US National Team member Ivan Puskovitch has chosen to transfer to West Virginia University to use his 4th and 5th years of eligibility and pursue a master’s degree. He plans to continue training in California with Team Santa Monica for the rest of this calendar year and join the Mountaineers in January 2024.
Puskovitch is a member of the 2023-2024 US National Team in open water swimming after placing 5th in the Olympic 10km event at the 2023 US National Championships. He finished in 1:51:13.07, which was about 8 seconds away from the top American Brennan Gravley.
Puskovitch competed for 3 seasons as an undergraduate at USC, with his last meet for the Trojans coming at the 2022 Pac-12 Championships. At his 3rd-and-final Pac-12 Championship meet in March 2022, he finished 18th in the 500 free (4:21.53), 13th in the 1650 free (15:18.47), and 19th in the 400 IM (3:50.10).
Puskovitch says he has academic and athletic reasons for choosing West Virginia.
“It has exactly the type of master’s program I’m looking for,” Puskovitch said. He’ll pursue a degree in coaching and sport education.
He also believes that the men’s team, which competes in the Big 12, is on an “undeniable upward trajectory,” and he appreciates the stability of the coaching staff.
USC had 3 head coaches in Puskovitch’s 3 seasons there. Dave Salo was the head coach at USC when Puskovitch began there. He was replaced by Jeremy Kipp, who resigned under allegations of abuse, leaving Lea Maurer to take over as interim head coach in his junior season.
By comparison, West Virginia head coach Vic Riggs has led the program since 2007.
“NO DRAMA” Puskovitch told SwimSwam via email, in all capital letters, to describe the allure of the Mountaineers. He said the coaches support his open water, long course, and national team careers, even though those aren’t championship events in the NCAA.
Puskovitch also lauded the program’s “beautiful new facility,” which opened in 2019, as an indication that Weset Virginia “has an athletic department that genuinely treats swimming & diving like a priority.”
“Ultimately the criteria I looked for in a program was vastly different than when I first went through recruiting, especially after what I experienced during undergrad,” Puskovitch said. “WVU has the tools to cultivate elite swimmers in a focused environment and I’m truly excited to be joining the team.”
Puskovitch is currently training under coach Mo Khadembashi at Team Santa Monica, which has been arguably the top American club program for open water swimming in the last decade. His target meet for the year is the World Aquatics Open Water Swimming World Cup meet in Eliat, Israel from December 1-2.
That meet will be the US selection event for open water at the 2024 World Aquatics Championships, which in turn is the next qualifying opportunity for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
He says that he hopes to help the Mountaineers at the collegiate level, but also remains committed to Team USA in open water at the international level.
Puskovitch is a long-time open water swimmer and was a five-time USA Swimming National Junior Team member and two-time Junior National Champion. He represented the USA at the World Junior Open Water Championships twice.
The move will bring Puskovitch back closer to home in Newtown Square in suburban Philadelphia. He will now be only a 4.5 hour drive from home versus a 6 hour flight.
While his international future lives in wild waters, in the pool, Puskovitch can make an instant impact for the Mountaineers as well.
Best Times in Yards:
- 200 free – 1:39.00
- 500 free – 4:21.53
- 1000 free – 9:08.89
- 1650 free – 15:11.92
- 400 IM – 3:50.10
Those times in the 500, 1000, and 1650 freestyles are all faster than the West Virginia school records in those events. As the dominant Texas Longhorns prepare to leave the Big 12 next season and a number of new teams (BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah in swimming), the conference championship is about to get much more interesting.
Last year, Puskovitch’s best time in the 1650 free would have finished 2nd in the Big 12 – ahead of his future teammate William Mullen (15:20.04). West Virginia finished 3rd out of 3 teams at that meet.
Puskovitch is a former National Age Group Record breaker in the 500 free in the 10 & under age group, swimming 5:14.14 in 2012.