Ever since he was 6-years old, Solon Comets diver Dominic Roberto felt at home any time he stepped on a diving board. After his childhood swim instructor recommended that he go out for the American Flyers Diving Club it was just a perfect match for the 14-year-old freshman.
“It’s a huge adrenaline rush when you’re diving. At the same time, you almost don’t want to think about it because it’s so scary. You just kind of let your mind and your body do what it’s meant to do,” grinned Roberto.
Roberto’s parents did not know much about diving when he first developed interest. It was a nerve-wracking sight for them to see their son attempt all these various dives as the fear of watching him hit his head on the diving board was at the forefront of their minds. Thankfully that never happened, and they became more comfortable watching him.
The Solon diving phenom had practically seen it all on the national diving circuit even before his first year at Solon high school. He competed in regional, zones and national diving meets in the Ohio Dive League for several years and participated on one of the biggest stages at the Senior Men Platform event during the 2019 USA Diving National Winter Championships after qualifying on the Tier III squad on Team USA. It was tough for him be nervous about competing at the high school level after the numerous diving competitions he’d competed in throughout the last seven years.
That is not to say there wouldn’t be challenges. Since joining the American Flyers Roberto had been coached by Marc Cahalane and had learned a great deal under his guidance. After being coached by him practically his whole life the Solon freshman was entering his high school career underneath a new coach, Taylor Epstein, as Cahalane was departing to become the new head diving coach at the University of Akron. Then there was also the looming threat of the high school season getting canceled due to the pandemic.
Coach Epstein knew that if the high school season did get underway there would be very little that could slow Roberto down. The first-year Solon diving coach had seen a lot of great divers in her day and was awestruck when she saw Roberto dive up close after joining the American Flyers during the 2019 season.
“I was impressed. He kind of left me speechless because I have never coached at that level, so I really had to think harder on how to coach him and focus on the little parts because his dives were so good,” chuckled coach Epstein. “There wasn’t much that I had to correct.”
It was business as usual for the Solon freshman as he kicked off his high school season. Despite concerns about the pandemic the Comets enjoyed a full year of swimming and diving. Roberto looked the part as he was dominant throughout the season. There didn’t seem to be anything that could slow him down but injury. Unfortunately, he suffered a back injury when he was in the weight room in December.
He persevered through the rest of the regular season but his back continued to act up. It didn’t slow him down in his postseason debut as he captured first place on Feb. 8 in the Division I sectionals at Massilon Perry High School. While winning the gold medal he also broke the school record with a score of 580 points.
Upon arriving at the district dive meet Roberto’s back began to give him problems. Coach Epstein could see he was in pain throughout the meet, but the freshman pushed through to take top spot on the podium once again. It was onto the state finals where he would meet his toughest competition. It was a thrilling dive event as Roberto squared off against Liberty freshman Kaden Springfield for the first place. It was going to come down to the final dive and that was just how the Solon freshman wanted it.
Roberto and coach Epstein had planned for his dives with the highest degree of difficulty to come in the final rounds. It is not how a lot of divers plan their dive sheet but it’s pretty standard for the Solon freshman.
“What he thinks are easy dives everybody else thinks are difficult and challenging,” said coach Epstein.
His final dive saw him log a score of 63.00 to finish with a 491.45 final score to take the top spot on the podium and put the finishing touches on a legendary season. Roberto became the first Solon freshman to run the gauntlet at all three levels of the postseason.
It seems difficult to imagine that Roberto could top all the milestones he achieved during the season, but coach Epstein sees it as inevitable. She has all the confidence in the world that the Solon diving phenom will be breaking his own records in no time as his high school career continues.
While Roberto now focuses on training with the American Flyers over the spring and summer, he also will prepare himself for the upcoming thrill of contacting college coaches during his sophomore campaign. He had the chance to chat with some coaches during the 2019 Senior Men Platform event but hasn’t talked with them since. The NCAA prevents high school divers from reaching out to colleges until at least their sophomore year.
It’s still a long way away until Roberto can start moving through his options but he has his eye on some of the top college diving programs in the country such as Ohio State, Purdue and Indiana. Once his recruiting officially begins coach Epstein has no doubt that college coaches will be banging down Roberto’s door to come dive for their school and dominate on the college circuit.