Cautious optimism. That's the attitude the Staples boys swimming team is embracing as it prepares for the upcoming season. In his seventh year as Wreckers coach, Jeffrey Schare feels this year's squad has a chance to improve on last year's performance, although they're basically a young team again."

Last year, Staples did better than expected with a 6-5 record in dual meet competition. In the FCIAC championships, the Wreckers were tied for fifth with Darien and came in sixth in the Class LL meet (out of 21 teams). Staples took seventh out of 92 teams in the State Open, which Schare called,

"Quite a victory. It was Staples best finish in 19 years." That good season earned him the Connecticut Post boys swimming Coach of the Year honors and created the "cautiously optimistic" attitude the team will build on this season.

As they prepare for the new season, the Wreckers will be without four standouts who formed the core of the squad last year; captains Christopher Weiderecht, Stefan Tziolis, Nick Pulvino and Jeff Helt have all graduated and are moving up to the college level. Leading the charge in the pool this season will be the new captains Cameron Bruce, Trevor Lally and Mac Mombello along with fellow seniors Larry Abel and diver Matt Mirkine. "This is an experienced crew who've been well seasoned in tough FCIAC competition," noted Schare.

Adding to that experience will be a group of underclassmen who have been swimming for a long time and know what it takes to succeed at the high school level. One of the leaders in the pool will be junior Cory Bacon, a top freestyler and member of both the freestyle relay and medley relay teams. Other juniors to keep an eye on are Michael Goodgame and diver Zach Slater. Three sophomores to watch will be Joss Abel, Kyle Bacon (younger brothers of Cory) and Matt Wisher, a top backstroker. Filling out the squad will be a fast swimming freshman, Nathaniel Boley, along with Matthew Wetmore and another good young diver, Tanner Blank.

This new core group gives Schare a team that is "two solid in every event and sometimes three deep." The FCIAC is generally considered the toughest high school swimming league in the state with Greenwich, New Canaan, Ridgefield and Westhill the traditional leaders. Staples' depth, although young, will be competitive all season long in dual meets and if last year is any indication, will rise to the occasion and perform better than expected in the league and state meets.

Diving coach Dan Long is similarly excited about the Wrecker prospects in the pool this year. The three top divers from last year are all returning, along with one new addition. According to Long, junior Zach Slater is "greatly improved and should move up this year" and will lead the Wrecker divers.

In the off-season, Long said Slater has "been taking on harder dives with an increased degree of difficulty" in addition to improving his skills on his other "good dives." The competition in the diving pool will be hefty, as perennial powerhouse Greenwich will be returning three divers who finished first, second and fourth at Class LL.

Mombello echoed his coach and said, "We have a great group of guys coming back who can swim a lot of different events."

Lally said, "We built a lot of confidence last year and feel good about our chances to improve this season. We have good balance and good depth on this team."

The goal this year, as every year, is to qualify as many swimmers as possible for states and the captains agree they've got the talent on this squad to be successful.

Joss Abel who swims all year is "pumped up" for this season. A breaststroker, the younger Abel is one of the Wreckers up and coming talents that give the team its depth.

The Wreckers open the season today at Ridgefield travel to Greenwich on Friday and to New Canaan on Monday, giving the Wreckers what will most likely be their toughest competition of the year in the league.

Everyone on this young but experienced team is ready for the challenge.