When Todd Fridrych decided to step down as the Riverside-Brookfield High School boys swimming coach after last season, he had a perfect replacement in mind.
Graham Risley, the most decorated swimmer in school history, chose to become the Bulldogs’ new coach after being contacted by Fridrych.
“Todd was my coach when I was at RB and he let me know about the job opportunity,” said Risley, a 2009 RBHS grad. “It sounded like a good opportunity for me so I decided to go ahead and do it. I applied for the job and had an interview with Todd and the athletic director. After talking with them, I was happy with what they were looking for and how I could run the program.”
When he swam at RBHS, Risley placed third in the 100-yard breaststroke and 100-yard butterfly (and qualified for six different events overall) at the state meet, set 11 varsity swimming records and was a two-time All-American swimmer.
Risley, who also swam at Penn State, is eager to pass on his experience in the pool to the Bulldogs.
“Over the past couple of years, the goal of RB swimming has been getting as many kids as possible to state,” Graham Risley said. “That hasn’t changed, along with just getting these kids to be better swimmers overall.”
The Bulldogs graduated state qualifiers Quinn Risley (Graham’s younger brother), Kevin Garza, Christian Chavez and Tim Walsh last season.
“Although we lost several talented seniors last year, I’d say we have four or five solid returning swimmers,” Graham Risley said. “I think their goals are my goals. Whatever they want out of the season, I’m just going to try and put them in the best possible position to achieve their goals.”
The losses of Quinn Risley and Garza, now swimming at Iowa and UIC respectively, will be felt in particular after leading the Bulldogs’ 200 medley and 200 freestyle state-qualifying teams last season. At state last year, Quinn Risley also finished seventh in the 50 freestyle with a time of 21.04 seconds and 20th in the 100 freestyle (47.31), while Garza placed 12th (51.29) in the 100 butterfly.
“Those were two key guys on the relays who will be hard to replace,” Graham Risley said. “I have a pretty good sense of our swimmers this year. I still have to swim them around more, and I’ve been looking at last year’s results to get some background on some of these guys.”
Returning state qualifiers Joey Rosa and Christian Hernandez should help Graham Risley settle in during his first year of coaching at his alma mater. They teamed with Quinn Risley and Garza to place 10th in the 200 freestyle relay (1:27.14) at the state meet last year.
“Joey and Christian will both be key guys in our relays,” Graham Risley said. “Joey is also a butterflyer and I’ve been putting him in the IM (individual medley). Christian is a very good sprint freestyler so he will more than likely swim the 50 free and 100 free.”
Other key contributors this season include freshman Michael Rosa (Joey’s younger brother), junior Michael Georgopulos and freshman Matt Harder. Rosa swims the breaststroke and IM while Georgopulos is a sprint freestyler. Harder is slotted to swim in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle. They all could contribute on relays as well.
“The guys are really beat up but I want them like that,” Graham Risley said. “It’s very early in the season so some guys are still adjusting to this type of training. Heading into the upcoming winter break, I think they are in a good position.”
As for Graham Risley, he’s also in a good position teaching the sport he loves.
“I owe a lot to swimming,” he said. “I’m trying to pass along what I liked and worked well for me at Penn State to the RB program. I also want our swimmers to have fun with their friends on this team.”