Boys Swimming and Diving: Warriors ready for another successful state meet

Seven Brainerd Warriors will be competing in eight events during the Class 2A State Swimming and Diving Meet.

State Preview photos
State-bound Brainerd Warrior swimmers Parker Tatge, left, Nolan Thiesse, Nate Chaussee, Cayden Sumption, Mason Kuepers, Sam McCulley, and diver Wyatt Gabrielson take to the podium Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, at the Brainerd High School pool.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — This time the Brainerd Warriors not only have quality, but they’re bringing numbers, too.

Last year, Brainerd recorded a program-best sixth-place finish with just four swimmers. This year, Brainerd will be swimming with six guys and will also have a diver competing in eight total events at the Class 2A State Swimming and Diving Meet, which will open 6 p.m. Thursday, March 2 and will conclude Saturday, March 4, at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.

“This doesn’t happen very often as normally we’re going down with three or four kids and maybe five,” Brainerd head coach John Zemke said. “Seven is our largest number probably since 2009. It’s fun. They all get along great. They’re all good kids and we’re looking forward to a great experience for them.”

Brainerd’s foursome of Nathan Chaussee, Cayden Sumption, Mason Kuepers and Sam McCulley swam a second-place 1:39.27 in the 200-yard medley relay in the Secton 8-2A meet. That has the Warriors seeded 17th for Friday's prelims.

The top 16 teams from prelims will advance to Saturday’s finals. The top eight will swim for a chance at state glory. Teams in ninth through 16th place in Friday’s prelims compete in the consolation finals.


“We always want to be seeded higher and our time in prelims would bump us up a couple of notches,” Zemke said. “Obviously, we’re going to have to improve on that to get into that top 16, but hopefully that extra week of rest will have us going faster and we can swim a second day.

“I really do think this relay can go faster. I think another week of rest is going to help. Nathan’s prelim time was faster than in the finals. If he can hit s prelim time again and the other guys can improve a little bit, we’ll hopefully move up a little bit.”

Sumption will then compete in the 200 individual medley. The senior captain placed second in the Section 8-2A meet Saturday, Feb. 25. He is seeded 18th with his 2:01.99. Buffalo’s Cooper Polzin, who beat Sumption for the section title, is seeded 16th. Eden Prairie’s Luke Logue owns the top seed time of 1:51.34.

“Hopefully he can clean up a few things,” Zemke said. “It’s going to take a lot as he’s less than a few seconds away so Cayden is going to have to improve on some things and hopefully that will happen. Maybe somebody will have a false start and he’ll move up and get to swim a second day.”

Brainerd’s last swimmer before diving will be Kuepers, who is seeded ninth in the 50 freestyle. Kuepers won the section title with a 21.61. Spring Lake Park’s Braden Ripkin owns the top time of 21.21.

In last year’s state meet, Kuepers finished ninth after watching former teammates Cade Rosenthal and Thomas Ruhl make the championship finals.

“We’re going off of last year and he had season-best swims on both days and we’re kind of banking on that again,” Zemke said. “We’re excited. He’s in a good spot. Second place is literally four-tenths of a second away. Hopefully, he can move up on his place and solidify his school records in both the 50 and 100.”

Kuepers will also be the first to swim after diving. He owns the fourth fastest 100 freestyle time of 46.97, which he used to win the section title. The top seed time is from Lakeville South’s Gage Boushee who posted a 46.18.


For the first time since 2018, Brainerd will have a diver competing in Thursday’s prelims. Senior Wyatt Gabrielson advanced to his first state meet after placing fourth in the Section 8-2A meet.

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Thursday is broken down into a five-dive prelim where the field is cut from its initial 32 divers. That is followed by a three-dive semifinal to narrow the field to 16 for Saturday’s three-dive final.

“I think he’s going to do great down there,” Zemke said. “He’s going to nail his dives. He’s been on that board a few times in his career. I really think that’s going to be a great thing. He’s going to have a good day and (diving coach Owen) Trout will get his dives lined up correctly and we’ll be good to go.”

Parker Tatge is going to go back-to-back in his two state events. The senior owns the 13th fastest 500 freestyle time of 4:51.3. Sartell’s Truett Carlson, who topped Tatge in the section meet is 12th. Edina’s Jiarui Xue has the fastest time with a 4:34.74.

“I think he’s about five or six seconds off of his goal time so if he archives that he’ll be swimming a second day and that’s always our goal,” Zemke said. “He’s swimming well. We’ll work on some repeats this week and he should be ready to go this weekend.”

Tatge will then team up with Sumption, Kuepers and senior Nolan Thiesse for the 200 freestyle relay.

Brainerd is seeded 17th with a 1:29.72. Minnetonka owns the fastest time of 1:26.05. The 16th fastest time is owned by Bloomington Jefferson at 1:29.53.

“What we’re hoping for is a faster time,” Zemke said. “Mason led off that relay with his fastest time of the season with a 21.52 so hopefully we can get those other guys to go a little faster. We can maybe speed up our turns a little bit and improve on that and make it back to Day Two.”


The day’s final event with a Warrior in it will be the 100 breaststroke and Sumption. He’s seeded 10th with his section runner-up time of 59.27. There are only 16 swimmers in this event, which means Sumption is assured a second-day swim, but whether it’s in the championship or consolation finals will be determined Friday.

Jack Hackler of Waconia owns the top time of 57.14. Max Scheurer of Centennial has the eighth fastest time with a 58.57.

“A great swim and maybe he can crack into the All-State Top eight and that would be tremendous,” Zemke said. “He’s a bigger guy, too, and spent a lot of time on the weights and so an extra week of rest could be helpful. It would be awesome to see him sneak into the eighth spot.”

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

State Swimming and Diving

Who: Brainerd’s Mason Kuepers, Cayden Sumption, Parker Tatge, Nathan Chaussee, Sam McCulley, Nolan Thiesse and Wyatt Gabrielson

When: Class 2A diving prelims 6 p.m. Thursday, March 2; Class 2A swimming prelims 6 p.m. Friday, March 3, Class 2A finals 6 p.m. Saturday, March 4

Where: The University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, Minneapolis

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