Big Ten Senior Spotlight: Michael DiSalle of The Ohio State University

One team that has helped develop some seriously quick sprinters in the Big 10 in recent years is the Ohio State University, and senior Michael DiSalle is the perfect testament to how head Coach Bill Wadley has been effective in cultivating sprint talent on a yearly basis.

Coming to the Buckeyes as a four-time Ohio state champion, DiSalle is the latest of a long list of sprinters out of Columbus that have emerged as formidable threats within the collegiate spectrum. Following in the heels of 2013 graduate Jason Schnur, DiSalle progressively improved within the Buckeyes’ own farm system to become the program’s go-to sprinter and middle distance freestyler in the 2014-15 season.

During his freshman year, DiSalle swam to personal bests of 20.35 in the 50 free (31st), 44.51 in the 100 free (44.77 for 21st in finals), and a 1:37.76 in the 200 free (19th) at the 2012 Big Ten Championships. Having the 5th fastest 50 and 100 freestyles amongst all Buckeyes in the 2011-12 season, DiSalle did not immediately factor into the already very good relays for Ohio State, but this would quickly change over the course of his next two seasons.

As a sophomore, DiSalle competed once again in the same three individuals as his freshman year, improving upon all three finishes with a 17th place finish in the 50 free (20.14), a 17th place finish in the 100 free (44.02), and a 12th place finish in the 200 free (1:36.50). However, arguably the best performance of the meet for DiSalle came in the Buckeyes’ 800 free relay as the then-19-year-old scorched a 1:34.89 anchor leg to help the Grey & Scarlet grab third overall (6:21.24).

Despite how much improvement DiSalle made as a sophomore, he really came into his own during his junior campaign with Ohio State. Individually, he provided finishes of 5th in the 100 free (19.71), 4th in the 100 free (42.95), and 5th in the 200 free (1:34.53, 1:34.41 in prelims) while also providing legs on four of  the Buckeyes’ relays. DiSalle provided lead-off legs on the 800 free relay (6:19.28, 3rd) and 200 free relay (1:17.93, 1st) while also participating in the Buckeyes’ 400 free relay (2:51.68, 3rd) and the 400 medley relay (3:06.63, 2nd). Notably, DiSalle threw down the fastest lead-off split in the entire event in the 800 free relay with his 1:33.51 leg, a new school record, and the relay shattered the previous program record as well.

Receiving the opportunity to compete at the NCAA Championships for the first time the following month, DiSalle stayed hot in Austin. Only competing individually in the 200 free, Michael would go a 1:33.76 in prelims before finishing 11th in finals with a 1:34.21. He remained an integral part of the Buckeyes’ relays, providing splits on the team’s 200 free relay (1:17.89, 11th), 400 medley relay (3:07.47 in prelims, DQ in finals), 400 free relay (2:51.26, 9th), and 800 free relay (6:13.09, 16th). The Buckeyes’ 400 free relay also established a new school record with their performance in finals.

Outside of the pool, DiSalle is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten Honoree and he has also accumulated multiple Ohio State Scholar-Athlete awards as well.

With just two days remaining until the 2015 Big Ten Championships kick off, DiSalle will be hoping to have another huge conference championships. He is in striking distance of the 100 freestyle school record of 42.70 by Schnur from back in 2012, and numerous other relay records will be at jeopardy whenever the Toledo, Ohio native jumps in the pool this week.

Additionally, the graduation of Michigan’s Michael Wynalda leaves the 200 free conference title ripe for the picking, and Ohio State is no stranger to big-time upsets in February and March. If anybody can give the Buckeyes the spark they need to challenge the Wolverines and the Hoosiers for the team race this year, Michael DiSalle is that guy, and we should all expect him to be a huge contributor both individually and on the relays.

Best Times (SCY/LCM):
50 Free: 19.71/23.19
100 Free: 42.95/49.82
200 Free: 1:33.51*/1:49.82
400 Free Relay: 2:51.26*
800 Free Relay: 6:19.28*

*Denotes school record

School Major/Degree: Health Information Management and Systems
Favorite Event: 200 Free
Favorite Hobby/Hidden Talent: Playing Super Smash Bros
Favorite Movie: Billy Madison
Role Model Growing Up/ Person You’d Like to Meet: Kanye West
Favorite Food/ Pre-Race Meal: Chicken Alfredo

At what age did you become involved with swimming? How did you get into it?

I started swimming summer league at a very young age, probably around 5 or 6. I  didn’t start taking it a little more seriously until I was 10 years old though. I got into swimming through my dad. My dad has four brothers and two sisters and they all swam through college except for one of them. My dad actually swam for Ohio State when Bill Wadley was just starting out.

What is your favorite collegiate swimming memory and why?

My favorite memory is definitely last year when I led off the 800 free relay. I went a best time by two seconds, broke the school record in the 200 free, and broke the 800 free relay record as well. It was hands down the best I have ever felt in a race.

You had a breakout meet at the 2014 Big Ten Championships, with a new school record in the 200 free and contributing legs to new school records in the 400 free relay, 400 medley relay, and 800 free relay amongst other high scoring performances. Did you have a different approach to last year’s meet when compared with your first two years with the Buckeyes, or was it a year-long transition that helped you perform so well last February?

It was definitely a year long transition. During my Sophomore year I was actually thinking a lot about quitting. There were a lot of negative people on our team that year and I was one of them. After my Sophomore season was over I took an extended break in the spring. I came back late in the spring and decided that summer I was going to make a major technique change.  I worked on improving my technique all summer and by the end of the summer I had a drastically improved stroke. During my Junior year I trained very well with this new stroke. Training hard with my improved technique is why I think I did so well last year at Big Tens.

You have both a brother and a cousin on the team, with Jack being a freshman and Dan being a junior. Not many other collegiate athletes receive the opportunity to compete at the Division 1 level with multiple family members, and this surely creates a unique dynamic for yourself. Can you talk about what it is like to have family on the team, and do you feel like it is a mutually benefiical relationship as teammates?

Having family on the team is nothing new to me. I have been training with my cousin Dan ever since we were in grade school. We swam for the same club team, same high school, and now the same college. The same goes for my brother Jack but there is more of an age gap so I didn’t get to train with him that much in the past. I feel like it is definitely mutually beneficial. It makes practice a lot more fun at times having someone there you have known your whole life. We like to joke around and keep practice light.

What/who do you think has been the single most important catalyst to your swimming career?

I think my dad is the single most important catalyst to me in my swimming career. Throughout my whole career he has motivated me and has given me tips along the way. Throughout the year he is always looking up results of my competition and sending them to me as motivation. He also gives me a lot of confidence before big meets, telling me I can do something that probably no one else thinks I can do.

Do you have any plans/commitments following the completion of your collegiate career?

After this season is over I am definitely done with competitive swimming for good. I still have an extra semester next year until I graduate so I will enjoy being a regular college student for one semester. After that I need to get a job and enter the real world.

What should we look forward to from Ohio State as a whole at this year’s Big Ten Championships?

I think we are going to have a great Big Ten meet this year. A lot of our top guys are coming off a big year last year and I think they will definitely improve on that this year. I think if everyone is on we can win a few relays and take a shot at the title.

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Good Luck at Big 10’s. Go Bucks !

About Varun Shivakumar

Varun Shivakumar hails from Hoffman Estates, IL and swam competitively for 16 years. He swam both backstroke events at Northwestern University, and ranks fifth in the school’s All-time performances list in the 200 yard backstroke. Representing NASA Wildcat Aquatics, he also competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials in Omaha, NE …

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