Even just in a phone call, Nick Kontos felt an immediate connection with Western Illinois swimming coach Greg Naumann several months ago.

"He was different than any other person I talked to," Kontos said. "He had more character and personality than the other coaches.

"All of the coaches were nice, but he really stood out as a very caring man."

After making a couple visits to the Macomb campus, including an official visit in mid-October, the Pleasant Valley senior decided to continue his swimming career with the Leathernecks.

Kontos signed his national letter of intent last month.

He figures to bring depth to the Leathernecks' individual medley and backstroke groups.

"I feel like Nick has definitely a lot of potential to build upon once he gets into college and really starts to train with our strength program, as well as getting into some specific stroke training sets," Naumann said. 

Kontos swam for the Spartans his freshman and sophomore seasons along with the start of his junior year.

He broke his ankle playing basketball at the YMCA last December and was sidelined for two months.

Kontos is not swimming with his high school team this winter. He's competing with the Piranhas Swim Club.

"I definitely miss the high school aspect and the atmosphere of high school swimming that is more a team thing than individual," Kontos said. "The thing is, I get a chance to do more events in club than high school, and I really bonded with my club coach Joe Hroma."

Kontos also looked at Missouri, the University of Illinois-Chicago and several smaller schools in Missouri as college possibilities. 

He kept coming back to Western Illinois. 

"By far, Western was at the top of my list," he said. "It was the best fit for me."

Kontos recently swam a 1:02 in the 100 breaststroke, an event he hadn't swam in three years. His primary goal is to get his 50 freestyle time in the low 21-second range this club season.

"Right now, I'm changing myself into a sprinter to get myself ready for everything in college," Kontos said.

Davenport North's Brennan Bladel, Clinton's Josh Hill and United Township's Ian Johnson are already entrenched in the men's swim program at Western Illinois.

Kontos plans to major in biology and minor in music.

"I want to follow in the footsteps of my parents who are in the medical field," he said. "I've already taken some classes for anatomy and physiology.

"Ever since my freshman year when I saw Nick Staver sign with Missouri, I've wanted to swim at the (Division I level). He's been a great role model for me, and it was nice for him to take me under his wings."

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Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.