ANDERSON — While swimming for Anderson High School, Kyle Johnson had gotten used to dominating the pool.
His senior year, when not dressing up as the Indian mascot for basketball games, Johnson was busy taking seventh place in both the 200-meter freestyle and the 100-meter butterfly at the 2012 IHSAA state meet.
Adjusting to an atmosphere where a career-best time in the 50-meter freestyle put him 60th at the Big Ten Championships wasn’t easy.
“Going into IU after being one of the top swimmers in Indiana, it was incredible,” Johnson said. “I just was on top of the world. I never thought I would be extremely good, but obviously I wanted to improve. Coming in and being that good and that highly regarded from the coaches was nice, but then you go to the meets and boom!
“It’s a huge reality check from the people covered in hair going your fastest times, if not faster, and you don’t know what to do.”
But going into his senior season at Anderson, Johnson wouldn’t have dreamed he’d be swimming for IU head coach Ray Looze in Bloomington. In fact, archrival Purdue had been his hope.
At the state meet, IU associate head coach Donny Brush came up to Johnson’s mother and told her that he and Looze would love to have her son come down to Bloomington for a visit.
Johnson’s ACAC swimming coach, Todd Griner – a long-time friend of Brush’s – had tipped off Looze that Johnson was a kid they needed to take a look at, and the IU coach made a bit of a stretch and took his word for it.
“Todd said he had a lot of potential and said he was the finest young man he had ever worked with from a character standpoint and just somebody you really had to have on the team,” Looze said. “From a time standpoint, Kyle didn’t come into Indiana with any times that would be impactful, honestly, but Coach Griner and I are friends, and I respect his opinion and his wisdom, and everything he said was spot on.”