Boys Swimming and Diving: Warriors advance 7 in 8 different events

The Brainerd Warriors hosted the Section 8-2A swimming and diving finals Saturday, Feb. 25.

Teammates cheer for swimmers in the relay.
Teammates cheer on the Brainerd boys' 200 freestyle relay team Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, during the Section 8-2A swimming and diving finals at Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — The chips were stacked against Wyatt Gabrielson.

Then things got worse.

The Brainerd Warriors senior persevered somehow to advance to the Class 2A State Diving Meet and help the Warriors to the Section 8-2A Team title for the 10th time since 2007 Saturday, Feb. 25.

Gabrielson entered the three-dive finals in sixth place with 278.55 points. The top four divers from each section advance to state and sitting in fourth was Moorhead's Vance Kroetsch with 279.4 points. St. Cloud’s Cody Watts was fifth with 278.65 points.

Gabrielson had three dives to pass those two and hold off any challengers for his first trip to state.


Then disaster struck.

While attempting his first dive, a cell phone rang. Gabrielson struck his feet on the board before entering the water. Poised and understanding of the rules, the senior breached the pool water with his arm raised asking for a re-dive. The redo was granted. Gabrielson regrouped.

A diver in the air, people watch in the background.
Brainerd's Wyatt Gabrielson competes in diving on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, during the Section 8-2A swimming and diving finals at Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“Initially it was really hard,” Gabrielson said. “Normally, that’s a super easy dive for me. It was kind of more of a shock when it happened, but I think, one of the things that I do well, especially this year, is maintaining my composure and keeping that tunnel vision. It was hard, but I think I did a good job of refocusing.”

He hit his first dive for 42 points.

His second dive hit for 36 points and he closed out his home-pool career with 31.5 points on his third dive.

“I was rattled on that first drive,” Gabrielson said. “My spirits were a little bit down. I knew those last two dives would have to be on. My focus was just on the next dive.”

He jumped into fourth place with 388.05 points to advance to state. Kroetsch finished with 379.1 points and Watts moved to sixth with 372.25 points.

“I knew it was going to be close,” Gabrielson said. “We were all within a point of each other so I just wanted to hit my dives like I know how. I just moved the other kids out of the picture and focused on my own dives.


“It hasn’t sunk in really yet. I’m kind of still surprised. I’m just soaking it all in right now.”

The relay team on the podium smiling with their medals.
Brainerd's 200 freestyle relay team on the podium Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, during the Section 8-2A swimming and diving finals at Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Gabrielson is the first Warrior to advance to state in diving since Tim Whiteman in 2018.

“I was so happy for him and (diving) coach (Owen) Trout,” Brainerd head coach John Zemke said. “Wyatt has worked very hard all summer with coach Trout. I’m very proud of him.”

Gabrielson will join senior Mason Kuepers who completed the Section 8-2A champion sweep in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles. Kuepers held the fastest prelim times in both events and maintained his spot in Saturday’s finals. He won the 50 free with a pool record 21.61. He captured the 100 free in 46.97.

“He had me a little nervous in the 100 free, but he’s got that last 10 yards that he can really turn it on,” Zemke said. “He swam great four times and I know another week of rest, he’ll be faster.”

Cayden Sumption will also have a busy state meet as he qualified in both of his individual events. Sumption placed second in the 200 individual medley with a 2:01.99. He was also second in the 100 breaststroke with a 59.27.

“I’m so happy for Cayden,” Zemke said. “He worked so hard last summer. He had an awesome performance (Saturday). To see all that transpire was just special.”

Senior Parker Tatge will also be returning to the state meet. He placed second in the 500 freestyle with a time of 4:51.30. Tatge just missed a state double with a third-place showing in the 200 freestyle.


“As a coach, watching that event, it seems like an eternity,” Zemke said. “I’m so happy for Parker. He knew his splits. He had his goal time in mind all season. He worked hard and was mentally focused today and had a great race.”

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The top two individuals and relays advance to state in the swimming events along with those qualifying by state time standard.

Sophomore Nathan Chaussee just missed his first state individual appearance with his third-place 100 backstroke time of 55.91.

“Nathan really had a good meet and he brought that backstroke to a whole new level,” Zemke said. “To get 55 seconds in the 100 back is a very, very good time and we get him for two more years.”

Chaussee’s season is not over, however, as he teamed with Kuepers, Sumption and Sam McCulley to finish second in the 200 medley relay to advance. It’s the first time, other than the State True Team meet, that the medley relay didn’t place first. Buffalo stole that honor from the opening relay with a time of 1:39.91 to Brainerd’s 1:39.27.

