Diving Into the Future: Wenzel Balances Demanding Sport with Demanding Major

Tyler Wenzel stands on a diving board almost 10 feet above the smaller of the two swimming pools in the McCann Natatorium.

It’s a Saturday in the middle of January, but the air in and around the pool area feels as hot and humid as ever.

In the time it takes him to make the three-meter ascent to the diving board, Wenzel gets himself prepared for what he’s about to attempt. When he reaches the top, he closes his eyes, centers himself, visualizes the dive, and tells himself to be confident.

Diving is very much a mental sport. Raislan Aiken, Marist men’s and women’s diving coach, calls diving “90 percent mental and 10 percent physical.”

Aiken, who graduated from Marist in 2020, can break down any type of dive in painstaking detail.

Take a reverse dive, the team’s least favorite. As Aiken says, “there’s a lot of different things that make the dive great.”

Before Wenzel or any other diver has even begun the descent toward the pool, they must consider their placement on the board, their arm swing, where their shoulders are, and where their head is.

Once the diver leaves the board, things only get more complicated. How tight of a tuck or a pike will they attempt? What about their spotting capabilities?

When a diver spots, they pick a mark that helps them know when to pull out of their dive. Then, there’s true spotting, when you see everything. Aiken considers any athlete with this ability to be Olympic-caliber.

Spotting makes up most of the middle of the dive. At the end of a reverse dive, the diver must kick with a strong core, have their legs and glutes squeezed, get their hands lined up, and squeeze their biceps just behind their ears while looking so that their arms are locked out so that they can lift the entry into the pool.

With all this in mind, Wenzel springs off the board. It’s been a long road to get to this moment.

Not a long metaphorical road. Well, sure, one of those too. 

But for Wenzel, a native of Middletown, CT, the days leading up to his final home meet were filled with anxiety and anticipation (not to mention practices he had to make up) because of an interview to get into a Ph.D. program for biology at Penn State University. 

On top of the nerves, there was the logistical dilemma of driving four hours to the middle of Pennsylvania on a Thursday night and then making it back before Saturday afternoon.

The planned process called for Wenzel to interview on Friday and Saturday, but he knew that wouldn’t work.

“I had to coordinate with the director that I wasn’t going to be there on Saturday, and they were able to work with my schedule,” Wenzel said. “I ended up interviewing at Penn State all day on Friday, five interviews back to back with facilities tours and everything… and I ended up getting back at Marist around 12:30 on Saturday morning.”

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, he was up to prepare for the meet.

“It was a quick turnaround, very little sleep,” he said. “I think that whole week, I probably slept five to six hours every night. So not ideal, but you know, in order to balance where I am now and what I want to do in the future, it was necessary, and I would do it again.”

Every Division I student-athlete has the unenviable task of balancing success in the classroom with competing at the highest collegiate level.

A look at Wenzel’s Monday schedule shows that he has to balance more than the average student-athlete.

8:00 – 9:15 a.m.: Biology capping.

9:30 – 12:15 p.m: Teaching assistant for a molecular biology lab

12:30 – 2:00 p.m.: A break (if he’s lucky)

2:00 -3:15 p.m: Class

3:30 – 4:45 p.m.: Get homework done

5:00 – 6:15 p.m.: Class

6:15 – 8:00 p.m.: Practice 

There are some days when Wenzel will be out of the house for 12 or more hours at a time. Making sure to take time for himself is how he handles the stress of a busy schedule.

“I normally like to just take some time for myself at night where I don’t focus on schoolwork. I don’t think about anything else that’s going on and get to take an hour or two to do whatever I want to do,” Wenzel said. “So whether that be hanging out with friends, or watching TV or a movie, or going for a drive and getting some food. I think that’s what keeps me sane.”

Wenzel’s love for science was born at a young age. His father, Zane, works at Pfizer and helped bring science into his son’s life at a young age.

“He is 100 percent the reason why I’m interested in science,” Wenzel said. “He would come to my elementary school classes and teach everyone how to make slime or something like that. I just thought it was so cool.”

To this day, when something goes wrong in the lab, Zane is the one that gets the call.

