By Marshall Haim
Assistant Sports Editor
One day, a sixth-grader was found completing extremely impressive dives during free time in physical education class. That young diver ended up being Travis Wright.
Wright, now a junior at Canisius, caught the eye of his physical education teacher, Chris Ignatowski, while attending Lake Shore Middle School in Angola, New York (40 miles southwest of Canisius). Following class, Wright found out that his teacher was the Varsity swimming and diving coach, wanting him to be on the Varsity squad in the following year.
“He was throwing doubles (two flips) just for fun,” Ignatowski said. “I told him, ‘Trav, I need to talk to your parents.’”
The talk with Wright’s parents worked out, and Wright dove for Lake Shore’s varsity team for six Varsity seasons, eventually being named a team captain, an All-American, and MVP while at Lake Shore.
Upon his graduation from Lake Shore, Wright enrolled at Penn State for competing for the Nittany Lions on the diving team in his freshman year. Following his first (and only) season at Penn State, Wright decided to transfer closer to home to further his education and continue his diving career.
“It was obviously a bigger school than this,” Wright said. “I put a lot of emphasis on diving there than schoolwork. I need a change of scenery. Obviously from Lake Shore, it’s a little school, then going to a school with 40,000 kids, it killed me.”
As a sophomore in his first year with the Griffs, Wright was honored as the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Diver of the Year, along with being the MAAC Diving Champion. Wright’s accolades continued to amass in his first year with the Blue and Gold, being named the Male Athlete of the Year. Wright became only the second diver to be named to the honor (Shawn Parkhurst was the other in 2011-12). The other nominees for the award were Shane Conacher (hockey), Jeff Edwards (lacrosse), and Chad Maloy (cross country/track).
“It was very crazy to me that I was nominated,” he said. “And to have the support to get enough votes to become Athlete of the Year, I thank everyone that voted for me.”
Last season, Wright earned first place in both the 1-meter and 3-meter dives at the MAAC Championships, paving his way into the NCAA Zone A Championships as the first Griff to ever accomplish the feat. Wright finished in eighth place in the 3-meter and in 17th in the 1-meter. For the season, Wright finished on top of the podium in eight of 14 events.
“Travis comes in everyday with a focus and intention to make the most out of his time here,” said Ian O’Rourke, who’s entering his second year as the diving coach at Canisius. “He has some really big goals and each day we’re trying to connect, and we’re trying to relate that back to the bigger picture of postseason championship meets.”
This season, Wright has finished in first place in every event except two events. He has also earned the Men’s Diver of the Week by the MAAC four times already, all in consecutive weeks.
“It feels good,” stated Wright, about all the honors he has received already while diving at Canisius. “It’s nice to see that my training is paying off and the hard work I’m putting into this is giving me results.”
Swimming’s season is just over the halfway point with four meets left on the docket. Wright hopes to place first in the 1-meter and 3-meter dives against Cleveland State on Saturday, with the meet beginning at 1 p.m. The Griffs will also have one other meet before the spring semester begins (Jan. 14 vs. Gannon at the Koessler Athletic Center at 11 a.m.)
“In practice, it’s numbers, numbers, numbers,” Wright stated. “It’s also trusting my training. Going into MAACs, I need to have the mentality that I’m going against others that could potentially be at NCAAs. Every meet is an opportunity to practice my dives and practice on what I want to do in those situations.”