Shouldering The Load
Junior survives shoulder surgery, is intent on making impact in 2007-08
Sept. 19, 2007
By Erin Tulley
Purdue sports information student assistant
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Emily Wetzel looks back with fondness regarding her first memories as a Boilermaker. She was a freshman underdog on a team stocked with veteran talent and led by a enthusiastic first-year head coach, who has since developed her into one of Purdue's most skilled platform artists.
"I remember it being so cool to be able to work with Adam (Soldati) and be part of this team, which has shot through the roof," said Wetzel, who is starting her junior season. "He instills so much confidence in his athletes; it has been exciting watching this team grow."
Wetzel is part of a Purdue diving renaissance, which began with the addition of All-American Carrie McCambridge in 2002 and the completion of the Boilermaker Aquatic Center a year prior.
Since McCambridge's arrival, the Purdue diving program has become one of great distinction, as it's collected numerous All-America and honorable mention All-America citations, plus Big Ten titles and honors such as diver of the year and diver of the championships.
Wetzel added to the program's prestige last season as she qualified for her first NCAA Championship on the last day of Region C Zones, placing third off the tower with 512.50 points.
Wetzel's still watching her team grow, but she's doing it from the sidelines as she recovers from March shoulder surgery. Wetzel hopes to be training on all dives within the next six weeks.
"Despite how much I love watching my team improve and train, it's been really hard to be around the pool without being able to get in the water," said Wetzel, who had been experiencing off-and-on shoulder problems since February of 2005.
At first, Wetzel attempted to rehab the shoulder through physical therapy, but it eventually gave out after she tore her labrum shortly following this year's Big Ten competition. Wetzel went on to dive at Zones and NCAA's in spite of the injury.
The surgery, while it has delayed Wetzel's training at times this offseason, should provide a boost to the remaining years of her collegiate career.
"My shoulder put limitations on my diving in previous years, so it's nice to have the security knowing that it's fixed, and with time I will be able to try all the things I've wanted to," said Wetzel.
With a goal to peak at the this season's Big Ten Championships, Wetzel has been training in the weight room and will soon be preparing her dive sets in order to get them competition ready. She is currently working off the 1-meter springboard, and will continue to move up as her shoulder allows.
Wetzel is excited to see what she can do off the springboards, but her passion remains on the tower, where she always perform her best. The season's biggest reward from all the hard work in rehab will come when she's able to execute her favorite dive - an inward 3 and ½ off the 10-meter platform.
Wetzel attributes her positive attitude toward the apprehension of tower diving to coach Soldati, saying, "He makes the sport so fun you forget about the fear."
When it comes time to get in the right mindset for a big dive, Wetzel counts to three before launching herself off the platform.
"It's taken me two years to figure out a routine before a meet and I've realized that I need to just step back and stay calm or else I'll get too hyped up and become shaky on the board," said Wetzel, who also utilizes music as part of her pre-dive customs.
Wetzel's current favorite track is Kanye West's, `Never Let Me Down'.
"There's a line in the song that goes, `determination, dedication, motivation,' and that always inspires me to focus on my performance and remember the hard work and practice that was put in for it."
Wetzel's hard work through practices, weight training and rehab should put her in a position to pick up where she left off this past spring. However, the toughest part for her will be staying patient through the recovery process.
Two years removed from her first memories as a freshman, Wetzel has reassumed an underdog role as she watches the Boilermakers take flight from the tower while she waits her turn.
But with the enthusiasm and positive energy of her teammates always pushing her forward, Wetzel will soon return to the water at full strength and start creating a new series of memories to reflect upon with other divers of the Purdue renaissance.