CHEYENNE – Matt Pietsch doesn’t like to spend much time behind the starting blocks at swim meets.
Instead, the Cheyenne Central senior prefers to get there as close to race time as possible. It makes his mother, Lara Pietsch, worry, he said.
“She thinks I’m going to miss my race, but it helps me to just get up there and race and not think about it,” Pietsch said. “If I’m standing behind the blocks for too long, I start overthinking things, I start getting into my head, and I get in my own way.
“There was a time I was so late that I nearly missed my race, and I swam really fast. I started (getting to the blocks late) all the time after that.”
The strategy is working for Pietsch.
He won all six individual races he competed in last week, picking up wins in the 200-yard freestyle and 100 breaststroke during a triangular with Cheyenne East and Cheyenne South on Tuesday; winning the 50 free and 100 butterfly in a triangular with East and Green River on Friday, and finishing the week with wins in the 200 free and 100 backstroke at the Laramie Invitational.
Those performances earned Pietsch Prep Athlete of the Week honors from WyoSports’ Cheyenne staff.
Pietsch is 8 for 8 in 2022. He also won the 100 back and 100 fly in a triangular with Lander and Kelly Walsh on Jan. 7 in Casper. His 100 back time of 55.22 seconds that day is actually the top time in Class 4A this season, while his 100 fly time of 54.55 is the second-best.
Those aren’t the only events Pietsch ranks highly in. The 1-minute, 48.42-second lifetime best he clocked Saturday in Laramie is the state’s top 200 freestyle time. Pietsch – who will continue swimming at NCAA Division II Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota – also is second in the 100 free (50.32), third in the 200 individual medley (2:07.35), fifth in the 500 free (5:15.13) and 11th in the 50 free (23.54).
Pietsch grew up spending his summers playing baseball and squeezing in swimming the best he could. That changed last year. Pietsch continued to play American Legion baseball with the Cheyenne Hawks, but swimming was such a priority that he skipped the Class A state tournament to swim in the Western Zones meet in Clovis, California. Pietsch and second-year Central coach Josh Bott credit the decision to swim year-round for helping Pietsch do what he is right now.
“He has dedicated himself to swimming because he wants to be the best he can be,” Bott said. “His outlook and attitude are helping him succeed this year. He wants to be good, and is willing to do whatever he can to improve.
“You never want a kid to single out your sport because you never know how long it’s going to last until they get burned out. At this point, (Pietsch) made a pretty good decision to go all-in on swimming, and he’s reaping the benefits of that. His times are speaking for themselves.”
The benefits are most apparent in practice. His body has gotten used to hammering yards for more than the three-month window of the high school season.
“In the past, I’m just trying to survive practice this time of year,” Pietsch said. “Right now, I feel like I can be aggressive in sets, race during practice and really challenge myself every day.
“I’m a huge believer that you have to swim fast in practice if you want to swim fast in meets. The more effort I put in, and the more sprinting I can do, the better I can be.”
Pietsch was second in the 100-yard backstroke (54.42 seconds) and fifth in the 100 fly (53.22) as a junior. He placed fourth in the 500 free as a sophomore, and 11th in both the 100 fly and 500 free during his freshman season.
Some swimmers swim just to swim, and some swim to race, Pietsch said. He counts himself among the latter. He worries about honing technique during practice. Meets are all about beating everyone else in the pool to the wall.
“I only have so many opportunities to compete, and I’m trying to make the most of them,” Pietsch said.
Others recognized for their efforts include:
n Elliot Anderson, Cale Haws, Colter Haws and Conor Manlove, wrestling, Burns-Pine Bluffs: Anderson, a senior 160-pounder, went 6-0 with six pins during a dual with Lingle-Fort Laramie/Southeast and at Torrington’s Blazer Duals.
Cale Haws, a junior 220-pounder, was 4-0 with four pins.
Colter Haws, a senior 195-pounder, went 5-0 with five pins.
Manlove, a senior 152-pounder, was 6-0, with all his wins coming by pin.
n Madisyn Baillie, girls basketball, Cheyenne Central: The junior scored 14 points during the Lady Indians’ loss Friday at Scottsbluff, Nebraska.
n Bryson Heilbut and Wyatt Weiss, wrestling, Central: Heilbut, a sophomore 113-pounder, was 5-0 with three pins and a major decision at Green River’s Thoman-Jackman Duals. Heilbut’s final win was a 15-7 major decision in the Best of the Best dual.
Weiss, a sophomore 120-pounder, was 6-0 in Green River, with two pins and two technical falls.
n Drew Jackson, boys basketball, Cheyenne East: The sophomore guard averaged 22 points to help the Thunderbirds win at Riverton on Friday and beat visiting Scottsbluff, Nebraska, on Saturday. His basket with 3.3 seconds remaining lifted East to a 71-70 win over Scottsbluff.
n Jordan Jones and Boden Liljedahl, girls basketball, Cheyenne East: Jones, a senior, averaged 14 points to help the top-ranked Lady Thunderbirds to lopsided wins at Riverton on Friday and over visiting Scottsbluff, Nebraska, on Saturday.
Liljedahl, a junior, averaged 21.5 points in those games.
n DJ Kaur and Rylee Jo Ward, girls basketball, Burns: Kaur, a senior, averaged 14.3 points across three losses for the Lady Broncs. She scored a game-high 27 points during an 82-54 loss Tuesday in Bridgeport, Nebraska.
Ward, also a senior, averaged 17.3 points in those contests.
n Stu Lerwick, boys basketball, Pine Bluffs: The junior averaged 20.5 points to help the Hornets to wins over Southeast and Holyoke, Colorado.
n Sydney Morrell, girls indoor track, Central: The junior won the 800- and 1,600-meter runs as the season-opening Natrona County Invitational.
n Nathanial Talich, boys basketball, Central: The senior guard scored 29 points during the Indians 72-61 loss Friday at Scottsbluff, Nebraska.