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Wesleyan's McMurry a force in the freestyle

Wesleyan senior swimmer Anthony McMurry won the high school state championship in the 100 freestyle last season.

Wesleyan senior swimmer Anthony McMurry won the high school state championship in the 100 freestyle last season.

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Wesleyan School's swimmer Anthony McMurry, shown at the SwimAtlanta pool in Lawrenceville, led the Wolves to the Class AAAA-A state championship as a junior last season.

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Wesleyan School's standout swimmer Anthony McMurry practices at the SwimAtlanta pool in Lawrenceville. McMurry has signed with the Florida State swimming program.

Kevin Kadzis didn't have a great grasp on the Wesleyan roster when the private school hired him as the head swimming and diving coach after last season.

Previously the coach at Tucker, he was familiar with the Wolves' prowess as a team. And he did remember a few individuals, one boys swimmer in particular.

"I definitely knew about Anthony McMurry before I was hired at Wesleyan," the first-year Wesleyan coach said. "If you were a high school coach in Georgia, especially metro Atlanta, it would be hard not to know who Anthony McMurry was."

Kadzis found out more in the fall.

McMurry was on Wesleyan's club water polo team, using the sport as most Wolves swimmers do -- to have fun and get in shape for the high school season.

"It's a lot of fun and it's pretty crazy, too," McMurry said of water polo. "There's a lot of foul play under the water, but nobody takes it too seriously. We just have fun and it's good for training. It gets me in shape probably better than swim practice."

Water polo season also gave Kadzis a closer look at his new team. Again, McMurry jumped out.

"Some people just love to compete and that's what I noticed about Anthony (in water polo)," Kadzis said. "Because he was an excellent swimmer, he could hop right in, grab a ball and outswim everybody. He was definitely a big asset for us."

He's an even bigger one in swimming season.

McMurry was a major contributor last year as Wesleyan won its first state championship in swimming and diving. He won the individual state title in the 100-yard freestyle (in 45.75 seconds), was third in the 200 free and powered a pair of state championship relay teams.

The breakout season came after a sophomore season when he earned all-state honors after placing fifth (in the 100 free) and seventh (200 free) at the 2010 state meet. He had already made his mark at Wesleyan before that, breaking some of his older brother Richard's records as a freshman.

In each of those seasons, he developed a reputation for being a go-to swimmer.

"Everybody on the team knows when we need (McMurry) at the end of a meet," Kadzis said. "On the last relay, the 400 free relay, everybody knows who's swimming last for us. And nine times out of 10, he's going to come through in the clutch."

McMurry is at his best in the sprint freestyle events. His fast times in those events led him to signing a letter of intent with Florida State, which plans to use him predominantly in the sprint free program. He chose the Seminoles over Alabama, Texas Christian and North Carolina State.

"I'm looking forward to a new program (at FSU)," McMurry said. "I'm looking forward to doing more sprint-based work. It's just a new environment and that's exciting."

While he expects to be a sprint specialist in college, McMurry is asked to do much more at the high school level. He swims in a variety of events depending on where Wesleyan needs him in the lineup.

In the latest list of top Gwinnett County swimming performances of the current season, McMurry not surprisingly has the county's top 50 free (21.24) and 100 free (46.02) times. He also is second in the 200 free at 1:45.29.

But he also has the county's top time in the 100 backstroke at 52.71, just a shade ahead of teammate Nick Salyers' 52.74. Those two were substantially ahead of the No. 3 swimmer on the list whose top time was 55.01.

"People might not realize that he's very versatile, he's not just a freestyler or a sprint freestyler," Kadzis said of McMurry. "In addition to being a hard worker and the fact that he loves to compete, he will swim anything and everything we ask him to do for the team."

That team is McMurry's main focus.

His college path is secure, so he can set his sights on a repeat team state championship. He may win a few individual and relay state titles along the way, helping pile up points for the Wolves.

"We still have a chance to win it again," McMurry said. "That's our goal. To win it again would be really cool."