Nov. 29, 2010
Notre Dame men’s senior diver Wesley Villaflor enters his final season at Notre Dame ranked as one of the top divers in the BIG EAST and will look to continue to make his mark on the national level. The 2010 BIG EAST men’s diver of the year and the reigning conference champion in both the 1-meter and 3-meter dives, Villaflor is a marketing major in the Mendoza College of Business at Notre Dame. The Golf, Ill., native led Irish divers at last year’s NCAA Zone Diving Championships after amassing 15-top three performances in the dual meet season during his junior campaign. This season the Notre Dame men’s swimming and diving team is off to a 3-2 start and will next be in action Dec. 3-5 at the Iowa Invitational in Iowa City, Ia. Villaflor sat down with und.com’s Maura Jones last week to talk about his diving and his four years at Notre Dame.
When and why did you first become interested in swimming/diving? After practicing gymnastics for a number of years as a child, I decided to quit and look for a new sport that interested me. While I was swimming in my sister’s godmother’s pool one summer, I began to do my gymnastics skills off the diving board. Since I was between sports she suggested that my mom sign me up for diving lessons. I began lessons at a local club at the age of 10, and I have been competing ever since.
Did you have any childhood swimming and diving dreams? If so, what were they and where did they come from? As with any young athlete, my childhood dream was always to be the best. I always dreamed of being in the Olympics when I was younger. That is the highest achievement to strive for in a sport like diving that does not have a professional league of any sort.
Who is one professional swimmer or diver that you looked/look up to? One diver that I look up to is David Boudia, who competed in the 2012 Olympics. In addition to being a really nice guy and a great competitor, I admire David for his form and his ability to remain composed in any diving competition.
What has your experience diving at Notre Dame been like? Being a member of the Notre Dame diving team has been my favorite aspect of my college experience. Though being on a varsity team requires a great deal of time, I consider the hours I spend diving like a break from school and schoolwork. It’s a time when I get to socialize with my family away from home and a time when I can clear my mind of any stress or worry.
How do you become mentally prepared to dive? Any rituals or routines you do before getting on or while you are on the diving board? Throughout my college career, I have come to realize that I compete at my top level when I perceive the meet to be a carefree environment. I found that making conversation and making friends with my competitors is the best way to create this relaxed environment for myself. In order to prepare for a specific dive, I think through a few corrections that will fix my takeoff. The takeoff is the most important part of a dive, because it has such a large influence on the overall execution of the dive. If I concentrate on the beginning of my dive, the rest of the dive will generally take care of itself.
How do you usually feel right before you take a dive? Immediately before a dive, I generally feel very nervous. My heart starts racing and my muscles become tight. Diving, however, is different from many other sports, because you do not want to be “pumped up” for your dive. In order to achieve the ideal relaxed state, we were taught to take two or three deep breathes. This really helps calm both my mind and my body, so that I have the best chance at performing my dive well.
What does it feel like to be a Big East gold medalist? It still feels somewhat surreal to have that title, because as a freshman my goal for my four years was to place in the top three at Big East. As a freshman on the diving team, I was nowhere near the best diver on the team, and after the big senior class graduated it was time for everyone to step up and fill their big shoes. It’s reassuring to know that I exceeded the goal I set for myself during my freshman year. One big challenge that divers face in competition is hitting all six dives without missing one or two. It always seems that there is that one dive that did not go as well as you had hoped going into the meet. On both the one and three meter events at Big East last year, I was able to put together a solid list of six dives that I was proud of, which gives me confidence going into competitions this year.
Does the diving team have any traditions or inside jokes that you can tell us about? A few years back, the diving team started the tradition of “Man Week” during Fall Break, because we have to stay here to train. In our free time during this week, we watch man movies, like “Braveheart,” or any other manly things we can come up with. Throughout the week we’ll give each other man points or negative man points. Somehow or another I always end up getting a lot of negative man points and losing man week. It’s something I’ve just come to accept.
What was the best diving meet that you ever had? Why was it the best? I would say that my best diving meet was Big East last year, because of the team’s meet performance and the group of guys we competed against. Because we see these divers every year at Big East, we become friends with our competitors. Last year was a great group of guys who were very fun to compete with. Along with this, I think the divers did well as a whole. Each of us competed at the top of our ability level, which was really cool to experience.
Against whom have you experienced the stiffest competition in a meet? Honestly, I think that my stiffest competition often comes from within my own team. There are a number of us on the diving team that compete at a very similar level, so from meet to meet we challenge one another. Of course there are meets when we compete against incredible divers, but I feel that the best competition comes from those divers with similar abilities. We have that everyday on our own pool deck.
Do you have any future goals for your diving career? If so, what are they? As with any senior, I want this year to be the best year for me individually and the team as a whole, especially for the seniors. I know many members of the diving team are consistently close to qualifying for NCAAs, so I would love to see at least one, if not more, of the our divers compete at NCAAs. As for post-graduation I do not have any plans to continue diving. As the seniors on the diving team like to say, we are on our farewell tour, so it’s each of our last chances to accomplish everything we can during this year and enjoy the sport.
What is your major at Notre Dame, and what is the best thing about it? I am majoring in Marketing and minoring in Gender Studies. I really enjoy Marketing, because I feel it is the side of business that brings me closest to the customer or consumer and allows me to be somewhat creative. Gender Studies is a great minor for me, because it allows me to enroll in courses from a variety of disciplines that interest me. I also find that the knowledge I learn from Gender Studies helps me in almost every non-Gender Studies course in some way or another.
Why did you choose Notre Dame? Notre Dame was actually the only school that I took a recruiting trip for, and I felt that the diving team was a good fit for what I was looking for in a diving team as far as size and other qualities. I was also drawn to this school because of its impressive educational reputation as a top university. After all, our main objective in attending college is to obtain a great education and future.
What is your favorite thing to do with your friends when you’re not studying or practicing? Just as any other group of friends, we enjoy getting together to simply hang out, watch movies, or anything that comes up, like running to Walmart. Whatever we do together, we always seem to make some fun out of it and enjoy the experience.
How does it feel to be a senior? Being a senior honestly does not feel very different for me, because I still tend to hold myself to the same schedule I had in previous years. There is a constant thought in my head reminding me that this will all soon come to an end. To go along with that thought is the excitement of the big shift out of college and into the “real world”.
What is the most important thing that you will take away from your time at Notre Dame? The most important thing that I will take from Notre Dame is a diploma. Specifically, I would like to keep the knowledge that I gained during my time at Notre Dame, but, more importantly, I want to take away the close friendships that I made here and remember some of the lessons that I learned through each of my experience.
What are your goals for after you graduate? Since I will be living in a new city, one of my major goals after graduating is to become a part of that city.