The UNLV men’s swimming and diving team earned the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) team title for the second straight season, marking the first championship repeat for the Rebels since sweeping the trophies from 2014-15.
“I’m proud of this team for swimming confidently and, yet, being humble enough to compete aggressively every single session,” head coach Ben Loorz said. “The WAC as a whole was significantly faster this year, and that’s exciting for the future.”
After going undefeated in the regular season in the 200 back, junior Panos Bolanos (1:41.60*) became the second Rebel to win three consecutive titles in the event.
Meanwhile, junior Cam Castro (15:13.60*) grabbed his first career WAC gold medal by keeping the 1650 free in the Rebel family for the second straight season. His finish followed up UNLV’s 2021 NCAA qualifier Vuk Celic’s (14:50.34) conference title in the event last season.
In the final event, UNLV’s 400 free relay quartet–comprising sophomore George Ratiu in the lead-off along with seniors Bryan Chavez, Richard Szilagyi and Reece Hemmens–automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships with a new WAC & program record speed of 2:50.70 to take the gold medal.
“Our 400 free relay’s automatic NCAA qualifier and record tonight was a rewarding way to close this out,” Loorz said. “Our relays have been getting sharper all week, and we knew after seeing the speed of yesterday’s disqualified medley relay that today could be really good. It was a unique team effort and the similarities in the splits really points to that since there was no specific superstar carrying the relay.”
The Rebels ended the day with 845.5 points, while Air Force staggered behind with 630.5 points in second place. Their score was the third highest in school history in any conference championship appearance.
1650 Free: 1st place – 15:13.60* (Cam Castro); 2nd place – 15:16.86* (Chris Mykkanen); 3rd place – 15:20.34* (Andrew Navarro)
200 Back: 1st place – 1:41.60 (Panos Bolanos); 2nd place – 1:45.64 (McKay Mickelson); 5th place – 1:46.74 (Dominik Bujak)
100 Free: 3rd place – 43.06 (George Ratiu); 5th place – 43.62 (Richard Szilagyi); 8th place – 44.30 (Reece Hemmens)
200 Breast: 2nd place – 1:56.43 (Adnan Beji); 3rd place – 1:56.88 (Ivan Zhukau); 5th place – 1:58.92 (Sam Willstrop)
200 Fly: 8th place – 1:49.37 (Andrew Navarro)
400 Free Relay: 1st place – 2:50.70 (George Ratiu, Bryan Chavez, Richard Szilagyi, Reece Hemmens)
The Rebels look ahead to the National Invitational Championships being held March 9-12 in Elkhart, Indiana.