Water Dawgs set to defend championship

By Gus Bode

SIU faces challenges of youth and the loss of the MVC

It may be difficult keeping their heads above water, but the SIU men’s swimming team intends to do more than just stay afloat.

This season, which starts Friday with the Maroon and White Meet, the Water Dawgs face the challenge of retaining their Missouri Valley Conference championship with a less-experienced squad and the threat of this season being their last in the MVC.


The men, who finished in the top spot from 1995 to 1999, regained the MVC championship last season after two years of finishing second.

“I think it’s going to take a lot of soul searching [to win again this year],” said head coach Rick Walker. “We’re going to have to dig deep and find what it was we fought for [last season] and wanted bad enough to hang on to.”

The Salukis lost senior conference point scorers Chrysanthos Papachrysanthou, Corne Prozesky and Jeremiah Cortez, as well as senior Christopher Jannusch.

Papachrysanthou could be the biggest loss, having competed in the 2000 Olympics and having been the top swimmer for the Cyprus national team.

Current seniors David Likar, Danilo Luna, George Oxinos and Jake Sinclair, along with the 21 other team members, have to step up and fill the shoes of those who have left if the Salukis are to compete again this season.

The freshmen will not have time to mature as they normally would have, Walker said. He also pointed out that what is great about sports is the athlete’s ability to adapt and rise to the occasion

Adding to the difficulty of repeating as champions this season is the fact that the Salukis have yet to build the same kind of team chemistry it had last year.


“I don’t even know all of [the freshmen] yet,” Luna said. “I’m sure there’s going to be guys who are going to be breaking records here.”

Even if the Salukis go 0-for-the season, it won’t hurt them because all conference schools are entered into the conference meet with a clean slate.

Since Evansville and Southwest Missouri State are the only two conference schools with men’s swimming teams, Walker has filled his schedule with plenty of stiff competition, such as Michigan State, SMU and Missouri. The schedule of tough teams helps his athletes prepare for conference.

“We’re going to have our hands full,” Walker said. “I’m a firm believer that if you want to rise to a new level, then you compete at that level.”

The fact that there are only three MVC schools with a men’s swimming team creates another problem for the Salukis. There is a rule that states that at least half of the schools in a conference must field a team, or it will be dropped. This could mean the end of the MVC for SIU men’s swimming.

“We have no control over that, so that’s not part of our thinking,” Walker said. “We’re approaching this as any other year. Now, having said all that:Yeah, it would mean a lot [to be the last MVC champions].”

Reporter Christopher Morrical can be reached at [email protected]