Freshman diver Justin Moczynski first began diving in high school with little experience, but he has made a large splash this year by improving into one of the best divers on the team.
Moczynski, one of four men on the Ithaca College diving team, is the sole member going to the NCAA Diving Regionals this season.
Moczynski said it has all stemmed from hard work and determination.
“The transition from high school to college has been tough,” Moczynski said. “Practices are twice as long, we do more dry land exercises, and we have lifting as well, which I like.”
Moczynski only competed in his high school for two years, yet he was awarded MVP both seasons. Even though he didn’t start diving until high school, Moczynski said that his previous years competing in gymnastics helped him succeed.
“I did not start diving until my junior year of high school,” said Moczynski. “However, I had experience flipping and twisting from five years of gymnastics.”
Chris Griffin, assistant aquatics coordinator and diving coach, said Moczynski has worked incredibly hard to be in his position.
“He came in with little diving background, but it was fairly limited from what he’s told me and what I saw,” Griffin said. “He has done an incredible amount of work and has grown incredibly. And now he is going from a point where he was a decent competitor at high school to being a competitor at the NCAA regional level.”
Moczynski said that in college the best addition to his practices is a 15-minute dry-land workout that serves as a warmup for the rest of practice. The workout includes strength exercises to improve his core, legs and arms, which have made a big difference for him this season.
“Core is very important in diving,” Moczynski said. “When you keep your core and abs tight, it gives you a better entry during your dive while also providing more control.”
In the first meet of the year, against SUNY Brockport, SUNY Fredonia and Buffalo State, Moczynski placed sixth in the 3-meter dive with a score of 160.50 and fourth in the 1-meter dive with a score of 189.65.
The college hosted the Dick Comanzo Diving Invitational on Jan. 28. Moczynski secured first place in both the 1-meter and 3-meter dives, with a total score of 468.65 in both.
Moczynski said he has noticed the change in competition going from high school to the college level, but he has embraced it rather than being intimidated.
“The competition has intensified for me personally, because when I was diving in high school there weren’t many male divers,” Moczynski said. “Whereas now, almost every team has them, and it’s really nice to have some competition.”
Moczynski’s effort and improvement has not gone unnoticed by his teammates. Fellow freshman diver Brian Coburn has noticed a significant improvement since the beginning of the year.
“There has been very noticeable improvement in Justin’s diving,” Coburn said. “From September to now, he has evolved from a freshman with little experience to a Liberty League Diver of the Week and a regional qualifier. It’s been a rapid improvement that has been exciting to watch.”
The college will host the Liberty League Championships from Feb. 21 to 24. Shortly after, Moczynski will compete in the NCAA Diving Regionals on March 2–3.
Griffin said that Moczynski is prepared for the conference championship and that he is optimistic on how he will perform.
“I believe he is ready to perform very, very well,” Griffin said. “We’ve talked about it a lot — as an improving freshman, our goal is not necessarily to come in and beat the nationally ranked divers. His goal is to come in, relax, do the dives he is capable of. At the end of the day, he’s going to have a good meet, a good season, and he might just be higher than he expects.”
Moczynski said Griffin has had a large impact by pushing him to become the diver that he is now — one who can compete at the NCAA regional level.
“Coach Griffin is amazing,” Moczynski said. “He’s optimistic and enthusiastic. He also finds ways to have fun during practice, which makes it easy to get our work done.”
Moczynski said he is aiming higher than regionals.
“Diving wise, I’m hoping to go to nationals by junior or senior year,” Moczynski said. “I’m hoping to build my list of dives, make them more complicated and have fun while doing it.”