Wenzel’s passion for his field of study, outstanding grades, and family connection helped land him an internship at Pfizer in the summer of 2021. During his time in Groton, CT, at Pfizer’s headquarters, Wenzel formed a bond with one of his father’s co-workers, Michel Guiraldelli, who he calls his “main mentor in life.”

When the summer of 2022 rolled around, Wenzel had other offers, but the chance to go back to Pfizer and work with Guiraldelli for a second time was too good to pass up.

“The group I worked in (at Pfizer) was amazing and helped me develop a lot of skills that I’ve taken forward into school here,” Wenzel said. “I’m very thankful for my time there. I might end up there one day again. We’ll see.”

Wenzel’s path to getting involved in diving wasn’t so clear. He had done gymnastics for nearly a decade but not competitively, stopping in middle school.

As he remembers it, he didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. His younger brother Logan’s (who now pitches at Central Connecticut State) baseball coach also coached diving at Middletown High.

“I was with my mom at my brother’s baseball game one day, and she’s talking to (Logan’s) coach,” Wenzel says. “She mentioned that I did gymnastics, and he comes over and says, ‘Hey Tyler, nice to meet you. I’m Matt Quinn; you’re going to try out for the diving team when you get to high school.’ So he wasn’t giving me much of an option.”

It was an arranged marriage. But a successful one. Wenzel was far from a fish out of water when it came to his new sport.

“Once I joined my freshman year, I knew it was my sport,” Wenzel said. “I did really well my freshman year in high school, put up some big scores.”

He would go on to break multiple records at his high school, but diving competitively in college wasn’t on his radar until his brother sat him down and told him he was good enough to make it at the Division I level.

Marist was already on Wenzel’s radar academically. A chance to dive just sweetened the deal.

“I remember telling my coach that my recruiting visit felt like coming home,” Wenzel said. “It just felt like everything made sense. I met so many great people, and they made me feel like Marist was 100 percent the place for me.”

Wenzel’s host that weekend was Aiken, who was a senior captain during Wenzel’s freshman year. Aiken was hired as the team’s head coach before the 2021-22 season and has seen his former teammate blossom into a team leader.

“I think this year, he stepped into more of a leadership role,” Aiken said. “He doesn’t really speak out as much, but I think he definitely has got more of a voice as the season went on. And then, there’s things like helping organize team events or telling people to show up to lift and just holding everybody accountable.”

For Wenzel, the accolades have come with time. He won Rookie Diver of the Meet at the MAAC Championships in 2020, and after the 2021-22 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wenzel established himself as one of the best divers in the conference in his junior year, excelling from the three-meter position, winning several meets and placing third at MAACs.

Despite being busy with the grind of bio and preparing for Ph.D. programs, Wenzel has been just as good in 2022-23.

He won the three-meter against Fordham, then swept both platforms in back-to-back meets against Fairfield and Colgate. For his efforts, he took home back-to-back MAAC Diver of the Week awards in early November.

It’s only a few seconds between the time Wenzel jumps off the board and when he enters the pool. He’s planned and visualized, but now he has to execute.

Wenzel does all of this in one fluid motion. Today, he isn’t at his absolute best, but his second place in the one-meter and third in the three-meter helped Marist men’s swim and dive to an easy victory over Bryant on senior day.

A few weeks later, at the MAAC Championships in Buffalo, Wenzel qualified for the final in both diving events, placing fifth in the three-meter as the team placed second in the competition.

Since his senior meet back in January, Wenzel has received two acceptance letters for Ph.D. programs—one from UConn and one, of course, from Penn State. 

Saying goodbye to his athletic career has been bittersweet, but Wenzel is excited for what comes next.

“I’m pretty content with my diving career and ending that chapter at Marist,” he said. “I’ve set myself up for a good future. I enjoy doing science, and it’s something I see myself doing for a very long time. From there, who knows? I’ll go wherever the winds take me.”

Edited by Andrew Hard

Photo from Marist Athletics

Author: Jonathan Kinane

I'm a senior from Syracuse, NY, studying sports communication and journalism. I consider myself a die-hard Syracuse University sports fan, but I also follow the Knicks, Giants, and Yankees in the professional ranks. Sports and writing have long been my passions and I am excited for another year with Center Field.

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