It took one talk with the coaches and swimmers at the University of Utah, and Jim Giottonini was sold. He wasn't making any other trips. He was unpacking.
Giottonini, Utah's freshman all-purpose swimmer from Stockton, Calif., said he had offers from other schools, including ones that included a recruiting trip. But a week after his first - and only - recruiting visit, he decided he wasn't looking any further.The signing of Giottonini has apparently pleased everyone involved. He says his initial impressions that the Utes run a "family" program - where the swimmers look out for one another like siblings - was a correct one. "I liked it a lot when I came up here," said Giottonini. "It was like a family unit. I had relatives that used to live up here, so I knew it was a nice place to live."
So far he hasn't been a disappointment to the coaching staff, either. He is already drawing comparisons to Ute great Shawn Rowland, the All-America swimmer who graduated last spring. "Jim is a little faster and a little more versatile than Shawn was when he first came in," says assistant men's coach Jim Wilson. "Of course, Shawn bloomed once he got to college, so what Jim does remains to be seen. But right now he's on course to break some of Shawn's (school) freshman records."
Giottonini has done surprisingly well for a freshman. Utah has gone 5-0 in dual meets, prompting Coach Don Reddish to term this Utah team as strong a regular-season Ute team as he can remember. Giottonini has registered the second-fastest WAC time in the 200 butterfly, the fourth-best in the 100-butterfly and is 10th in the 200 free. Coaches say they may try him in the backstroke before the year is over.
Utah signed Giottonini after a stellar prep career. He was a three-time All-America at Stockton's Lincoln High. He was junior national (under 18) champion in the 200 fly and a finalist in five other events in the junior nationals.
When he made his recruiting visit to Salt Lake, he already had a good impression. Giottonini had been to Salt Lake twice for swimming meets at the Cottonwood Heights Invitational, and enjoyed the visits.
His plans this year are to qualify for the NCAA's. As for winning the WAC, Giottonini says the Utes are in form to repeat last year's performance. "Oh yeah. We could win it handily right now," he said.
He is also employing a little psychological warfare. For the Junior Nationals last year Giottonini grew a beard, then shaved it the day before the swim meet, providing a feeling of speed. He ended up winning the 200 butterfly. And though Coach Don Reddish isn't a big fan of beards, earrings, long hair or punk cuts, he has made an exception with Giottonini. He is allowing the swimmer to grow a beard again, which Giottonini will shave off for the WAC meet.
"If I benefit from something, the coach lets me do it," said Giottonini.
The Utes will be in home water this weekend, hosting Washington and Air Force. They meet the Huskies in a combined meet with the women, Friday at 6 p.m. Saturday Air Force arrives for a 2 p.m. contest. Neither visitor has lost a dual meet. Washington is 5-0-1 and AFA is 4-0.
Utah is coming off a weekend sweep of New Mexico State and Cal-Irvine.