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Iowa and Minnesota swim teams share more than a border

BY PATRICK RAFFERTY | NOVEMBER 06, 2009 7:20 AM

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When the undefeated Iowa men’s swimming and diving team welcomes swimming powerhouse Minnesota to Iowa City today, one coach is welcoming someone else — an old roommate.

Iowa diving coach Bob Rydze, who has been at Iowa for 35 years, knows just about everyone there is to know in diving, including Minnesota’s diving coach and longtime friend Wenbo Chen.

“He’s a great friend of mine. He was part of our Olympic staff,” Rydze said. “I’ve worked well with him as team leader. In fact, I roomed with him in Beijing [at the 2008 Olympics].”

Along with his diving duties at Minnesota, which ranks No. 11, according to the College Swimming Coaches Association of America, Chen is also the head coach of U.S.A. Diving, thanks in large part to an Iowa connection. Rydze, the U.S. Olympic team leader, was part of a three-person panel that hired Chen.

“I interviewed him,” Rydze said. “It’s unfortunate he left for Minnesota. We had a great loss, but it is Minnesota’s gain, and he’ll do a great job there.”

Chen has gotten to work quickly in Minnesota. Last week, during his first dual meet as head coach, one of the Gopher’s divers was recognized as co-Big Ten Diver of the Week.

Minnesota’s Drew Brown posted a 372.90 on the 3-meter board for first-place, which earned him the honor. Brown’s score was 25 points higher than the rest of the competition. He also holds the Minnesota school record in the 3-meter with a score of 395.70.

“He’s a very good diver,” Rydze said. “He had a great summer. He dove well at Senior Nationals this summer. He’s very talented and very acrobatic.”

Brown spent his summer with Rydze and his head coach at the USA Diving World Selection Camp. Along with Brown and the Minnesota diving team, the Golden Gopher’s swimming team and coaches are nothing to overlook.

Led by veteran head coach Dennis Dale, who has coached more than 100 All-Americans, Minnesota has won nine-straight dual meets against Iowa. It has also won 13-straight dual meets overall, dating back to the 2007-08 season.

Iowa assistant coach Nathan Mundt said the Hawkeyes are more than ready.

“Coach Dale is a great coach,” Mundt said. “Anytime you’re swimming against this Minnesota team, you know you’re up for a challenge.”

An important facet of the Gophers’ game is depth.

Iowa has not yet seen a team with similar size and depth this season. An average swimming team is usually composed of about 25 swimmers.

Iowa boasts 30, but the Hawkeyes’ northern rivals are 40 deep.

However, Mundt said even with the large team, it’s about the racing.

“They do have a very big team,” Mundt said. “Very talented. Consistently one of the top teams in the Big Ten for many, many years now.

“Obviously, in dual meets, you have to go out and win events. But having the depth along with that, it’s very tough to beat.”

Last season at the University Aquatic Center in Minneapolis, the Hawkeyes sunk fast, losing 195-92. Senior Matt Ryan and juniors Max Dittmer and Sean Hagan were part of a relay team that finished third in the 200 medley relay.

“This year’s meet will be different having it at home,” Mundt said. “Sure, that’s something that’s in the back of your mind — a motivator to get closer and closer to that margin. You try to perform your best against a really good team.

“[The Golden Gophers are] still just as good, if not better this year. We know that we have to be very excited for that kind of competition.”


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