Desmon Sachtjen’s commitment to swimming leads to success and a Big Ten home
Nothing helps a rebuilding program more than having a top-level NCAA talent on the roster.
For the Sauk Prairie co-op boys swimming team, University of Minnesota recruit Desmon Sachtjen has been just the leader the Eagles needed.
The Eagles program — which includes swimmers from Lodi and Wisconsin Heights — closed out 2018 with an eighth-place finish in the WIAA Division 1 state meet, the team’s highest finish since 2010.
“I’m a competitive person, but this team brought a lot of competitiveness out of me,” Sachtjen said. “Swimming with the guys last year, they’re all about who’s better, who’s the best — and that absolutely brought the competition out of myself.”
Sachtjen finished in the top five in both of his individual events, taking third in the 200-yard individual medley and fifth in the 100 backstroke. And a stacked senior class also helped the Eagles finish in the top eight in all three relay events.
Last year, Sachtjen was the only non-senior to qualify for state. This year, with eight top swimmers lost to graduation, Sachtjen is expected to be the Eagles’ only state qualifier — but that hasn’t stopped him and his young teammmates from exceeing expectations with what many, including coach Todd Wuerger, expected to be a longer rebuilding process.
“We thought it was going to be a lot harder than it was,” Wuerger said of his team’s rebuilding project. “But in the end, we were able to secure a third straight (Badger North) conference title.”
Sachtjen has long defied convention and expectations. Swimming tends to be dominated by athletes who have been working with top-tier clubs for up to a decade before starting high school, but Sachtjen didn’t make club swimming a priority until his sophomore year.
Before that, he was the model of the two-sport athlete, playing football in the fall and swimming in the winter. Sachtjen’s father, Karl, is the offensive coordinator for WIAA Division 4 powerhouse Lodi, where Sachtjen goes to school.
After his sophomore season as an offensive lineman for Lodi, Sachtjen chose to commit to swimming full-time — crediting his decision to a trip to the top of the awards stand in the 2017 state meet.
“Sophomore year, we actually won the medley relay at state,” Sachtjen said. “I knew I could go somewhere in swimming, but after that year’s state, I kind of thought to myself: ‘I have potential to do something in this sport, but to do so I would have to give up something I love.’”
Although Sachtjen only recently dived headlong into club swimming, competing with the McFarland Spartan Sharks, Wuerger was impressed.
“When we got him, he was probably one of the top age-group swimmers in the country,” Wuerger said. “He would go to these national meets and finish in the top five — just really, really gifted in the sport of swimming.”
Despite all the accolades, Wuerger feels Sachtjen will have room to grow when he becomes a Big Ten swimmer.
“He is, in my opinion, a college coach’s dream, because he hasn’t done a ton of what I would consider training in the offseason,” Wuerger said. “So when he gets to that level, he’s just going to improve even more.”