You can catch Laguna Beach High senior Colton Gregory at the Breakers’ football games, but not in a helmet and shoulder pads.
Growing up, Gregory said his father, Rand, wanted him to play a safer sport than football. Water polo is physical too, but it fit that bill. Yet, Gregory still finds himself at Guyer Field for Friday night football.
Gregory, who has played tenor saxophone since third grade, performs with the Laguna Beach marching band.
“I’m kind of a band nerd, kind of a music geek,” he said.
In water polo, Gregory’s shot as smooth as the best saxophone riff. He has led the Breakers boys’ water polo team in goals scored as a sophomore and junior. With 60 goals scored through Friday, he is well on his way to doing it again as a senior for Laguna Beach (11-8).
Breakers first-year coach Robert Grayeli, the 1995 CIF Southern Section Division 2 Co-Player of the Year at Costa Mesa High, knows an elite talent when he sees one.
“He’s a machine,” Grayeli said. “He’s one of the best shooters I’ve seen. He creates on offense – just a very explosive player. I’ve gotten in and played with him a few times, and he can wheel and deal with the best of them. I’m excited for his future. I think the sky’s the limit for that kid. He’s got an unbelievable shot.”
Gregory can be glad his father dragged him to water polo practice when he was 7 years old, along with his older brother Luc, who graduated from Laguna Beach High in 2016 and currently plays men’s water polo at Golden West College.
Colton said he was grateful to have Luc around as a senior when he was a freshman. That year, he came off the bench for the Breakers. In the last three years, though, the bench is rarely a spot you’ll find Colton Gregory.
He has helped Laguna Beach hold its own in the extremely competitive Surf League. Through the first half of league play, the Breakers, ranked No. 10 in CIF Southern Section Division 1 and 2, are 2-1 in league play. That only trails Newport Harbor, the top-ranked team in Division 1 and 2.
Laguna Beach beat both CdM and Huntington Beach in league, as well as at the South Coast Tournament. The two wins over the Sea Kings were historic for the Breakers, just the fourth and fifth ones in program history. The year was 1997 the last time before this season that Laguna Beach beat CdM. Back then, current Breakers girls’ water polo coach Ethan Damato was lacing up his Speedo for the Breakers boys.
“It kind of shows that we’re not a walk-over team,” Gregory said. “At this point in the season, we do have a little bit of respect. I felt like at the beginning of the season, there wasn’t much love for Laguna Beach boys’ water polo.”
The Breakers, who have Gregory and senior left-hander Will Clark as co-captains, are younger this season after graduating key pieces like Larsen McCarroll and Sebastian Jacobs. Junior goalkeeper Caden Capobianco has been another key component of the team’s success, along with junior defender James Nolan. Gregory said he has also played more center defense this season after senior Kai Cameron quit playing before the season began.
Freshmen Logan McCarroll (Larsen’s younger brother) and Will Kelly also have provided a spark. Logan McCarroll was second on the team with 37 goals scored through Friday.
“It’s super-nice to have another guy on our team that’s capable of being an offensive threat,” Gregory said. “For the future, I’m super-glad that they came here, Will and Logan. They work super-hard in practice and always have a great attitude. I think that Laguna Beach boys’ water polo is going to be in good hands for years to come.”
Laguna Beach hopes to finish top eight in Division 1 and 2 by the end of the season. If it doesn’t, the goal is to win a Division 2 title. The Breakers advanced to the Division 2 title match two years ago before losing to Santa Margarita. Last year, No. 4-seeded Laguna Beach was upset in the Division 2 quarterfinals at Redlands East Valley.
Grayeli talked of changing the culture. It doesn’t hurt to have a talented, hard-working player like Gregory to help accomplish that.
“No more, ‘Laguna Beach [is] soft,’” Grayeli said. “No more, ‘[Laguna Beach] is all girls’ [water polo].’ Let’s be good. Let’s come out and work hard. They’ve done everything I’ve asked them to do. We’ve won some big games, and now they’re 100% bought in, but that starts with Will [Clark] and Colton being good leaders.”
The Breakers football team, which is 6-1 and ranked No. 4 in Division 12, is also having success. Gregory said he enjoys watching football, but he’s fine with sticking to his role in the band on Friday nights, instead of actually being on the gridiron.
“I pitched a fit the whole way to practice [when I was 7], but I’m so glad [my dad took me],” Gregory said. “I love the sport now. I’m so glad that I’ve been given the opportunity to play it.”
Born: Oct. 25, 2000
Hometown: Laguna Beach
Height: 6 feet 1
Weight: 180 pounds
Sport: Water polo
Coach: Robert Grayeli
Favorite food: Sushi
Favorite movie: “The Breakfast Club”
Favorite athletic moment: As a sophomore, helping Laguna Beach make it to the 2016 CIF Southern Section Division 2 title match and scoring a goal in the 6-4 loss to Santa Margarita.