The top swimmers in the U.S. have given the old-fashioned breast-stroke a new look. Submerging at first only between strokes, racers discovered through the years that by staying completely under, they could cut seconds from their times. Few racers have had more success with the technique than Al Wiggins (see cover), the best all-round swimmer in the U.S., and the man Ohio State is counting on in its defense of the NCAA swimming title at New Haven March 29-31.
Underwater racing is only the latest of Wiggins' extraordinary list of achievements. At the beginning of the current season, he already held two world records in the surface-thrashing butterfly. He was second in the world in the backstroke, a freestyler of championship caliber, and American record holder in the 150-yard individual medley, which combines all three strokes.
This year officials lengthened the medley by 50 yards by adding the breaststroke. So Wiggins, who had never tried the stroke before, went underwater and posted another record in the four-stroke event.
At New Haven, Ohio State will need every point its versatile star can produce. Coach Mike Peppe has calculated that his Buckeyes need 72 points to gain even a tie with the powerful Yale squad, which, says Peppe, is so strong in the freestyle sprints that "they could start a relay and keep it going round the world." Peppe concedes, however, that his own superb divers should offset Yale's advantage. After that, it is largely up to Wiggins. NCAA rules limit a competitor to only three events. Otherwise, Peppe says, "I could use Al in 10 of the 14 events."