Don Ketchum
Former Staff Writer,

Record-setting swimmer Messerschmidt signs with Cal

November 10, 2010 by Don Ketchum, AZPreps365

By Don Ketchum
There were a lot of Arizona athletes who signed a college letter of intent on Wednesday (Nov. 10), but few perhaps carried the same weight as that of Tyler Messerschmidt.
The 18-year-old senior at Goodyear Desert Edge not only is one of the top swimmers in the state, he excels nationally and internationally and has a strong chance to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team for the 2012 Games in London.
But first things first.
With his family, high school coach (Melissa Selby), athletic director (Ryan Ridenour) and a few media members looking on at the Goodyear YMCA (Desert Edge’s home pool), Messerschmidt donned a blue and gold University of California (Berkeley) T-shirt and cap and signed a letter to become another key piece for the NCAA power.
Less than a week earlier, on Saturday (Nov. 6), the 6-foot-7, 210-pound Messerschmidt broke two state records (his own mark in the 200 freestyle) and  one previously held by Olympian Gary Hall Jr. (100 freestyle), at the Division I state meet in Mesa. Messerschmidt finished with six championships in his career.
Shortly after returning from a visit to Berkeley, Messerschmidt made his commitment. He felt he didn’t really need to see the other schools that were pursuing him, such as Florida, Georgia and USC.
“It was really an easy choice, one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever had to make,’’ he said. “I am so confident with my decision. It is perfect for me, for the swimming part of it and the fact that I don’t think I could get a better education.’’
He wants to study music, the production of it, because he wants to be a producer.
“I play drums. I played in a few bands,’’ Messerschmidt said. “Music is my outlet in life. It is my passion, making, creating . . .’’
It is a long way from where he started.
Messerschmidt’s maternal grandfather, Richard Wantz, told the story of when Tyler went to California for his first out-of-state meet and started to cry because he was so nervous. He was enjoying watching SpongeBob cartoons on the hotel TV.
Messerschmidt swam only for recreation until he joined a club team at age 12.
A year or so later, Selby was excited to see Messerschmidt come to an introductory meeting at the school. Word of his potential greatness was starting to spread.
“He lived close to the borderline between us and (Goodyear) Millennium. I was hoping he would swim for us. He was already about 6-1 or 6-2 (height),’’ Selby said.
“It’s been great to watch him make that progress since his freshman year. He’s kind of a laid-back guy, but he has a great work ethic. He relates well to the other swimmers. Then they see how good he is once he gets in the water. I’ve heard them joking about trying to get his autograph.’’
Selby added that Messerschmidt already has five “cuts,’’ or time standards, for the Olympics, but still would need to qualify at the Olympic Trials.
He swam year-round, for his high school and for his club team, the YMCA Westside Silver Fins. He looked at the dozens of young “dolphins’’ paddling and swimming laps nearby and remembered how he became hooked on swimming.
“I played other sports, but swimming came natural,’’ Messerschmidt said. “I started to realize that I could make something out of myself, believing more and more in myself and that if I continued to improve, I could go to school for it.’’
His said his favorite events “are anything sprint-related, freestyle, backstroke . . . I just want to be as versatile as I can.’’
The swimmer’s paternal grandparents, Gordon and Tonya, snapped photos on Wednesday. His father, Eric, and his mother, Allison, wore Cal T-shirts. Messerschmidt’s younger sister, Ashley, plays volleyball and softball at Desert Edge and youngest sister Sydnee likely will join the athletic ranks one day.
“I’m amazed and proud. He has worked hard for it,’’ Eric said. “Parents can take ’em to the pool and throw ’em in the water, but they ultimately decide what they want to do once they get in there.’’
“It’s a great day,’’ Allison said. “I’m proud of him. Some days, they take baby steps. Other days, they take bigger steps.’’
Nutrition also is a key. Tyler likes to eat right?
“Nonstop. It’s unbelievable,’’ Eric said.
“He likes those big burgers at Chili’s (restaurant). Everything goes through Chili’s,’’ Allison said.
Messerschmidt has been compared to Hall a bit, but more so to Olympic Gold Medal record-holder Michael Phelps because both are tall (Phelps is about 6-4) and have long wingspans.
But when asked which swimmers he has followed, Messerschmidt gave the names of two other Olympians.
“Aaron Peirsol and Ryan Lochte,’’ he said. “They dominate. They do everything right. I respect them  for who they are and what they have accomplished.’’
Messerschmidt said he is proud to have represented the United States in a few international meets, and is looking forward to his experience at Cal and perhaps beyond.
“It’s an exciting time in my swimming career,’’ he said.