WALLINGFORD — Junior Andrew Buehler is two-for-two in state titles in his first two seasons diving at Sheehan High School.
Buehler won the Class M state crown as a freshman and the Class S hardware as a sophomore. With a third crown in his sights, his junior campaign will begin on the sidelines.
Buehler sustained a back injury during gym class at Sheehan in October and won’t be expected to return to action until the middle of January, a month into the season.
“I have a fractured L4,” Buehler said. “I have a back brace that I wear during the day. That’s making it feel a lot better. I’ve been wearing it for six weeks and I will miss about a month of the season. I’m hoping to be back by mid-January. I’ve already been out of practice for two months and it’s hard. But I’m at practice watching the other divers. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do this season.”
Time is certainly on the side of Buehler. Winter is the lengthiest of the high school athletic seasons. The state meets aren’t until the first week of March. The State Open is a week later.
Sheehan’s tilt with defending SCC Division II champ Hamden is also late in the season on Feb. 20 at Sheehan. Last year, it was this meet that decided the SCC D-II title.
Buehler said he can’t wait to get back on the board.
“I’m eager,” he said. “I want to get back in the pool so bad. It’s hard not being able to practice. I don’t know how I’m going to do my first day back. I may be shaky at first. I don’t know.”
Buehler has been rock solid in his first two years for Sheehan coach Keith Cargan.
“We are so lucky to have divers; so many teams aren’t,” Cargan said.
“We are also lucky to have one of the best divers in the state. When he dives for us, it’s an automatic first place.”
Buehler owns the six and 10-dive records at Sheehan.
He’s also been the SCC runner-up his first two years and has twice placed in the Top 10 at the State Open.
He was seventh as a freshman and fourth as a sophomore.
Each of those events — the conference finals and the “best of the best” meet that is the State Open — have been dominated in recent years by Daniel Hand’s Tianyi "Teddy" Zeng.
The Zeng Dynasty, though, is over. Zeng has graduated and now dives at Duke University.
“With Teddy graduated, this is going to be Andrew’s time,” Cargan said.
“We think that Andrew, if he get healthy and hits his dives, he could be state champion again. He will be in the running for the State Open championship, too. There’s always so many divers in Fairfield County. Those will be the ones he will have to watch out for.”
Buehler, 17, began diving at age 9. Shortly after, he started doing meets around the state and even made nationals.
“That’s when I realized I was pretty good,” Buehler said. “My coach was always telling me that I got better. I was just really excelling and, once I hit eighth grade, I was getting stronger and was able to do a lot more dives.”
Buehler dives all year. When he’s not at Sheehan, he trains with the Elite Diving Club based at Wesleyan University and coached by Devon O’Nalty.
“He came into Sheehan with a strong background,” Cargan said.
“He comes from a diving family. His sister Brianna was a strong diver at Sheehan. We are very lucky to have him.”
“I would really like to get a scholarship for diving,” Buehler said.
“I’m not sure what college I want to go to yet, but I’m hoping to go to a Division I school.”