ST. CHARLES – Max Schmitt twisted and turned as a Wredling Middle School wrestler before entering high school across the street.
His older sister, Bridgett, already was a St. Charles East diver when Schmitt decided to flip-flop on winter sports. These days, Schmitt is a Saints senior preparing for his second successive trip to the IHSA Boys Swimming and Diving State Meet.
Diving evolved from hobby to passion for Schmitt on the heels of his first state berth, after which he began training year-round. While a pair of smaller NCAA Division I schools have shown interest, Schmitt first aspires to increase his profile by placing in the top 12 at New Trier this weekend.
“With some seniors being moved out and me personally improving, I think that it’s not an unreasonable goal and that I could accomplish it if I dive like I know I can,” Schmitt said.
As a child, Schmitt declined an opportunity to swim like St. Charles Swim Team coaches thought he could. He recalls being approached about joining club during a swimming lesson and balking.
“When I was younger, I just never thought it would be fun to do competitive swimming,” Schmitt said.
Although he enjoyed the sport recreationally and was a diving board fixture with front flips and basic dives when the family used its pass to the Pottawatomie Park pool, Schmitt kept a greater interest in wrestling.
Admittedly “pretty decent” on the mat, he was nearing the end of middle school when Bridgett’s sudden decision to try diving sparked something in him, too.
Now a North Central College junior, Bridgett Schmitt swam during her freshman year at East before splitting time between swimming and diving as a sophomore. She dove exclusively in her final two high school seasons.
It didn’t surprise his parents when Max – absorbing the possibly embellished stories of what high school wrestlers endure to cut weight – thought he’d try taking after his sister, too.
“The kids were always growing up and they always took to water, and we’ve been following them and supporting them the best we can,” said their father, Bob.
Schmitt soon embraced the challenge of diving, realizing the technique and atmosphere in no way mirrored his summer afternoons at the municipal pool.
His freshman practices began humbly enough, then naturally progressed. As a junior, Schmitt added a few new dives to his repertoire while also making the fundamental change of replacing tucks with pikes, increasing the difficulty and judges’ scores if he performed them well.
This season, he worked with St. Charles North diving coach Shealyn Boland when East was unable to find a permanent replacement for Amy Bromberg, who left after two seasons to pursue her master’s degree. The Saints and North Stars shared a diving program for coaching purposes but represented their schools separately.
Training with Boland, a former diver at Conant and New Mexico State, only has furthered Schmitt’s development from his freshman season.
“It was scary at first to jump off the board backwards or what-not, because I had never done it before,” Schmitt said. “But then once you just kind of keep working at it and getting used to it, it gets easier and easier.”
Unable to advance from preliminaries as a junior, Schmitt still used the breakthrough of reaching the state meet as fuel for added training. He joined the Naperville-based DuPage Diving Academy during the summer, working out at Neuqua Valley on Mondays through Thursdays each week.
Schmitt recently took a recruiting visit to Wright State in Ohio and also has been in contact with coaches from Oakland (Mich.).
Saints coach Joe Cabel immediately sensed a spark in Schmitt when practices began.
“Max is pretty mature, so you saw it coming,” Cabel said. “But it just seems like when you’re a senior, you finally have accumulated enough confidence points that you put together the package, and Max has had that all season.”
With Boland developing a diving club that would be a division of St. Charles Swimming, Schmitt is confident teammates Logan Kotsy (junior) and Max Thompson (freshman) can share his state meet aspirations soon.
Until then, he’d recommend diving to anyone. It’s all about having the interest, then jumping right in.