Boys water polo team begins preparation for CIF competition under new program head


Jackson Mayer/Chronicle

OTTO-MATIC: Otto Stothart ’26 attempts a shot on goal during a boys water polo preseason practice on Aug. 16. Team players have competed against college athletes at all of the practices. The varsity team’s first match was a home game against Crespi Carmelite High School on Aug. 22.

Jackson Mayer

The boys water polo team competed against college players and practiced twice a day throughout the summer in preparation for their upcoming season. The team also added a new Program Head, Jack Grover, last spring. Grover was previously the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Water Polo Assistant Coach. As a player at UCLA, Grover won three NCAA titles and was named an honorable mention All-American his senior year. Grover said he chose to work at the school because he became familiar with its water polo team through his work at UCLA.

“During my last job at UCLA, I was in charge of recruiting,” Grover said. “I closely followed Harvard-Westlake, and I got to know a few of the boys and how the team operates. The intensity the team played with, the strong group of upperclassmen and the younger players with so much talent to be developed are what drew me to Harvard-Westlake initially. Touring the facilities, meeting faculty members and realizing how much room I had to grow here are what caused me to take the job.”

Grover said the team’s improved communication will help them in their efforts to win the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section (CIF-SS) Division I championship this season.

“I think the greatest strides our team has made are in the way we communicate and operate,” Grover said. “My personal goal is to hold them to the standard required to win a championship on a daily basis because this is a mentality they can take forward with them in the classroom and their future endeavors beyond Harvard-Westlake.”

Team members also participated in global competitions over the summer. The United States (U.S.) National Team selected left side attacker Daniel Mnatsakanian ‘23, left side attacker Chris Arakelian ’23 and right side attacker Jack Burghardt ’23 to compete in the FINA World Men’s Youth Water Polo Championships 2022.

Mnatsakanian said he was proud to represent the U.S. “Representing your country is one of the biggest honors that exists,” Mnatsakanian said. “Every time I put on these colors, I am doing something that very few Americans ever get the opportunity and privilege to do.”

Mnatsakanian said playing on the U.S. National Team exposed him to a higher degree of competition.

“Representing the [U.S.] brings about a different level of competition,” Mnatsakanian said. “The intensity when you are playing with and against the best players in the world is unmatched. There is nothing like it. At this level, everything has to be executed close to perfectly, or else it does not work.”

Other team members played on club teams over the summer. The Los Angeles Premier 16 Under team, a club team based at the school, won the Junior Olympics (JOs) this summer. Left side attacker Alex Heenan ’24 said teamwork and cooperation were crucial to the team’s success.

“I think that really coming together as a team and learning to play for your teammates rather than just yourself ultimately led to the success we saw in the [JOs],” Heenan said. “Winning JOs with the 16 [and] under group felt like a great way to honor the work we put in as a team throughout the club season and was one of the most rewarding moments in my time playing water polo.”