Boys Swimming and Diving: Something good cooking in new Brainerd pool

The Brainerd Warriors open their season on the road at Bemidji Thursday, Dec. 8.

Brainerd boys swim captains by the pool.
Brainerd boys swim and dive captains Cayden Sumption, left, Parker Tatge, Nolan Thiesse and Mason Kuepers are seen during practice Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, at Brainerd High School.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — Depth in key areas, a pinch of versatility and a dash of state-caliber talent and the Brainerd Warriors have a recipe for even more success this season.

The state-caliber success comes from Brainerd’s three state returners in seniors Mason Kuepers, Parker Tatge and Cayden Sumption. The three helped Brainerd to a program-best sixth place in last year’s Class 2A State Tournament.

Kuepers was the busiest of the three at state, helping the Warriors’ 200-yard medley relay to fourth, the 200 freestyle relay to fourth, placing sixth in the 100-yard freestyle with a 46.81 and also winning the consolation finals of the 50-yard freestyle with a 21.59 to place ninth.

“He’s a beast and he put on a lot of muscle weight over the summer and trained hard,” Warrior head coach John Zemke said. “He’s one of the top eight kids back in the 100 freestyle. The 50 free and 100 free is where he’s at, but he can swim just about anything. Both Mason and Cayden are going to St. Cloud State next year and one of the things that those coaches loved about those guys is they can swim anywhere. They can swim just about every stroke, but Mason is going to be one of the top contenders in the state this year. He’ll be the anchor leg on whatever we do for relays.”

Tatge was also on the medley and freestyle relays that swam on Saturday’s final day. The senior also advanced to state in the 200 freestyle as he placed second in the Section 8-2A meet with a 1:46.7. At state he swam a 22nd-place 1:47.82.


Coach talks to swimmers
Brainerd coach John Zemke talks during practice Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, at Brainerd High School.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“Parker can really swim any of the events and we kind of talked about the 200 for sure and maybe the 500,” Zemke said. “The 2 and 5 are what we’re going to look at for him down the stretch. Maybe not every meet of the year, for sure, but toward the end of the year, he’ll probably end up in those two events.

“We’ll wait and see and see how the year shakes out.”

Tatge’s other individual event was the 100 breaststroke where he finished fourth in 1:02.14. Just ahead of him with a third-place 1:01.68 was Sumption. Sumption was also on the section medley relay that won the title with a 1:35.71. Sumption returns as an All-Central Lakes Conference breaststroker.

“He’s worked tremendously hard in the offseason,” Zemke said. “He’s much stronger this year and he posted some times this fall to where he ended up last year. He looks great in the water. Stronger than ever and we’re excited to see what he does this year. We’re definitely looking at that 200 IM and 100 breaststroke for his two individual events.”

Sumption was also third in the section in the 200 individual medley with a 2:03.30. Behind him was Sam McCaulley in eighth, Nathan Chaussee in 10th and Brenden Brichacek in 15th. All three of those guys return.

“That's a nice problem to have,” Zemke said. “When you have four that scored in the section for the IM that obviously means they’re doing all four strokes and we can really move those guys around. They don’t need to be in the IM. Maybe it will be the 100 fly or maybe they’ll be in the backstroke.

“Nathan has that ability to really move around. Sam may end up in the freestyle events. He’s a very good freestyler as well. We just have to see where we lineup against some of the top teams as far as their athletes against ours.”

Another returner adding depth to the stroke events is Spencer Porter who placed 16th in last year’s section 100 butterfly.


“Spencer put on quite a bit of weight during the offseason, muscle,” Zemke said. “He’s another kid we can move around if we need to, but we’re going to need butterflyers and hopefully he can fill that role as one of our top three butterflyers. We might need him to swim it at quite a few meets this year.”

Another area of depth will be Brainerd’s diving squad as Wyatt Gabrielson returns after finishing seventh in last year’s section meet with 338.7 points. Nash Gabrielson was ninth and David Herath was 14th.

“Coach (Owen) Trout is off to a great start with those guys,” Zemke said. “We have five divers, actually, overall. We should be solid in dual meets and all those guys scored in the section meet.