“I was extremely concerned after the medley relay,” Zemke said. “Coming out of prelims we had a five-point lead. I thought we swam very well (Friday), which we did, but we only gained seven more points and 12 points can disintegrate quickly. As you saw in the medley. They gained six and we lost six. These guys really battled well, though. We swam fantastically and dove fantastically. It certainly helped that we were at home. It’s one of the better section final days that I’ve been a part of. It was a very satisfying day.”

Finishing off the state meet qualifiers is senior Nolan Thiesse, who jumped on to the 200 freestyle relay with Kuepers, Sumption and Tatge to land a second-place 1:29.72. Sartell won the event with a 1:28.44.

“We decided that Nolan and Sam (McCulley) have been posting similar times all season and we thought let’s just put one on one relay and the other on the other relay,” Zemke said. “That’s how it worked out and it worked out well.”


Zemke was named the Section 8-2A Co-Head Coach of the Year along with Dan Schirmer of Buffalo. Brainerd’s Owen Trout was named the Co-Diving Coach of the Year and Brainerd's assistant head coach Carl Schirmer was named the section Assistant Coach of the Year.

Team scores: 1-Brainerd 376, 2-Buffalo/Maple Lake 344, 3-Sartell 292, 4-Moorhead 277, 5-Elk River 244, 6-St. Michael-Albertville 240, 7-St. Cloud Tech/Cathedral/Rocori/Becker 221, 8-Bemidji 108

200 medley relay: 1-Buffalo 1:38.91, 2-Brainerd (Nathan Chaussee, Cayden Sumption, Mason Kuepers, Sam McCulley) 1:39.27

200 freestyle: 1-Micah Davis (St. Cloud) 1:39.56, 3-Parker Tatge (Brd) 1:48.02, 7-Logan Kuepers (Brd) 1:53.18, 14-Brooks Brichacek (Brd) 1:58.68

200 individual medley: 1-Cooper Polzin (Buffalo) 2:00.33, 2-Sumption 2:01.99, 10-Drew Haglin (Brd) 2:08.63, 11-Kyler Carlson (Brd) 2:10.59

50 freestyle: 1-Mason Kuepers 21.61, 10-Nolan Thiesse (Brd) 23.21, 13-McCulley 23.74

Diving: 1-Braden Lemke (St. Cloud) 471.95, 4-Wyatt Gabrielson (Brd) 388.05, 9-Nash Gabrielson (Brd) 324.75, 13-David Herath (Brd) 293.15, 14-Sebastian Tisdell (Brd) 261.8

100 butterfly: 1-Davis (St. Cloud) 49.2, 7-Haglin 56.02, 10-Chaussee 47.13, 12-Brenden Brichacek (Brd) 58.79


100 freestyle: 1-Mason Kuepers 46.97, 10-McCulley 51.78, 12-Thiesse 51.98

500 freestyle: 1-Truett Carlson (Sartell) 4:48.39, 2-Tatge 4:51.3, 5-Logan Kuepers 5:04.01, 14-Sam Mattson 5:25.67, 15-Brooks Brichacek 5:26.61

200 freestyle relay: 1-Sartell 1;28.44, 2-Brainerd (Mason Kuepers, Thiesse, Tatge, Sumption) 1;29.72

100 backstroke: 1-Rylan Close (Buffalo) 55.16, 3-Chaussee 55.91, 12-Alex Kuepers (Brd) 1:01.54, 14-Seston Thiesse 1:02.5

100 breaststroke: 1-Aiden Carlson (Moorhead) 58.57, 2-Sumption 59.27, 6-Brenden Brichacek 1:04.58, 9-Atreyu Marcelo (Brd) 1:05.97, 15-Carlson 1:09.09

400 freestyle relay: 1-Sartell 3:15.17, 5-Brainerd (McCulley, Thiesse, Tatge, Spencer Porter) 3:24.22

Next: Brainerd in Class 2A State meet at University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, Minneapolis. Class 2A state diving prelims will be 6 p.m. Thursday, March 2; Class 2A state swimming prelims will be 6 p.m. Friday, March 3; Class 2A state swimming and diving finals will be 6 p.m. Saturday, March 4.

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


Parker Tatge swims the 500 freestyle.
Brainerd's Parker Tatge swims in 500 freestyle Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, during the Section 8-2A swimming and diving finals at Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

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