PHS' Wohlrab Earns All-American in 100-Yard Breaststroke
Kurt Wohlrab Jr. was on a mission last weekend.
The Pinecrest junior’s goal going into the NCHSAA 4A State Swimming and Diving Championships at Cary’s Triangle Aquatic Center was to automatically qualify as an All-American in the 100-yard breaststroke. The year before, he narrowly missed out on the honor.
But this year, there was no doubt. Wohlrab qualified in the preliminary round with a time of 57.36 seconds. In the finals he posted a time of 57.22 seconds, coming up just short of a state championship in the event. Green Hope’s Dominick Glavich edged him with a time of 56.83.
Wohlrab becomes the first Pinecrest swimmer to become an All-American. A humble young man, who is also a wide receiver on the football team and a National Honor Society member, he said achieving the goal was a relief more than anything.
“This year I made the automatic cut, and last year I made the consideration cut,” he said during an interview at The O’Neal School’s pool Wednesday. “I did a lot of waiting to see if I made it — I think it’s like the top 30 from that consideration cut that make All-American — and not making, missing by like a couple of tenths of a second (last year).
“Getting it this year was actually a really big relief. It was nice to see the time up on the board that it was the automatic All-American cut.”
Wohlrab has been swimming since he was four and comes from an aquatic family
— his older sister Meagan and younger sister Lauren swim, too. Before coming here, he was a state champion in Hawaii.
He and his family moved to the area about four years ago. His dad, Kurt Sr., is an orthopedic surgeon. His mom, Julie, said that the strong Sandhills Sandsharks swimming program was a big factor when relocating to the area.
“I literally go to school, come to swimming, go home, do my schoolwork, go to sleep,” Kurt Jr. said. “Swimming’s kind of my life year-round.”
Pinecrest swimming coach Carmen Miller said it was difficult to see Wohlrab’s disappointment when he fell just short of All-American last season, but said he came back this year even more determined than she had ever seen him.
“He is an outstanding athlete and yet he doesn’t have the arrogance of great athletes,” she said. “He very respectful to his teammates and those he competes against.”
Taylor Cooper, director and senior coach of the Sandsharks, said that Wohlrab takes a very cerebral approach to swimming and possesses a coach’s mind. He added that he also has a tremendous work ethic.
“He’s into it,” he said. “He’s like a quarterback in football or a kid who wants to be a manager someday in baseball. That kind of mind. He’s very much up on what everyone else is doing and looking at the statistics.”
Cooper said that it’s much more difficult to qualify as an All-American now. Up until a few years ago, public and private schools were separated, but now they’re combined and take only the top 150 swimmers in each event.
Wohlrab becomes the eighth Sandshark to become an All-American. O'Neal's Doak Finch earned the designation seven times.
Wohlrab manages to light up the swimming pool despite taking four months off from competitive swimming every fall to play football, though he tries to get in the pool as much as he can.
He said playing two sports helps him manage time better and makes him well rounded. He said the training for each sport, while different, can help the other.
“It’s a nice break,” he said. “I think I’ve needed it, probably to keep up with what I’ve been doing with swimming.”
Wohlrab is just as well-regarded on the football field as he is in the pool.
“Kurt is an amazing person and student athlete,” head football coach Chris Metzger said. “He is a tireless worker in the pool and everywhere. He is a program leader for us and more importantly a community leader. We are all very excited for him and his awesome family.”
The next big meet on the calendar for Wohlrab is a long course meet down in Florida in a few weeks. But he’s already looking ahead to August when he’ll compete in nationals, which will be held at Stanford University. The best of the best in the sport — from Michael Phelps on down — will be there.
“It’s a whole different atmosphere,” he said. “Going to junior nationals is a whole different step up from any of the North Carolina stuff, but going from that to watching everybody that shows up at finals to watch you swim, hearing the big names, watching them on the pool deck, it’s just a whole different atmosphere. You can feel that you’ve got to be on your ‘A game’ to do what you want to do there, because the best of the best and everybody’s there.”
Though it’s still early in the college recruitment process, Wohlrab is beginning to hear from schools. It’s always been his goal to get a scholarship to college, whether for academics or athletics.
He also has his sights set on the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“He’s the type of kid you want to put out there as an example,” Cooper said.
Contact John Krahnert III at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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