“They are solid when they dive and they are very consistent. Hopefully, they can move up into that top eight. In diving, I know there are a lot that are back from last year. The top four from last year will all be seniors this year. Hopefully, four divers will score at sections and we can get as many in the top eight as possible.”

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Look for Brainerd’s distance events to be stacked as well. Sam Mattson placed 14th in the 200 freestyle and was 10th in the 500 freestyle. Nolan Thiesse finished eighth in the 500 and Logan Kuepers was fourth in the 500.

“We do have some depth and it should have been pretty obvious to me when I looked back at our sheets, but it did surprise me a little bit,” Zemke said. “All those guys swam fantastic at the section meet last year and dropped a ton of time. Hopefully, they can start off relatively close to where they finished off last year and just build on that, but we’re definitely relying on the 200 and 500 for some major points this year.

“For Nolan, we’re hoping for more of the same of what we saw at last year’s section meet. He dropped a ton of time and looked super strong. He tapered like crazy. He had a great cross-country season and we’ve talked about how that should carry over into a great swim season. He’s been a great leader for us and we’re excited about what he’s going to do for his senior year.”

Alex Kuepers missed the Saturday finals of the section meet, but this will be the third varsity season for the freshman along with his brother Logan.


“They’ve got a lot of talent,” Zemke said. “They worked harder this offseason than probably they ever have before. Definitely, Logan was right up there in the 500 in the section finals. He dropped almost 23 seconds from his previous best time to his time at sections. Logan was fourth at sections and the three guys who were ahead of him are all back so it’s going to be tough to break into that 500l, but this is a kid who is probably pretty close to breaking five minutes in the 500. He’ll be in the freestyles and Alex will be in the backstroke. The 1:02 he swam at sections was a great swim. We have to find another event that will work.”

Like the Warrior girls, Brainerd boys will host the Section 8-2A meet as well as the section True Team meet.

“It’s just night and day walking into this new facility where we have two or three guys in a lane versus six or seven kids in a lane,” Zemke said. “Now we can spread out and it’s so bright in there and it’s pleasant to go into practice with a great group of kids. Every day is fun and a highlight of my day.

“Last year winning the section meet was great, but this is this year and hopefully we can continue the trend.”

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or Follow on Twitter at

Boys swimming and diving

John Zemke
John Zemke
Kelly Humphrey

Head coach: John Zemke, 26th season

Career record: 168-25-1 (.866)

2021-22 record: CLC 6-1, overall 7-1, 1st in Section 8-2A, 6th in Class 2A State meet

Returning state meet participants: Parker Tatge, Mason Kuepers, Cayden Sumption

Captains: Mason Kuepers, Parker Tatge, Cayden Sumption, Nolan Thiesse

Assistant coaches: Carl Schirmer, Owen Trout (diving)

Warrior roster

Seniors: Wyatt Gabrielson, Mason Kuepers, Samuel Mattson, Cayden Sumption, Parker Tatge, Nolan Thiesse

Juniors: Andrew Adamson, Jorey Jackson, Atreyu Marcello, Samuel McCulley, Spencer Porter, Sebastian Tisdell

Sophomores: William Baumann, Kyler Carlson, Nathan Chausse, Craig Coonan, Nash Gabrielson, Payton Haglin, David Herath

Freshmen: Brenden Brichacek, Alex Kuepers, Logan Kuepers, Weston Thiesse

Warrior schedule

Thursday, Dec. 8, at Bemidji 6 p.m.

Dec. 15, hosts Sartell 6 p.m.

Dec. 20, at St. Cloud Tech/Rocori 6 p.m.

Dec. 29, hosts Holiday Invite 10 a.m.

Jan. 5, hosts St. Cloud Apollo 6 p.m.

Jan. 12, at Fergus Falls 6 p.m.

Jan. 14, hosts Section 8-2A True Team 9 a.m.

Jan. 19, hosts Willmar 6 p.m.

Jan. 26, hosts Alexandria 6 p.m.

Feb. 2, at Sauk Rapids 6 p.m.

Feb. 11, in Central Lakes Conference meet at Sauk Rapids 10 a.m.

Feb. 24, hosts Section 8-2A prelims

Feb. 25, hosts Section 8-2A finals

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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