Seven Boys Qualify for Water Polo National Team


Printed with permission of Daniel Mnatsakanian '23

Attacker Daniel Mnatsakanian ’23 winds up and aims his shot to give the school’s team the lead against JSerra Catholic High School in the CIF quarterfinals Nov. 4, 2021. The team defeated the Lions 14-7, advancing in the tournament.

Seven of the school’s boys water polo team members qualified to play for the USA Youth National Team ahead of the 2022-2023 season.

Attacker Daniel Mntataskain ’23, who qualified for the USA Youth National Team, said members train during the fall season and must pass three qualifying rounds to secure a spot on the USA Youth National Team. Those who pass individual challenges, perform well at the national tournament and outperform competitors at the selection camp will go on to qualify for the team.

Mntataskain said he looks forward to representing both the school and the country.

“[Our school’s] water polo [team] has a history of competing on national teams, and I am proud to continue that legacy,” Mntataskain said. “There’s no better feeling than representing your country and it’s an absolute honor to cap up for Team USA.”

Ranked as the No. 12 best attacker in the nation, according to Max Preps, Mnatsakanian said his years of hard work are paying off.

“It wasn’t the training I did this year that made this opportunity possible, it’s about what I’ve been doing these past eight years that’s really made this come to life,” Mnatsakanian said. “Having one good practice, one week or one year of good practices isn’t going to put you on the national team. It takes years of work and commitment.”

Baxter Chelsom ’23 was one of four goalies selected to play for the national team. He said while the selection process was arduous, he is excited to compete alongside his teammates.

“I am honored to have been selected for the [USA National Team],” Chelsom said. “The scouting exposed me to a ton of college and Olympic coaches. It was overall an amazing experience.”

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Following the 2021-2022 season, 17-year Boys Water Polo Program Head Coach Brian Flacks ’06 stepped down to be and will serve as Director of Water Polo for Stanford University in the fall.NCAA Division I champion and former UCLA assistant coach Jack Grover will replace Flacks.

Flacks said he will miss his experiences as a student, athlete and coach at the school.

“I’ve spent over half my life at [the school] , and it is impossible to put into words how meaningful the school has been to me,” Flacks said in a press release March 22. “While excited for the new opportunity at Stanford, I will dearly miss the faculty, staff, and friends I’ve made over the 17 years I’ve spent here. I will always be a Wolverine.”

Grover, who helped UCLA win the NCAA Division I championship as an assistant coach in 2021, said he hopes that the boys water polo program will achieve success under his leadership in the fall.

“Obviously, winning a CIF championship is the end goal [for my first season], but what is most important to me is the process,” Grover said. “My goal is to create a daily training environment that would help them come to that goal while never losing sight of why they started and continue to play water polo.”

Grover emphasized the importance of training during the offseason and ingraining confidence in his players.

“My hope is to bring consistency to how the team approaches training every day,” Grover said. “I want them to treat every practice like it is a game. This is already an excellent team with a lot of talent from top to bottom. I want them to have real confidence in every game no matter what the situation is because they know they have prepared for it the right way every day in training.”

Looking ahead to next season, co-captain Christoper Arkalien ’23 said the upperclassmen need to take more responsibility. He said instilling discipline and a strong work ethic in the new players will help lead the team to another championship.

“As a leader, I have to make sure that nothing changes about us with a new coach,” Arkalien said. “Flacks was the team. Without Flacks, our team culture wouldn’t exist. Sure we might have some new tactics and plays that we will need to learn, but our team culture will need to remain the same.”