she said. “They wanted to show that Dow is a good swim program, and one that should be respected anywhere in the state. Our boys are really motivated to compete with anybody in the state. That drive for competition has really fueled our team and made our team really close.”

Dow has twice been Finals runner-up, in 2006 and 2008 both in LP Division 2. The Chargers felt they had a chance to win it all in 2020, but that meet never happened as it was canceled because of the pandemic. 

Rather than say “what if?” regarding their freshman year, the seniors are looking forward.

“We want to be top five and really put Midland Dow back on the map,” Tyler Bacigalupo said. “That (2020) was our best chance of being on top in states, but we want to put Dow back on the map again. Our tennis team and our hockey team have done it, now we just want to bring some attention to us.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at paulcostanzo3@gmail.com with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Midland Dow’s Noah Buist launches into a race during last season’s LPD2 Finals. (Middle) Thomas Bacigalupo, second from left on starting block, prepares to lead off the B heat of the 400 freestyle relay. (Photos by High School Sports Scene.)