Andrew Wilson Embraces Rare NCAA Division III Path to National Team

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Andrew Wilson will compete at the World Championships this month. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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When you look down the list of Team USA and the swimmers qualified for the 2019 FINA World Championships, most of the names are familiar elite swimmers who dominated at the NCAA Division I level — except Andrew Wilson.

Swimmers like Katie Ledecky, Caeleb Dressel, Nathan Adrian, Lilly King, Ryan Murphy, Simone Manuel, and others, have been well-known talents since their high school days, went to powerful college programs and have been among the world’s best for years.

Andrew Wilson is different.

He was a strong high school swimmer, but opted to pick his college with a different angle and headed to Emory University, an NCAA Division III power in Atlanta, where he won Division III national titles in both breaststroke events.

“I looked at a couple of DIII schools and Emory was what I liked. My main focus was school at that point. I loved the school, but also the swim program,” Wilson told Swimming World.

Now, four years later, the Athens Bulldog Swim Club member is headed to the World Championships — and it isn’t his first. After earning two medals at the 2018 FINA Short Course World Championships, he will compete in the 100 and 200 breast in Gwangju. His career bests are 59.19 in the 100 breast, set in March, and 2:08.37 in the 200 breast, set in August.

“It is always an honor to put on the USA cap. It is a great chance to represent my country doing something that I love,” Wilson said. “ It is kind of crazy to think about. It is never something I expected to be doing growing up. You have dreams of it, but every time you put it on, it’s really special.”

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Andrew Wilson at Emory; Photo Courtesy: UAA Sports

Wilson starred at Emory and continued to pick up speed.

“I didn’t realize it was possible until it happened. In summer of 2015 when I went 59.6 for the first time was when I realized it was pretty real now,” Andrew Wilson said.

What happened that summer?

Wilson began training with Eddie Reese at Texas.

“I talked with Eddie and like the program. In Division III, your coach can’t train you out of season, and I was looking to train with another college program in the summer,” Wilson said. “I had a good summer, so I decided to stay for the Olympic year. I loved swimming at Texas, but I moved to Georgia this fall because I needed a change. It was more about the positives of Georgia. It is a great pro group.

“As for the big jump, in 2015, I think it was a culmination of a few years of work, not just one summer. I have been blessed with great coaches and people to train with my whole career and credit them with my progression.”

He then took fourth at the 2016 Olympic trials in the 200 breast and fifth in the 100 breast.

Being able to be a part of Team USA for world championships is something most Division III swimmers wouldn’t dream of. Wilson wants that to change.

“I probably don’t look back on it as much as I should. Every once in a while, a kid will come up to me and tell me they are a DIII swimmer. I always love that. DIII might not be as fast as DI, but the kids are still working just as hard and putting in a lot of time. People should never put a limit on their dreams,” Andrew Wilson said.

His dream’s aren’t finished either. Wilson wants to be saying the same thing about Division III swimmers at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020.

“My goal is to make the Olympic team next year. I don’t think that is a secret,” he said. “For this year, I would really like to medal internationally. That would be great. I want to do as well as I can representing Team USA.”

Check out more Andrew Wilson and world championship coverage here.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

9 comments

  1. Good luck, Andrew! JV to varsity at Andover to walking-on at Emory to being on the National Team—inspiring to not just D3 swimmers!

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