NORTH CANTON  After returning from a fractured vertebrae in his back, Hoover senior diver David Waszak seemed due for some good fortune when it came to his health.

Due or not, that smooth sailing through his senior season never materialized. After returning to action Dec. 4 at the McKinley Relays with a record-setting effort, the 2015 Division I state runner-up was seemingly chugging along toward another long postseason run.

His comeback from a fractured vertebrae suffered on a routine practice dive was complete, only a few meets remained in the regular season when the injury bug bit once more.

“I ended up going to the doctor about it and found out I had a torn abdominal muscle,” Waszak said. “They told me I needed to take two weeks off, but I knew I had sectionals and with the postseason, if you miss one meet, you miss them all.”

Waszak rested for nearly two weeks, but the Akron Division I sectional meet fell within that two-week window. With nearly the prescribed amount of rest, he took to the board at the Ocasek Natatorium on the University of Akron campus, ready to compete against some of the best divers in Northeast Ohio.

It was an odd setting because this season, the OHSAA moved the swimming portion of the sectional meet to C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton, so most of Waszak’s Hoover teammates weren’t on hand to see him perform.

He admitted that while he missed having moral support on the pool deck, it was nice to have fewer distractions around him before diving. Still, after nearly two weeks of rest and no practice, the question remained: How would his body respond and would he be rusty? 

“I knew I was going to be all right. Once I got on the board, even though I hadn’t been on it in a week and a half, I could feel myself every day not hurting as much and I knew I was fine,” Waszak said.

Fine was an understatement as Waszak placed first, besting his nearest competitor by 126.55 points to qualify for the district meet. His final score of 545.90 validated the decision to rest for the two weeks leading up to the postseason and after so much time off from the sport with his spinal injury, coming back to action after a relatively short period of time proved a reasonable challenge.

Still, it wasn’t an easy process, Waszak noted.

“It wasn’t my first time in that setting and I had been there before so I knew what I was doing,” Waszak said. “In some ways it was easier (than his recovery from his spinal injury), but in other ways it wasn’t. Going from a fractured vertebrae to being 100 percent healed from that … diving is mostly about abs and legs so when you have a torn muscle and you can’t use your abs, you’re missing out on a lot.”

The Notre Dame recruit began the season with the lofty goal of capturing the state title that just eluded him two years ago and while the sectional win did little to dampen those dreams, Waszak has a different perspective on success at this point.

“Honestly, just to get back (to the state meet) is what I’m looking at … the farther I went into the season, the more I realized just to get back there after everything I’ve been through is an honor and it shows how much I’ve improved from my sophomore year until now,” Waszak said.

It certainly hasn’t been the story anyone would have imagined being written when Waszak stood on the podium at C.T. Brain Natatorium two years ago, second-place medal draped around his neck and believing he had two seasons of high school diving ahead of him. Injuries and rehabilitation have become a bigger part of his tale than dry room work and the 1-meter board, but after all of those twists and turns in his tale, David Waszak is writing a successful ending to this chapter of his career - even if the injury bug visits more often than he’d like. 

Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
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