Seo, 'Wojo' make a splash

The top-10 male high school athletes of the school year were voted on by the Glendale News-Press sports department. These are selections 2-10. See the Aug. 16 edition for the Male Athlete of the Year.

2 — Young Tae Seo, Crescenta Valley swimming, sophomore

Continuing his ascension as one of the premiere high school swimmers, Young Tae Seo capped a stellar sophomore campaign with four Pacific League titles (one more than last season), three CIF Southern Section Division II titles (two more than last year) and three Masters Meet medals (one more than last season).

"Freshman year was a brand new year, I didn't know anything that was going on," said Seo, who was selected as the All-Area Boys' Swimmer of the Year in 2010 and 2011. "The big difference [this season] was that my times got faster and I broke school records."

Of his four Pacific League crowns, Seo set records in three of those at the league finals at Burbank High in May, where the Falcons clinched their 19th consecutive title in a landslide. And he also set records in all three CIF title races he won.

"Obviously he's talented and he's fast, he wins his events and he's setting league records and division records," said Falcons Coach Jan Sakonju. "But I feel I was just privileged to coach him because he's not only got the talent, he's got the work ethic and that to me is such an important component of a champion. I can't think of a single person on the team, or maybe in the history of our program, that has more of a drive to become better than Young Tae."

The Falcons placed third in the CIF Southern Section Division II Swimming and Diving Championships.

3 — Louis Wojciechowski, Crescenta Valley swimming and water polo, junior

Wojciechowski won the state championship in the 100-yard backstroke as a sophomore in Arizona. But he transferred in order to play water polo because Arizona does not offer it as a sanctioned high school sport.

Crescenta Valley High landed a gem in Wojciechowski, who flourished in both sports and helped the water polo team reach the CIF semifinals.

"It's a little different because it's not all focused on you; you have other people helping you out," Wojciechowski said this past season. "I actually enjoy water polo as a team, rather than just like individual swimming."

Wojciechowski, who was the team's second-leading scorer, was named an All-Area and All-CIF pick. He collected 57 goals, 37 steals and 19 assists.

In swimming, he bolstered a roster that had already featured Young Tao Seo. Some even considered it to be the most talent-laded squad the Falcons' history-rich program has ever seen.

Wojciechowski won Pacific League titles in three total events (all league records) and won two total CIF division crowns and two relay titles at the Masters Meet.

"He fits in perfectly with the speed and the swimming ability, for sure," Falcons Coach Jan Sakonju said. "Offensively, he's very good and every game he gets better at defense. Our defense depends on players being able to swim and double-team and because he's so fast he can pretty much position himself where he needs to be with just one or two strokes."

4 — Pavle Atanackovic, Crescenta Valley football and soccer, junior

The 6-foot-4 kicker for the football team, Atanackovic made the All-CIF first team, earned Pacific League honors, and was an All-Area pick. But he solidified himself as a top athlete on the soccer field.

As a striker, he scored a team-leading 33 goals to help the Falcons win their second consecutive league crown and reach the CIF Southern Section Division III quarterfinals for the first time in the program's history.

For that, he was named the league's most valuable player, an All-CIF pick and the All-Area Boys' Soccer Player of the Year.

"That was cool to get it in football, but I'm more proud of this," said Atanackovic of notching All-CIF honors. "I play football for fun, but soccer is my main sport.

"It took a lot of hard work and a lot of practicing. It feels great to be named MVP and I have another year left, and I'm going to try to win it again next year."

5 — James Knowles, St. Francis track and field, junior

Knowles was a large reason why the Golden Knights' track and field team ranked among one of the top teams in the ultra-competitive Mission League.

He won league championships in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles to advance to the CIF Southern Section Masters Meet, where he was the only area athlete to qualify for that event. It was the first time that a St. Francis athlete qualified for the meet since Andrew Steben, a former two-time All-Area Boys' Track and Field Athlete of the Year, took part in the pole vault in 2006.

"My goal coming in was to have a great season, and I had a better understanding of the things I could do," said Knowles. "I had started earlier with my training because I wanted to have more endurance for this season.

"I also had some goals, like winning league and going far in CIF. I'm very proud of myself. It's one of the best years I've ever had in track and I'm looking to use it to help me for next year."

Knowles did not disappoint, setting a school record in the 110 hurdles and was named the 2011 Boys' Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

6 — Troy Mulcahey, Crescenta Valley baseball, junior

A dual threat at the plate and on the mound, Mulcahey helped the Falcons reach the first round of the Division II playoffs with a program-record nine home runs — eclipsing a mark set by Trevor Bell in 2005 — while also compiling a 1.21 earned-run average with 50 strikeouts.

"He had a great year and it's just putting everything together from opening pitch until the final pitcher of the game," Falcons Coach Phil Torres said. "He can be one of the dominating players in the Southern Section."

Mulcahey, who posted a 4-2 record as a pitcher, was voted the 2011 All-Area Baseball Player of the Year.

He finished with a team-leading .425 batting average and team-high 25 runs batted in. After a season-opening loss to Claremont, he hit his first seven home runs as the Falcons (23-5) reeled off 14 consecutive wins.

Mulcahey was also an All-CIF Southern Section and All-Pacific League first-team pick.

The Falcons were dominant in league play, posting a 13-2 record and positioning themselves for a chance to claim a share of the league title in the season finale before losing to champion Arcadia.

7 — Hakop Kaplanyan, Hoover water polo, junior

The All-Area and All-Pacific League Water Polo Player of the Year, Kaplanyan helped lead the Tornadoes to a third-place finish in league for a third consecutive year and an appearance in the first round of the Division V playoffs.

Kaplanyan, who set a Southern Section single-season record of 229 goals in 2009 but did not win the individual honor, still led the league in scoring as a junior with 138 goals in 2010.

"It actually feels pretty great," he said after receiving the award. "I kind of feel accomplished after going with not such a great season [for the team]. Winning player of the year gave me the idea that at least I accomplished something else besides getting the team far."

Reducing his touches for a more balanced offensive attack, Kaplanyan became an even better all-around player.

"Hakop had an amazing season last year and I think it was definitely worthy of player of the year," Tornadoes Coach Ara Oganesyan said. "But I think the other coaches were looking for him to be a little bit more of a versatile player. Unfortunately, last year with our team being such a young team, he didn't have that kind of luxury.

"It's extremely important to play a well-rounded game that involves the whole team, so this year we adjusted to it and the coaches gave him the credit and saw his game grow."

In the CIF wild-card round, Kaplanyan scored all but one goal in Hoover's 16-12 win over Cathedral City.

8 — Mark Verso, St. Francis soccer, sophomore

Coming off a stellar freshman season, the sophomore forward refused to stay pat. He hit the weight room intent on improving his conditioning and the result was a 22-goal, six-assist season (50 points) for the Mission League's Offensive Player of the Year.

Verso, who shared All-CIF, All-Area and ESPN Rise All-State nods with his older brother Eric, was named to the Division I first team after helping St. Francis finish second in league with a 9-3 record.

"I wanted to help us win a league championship, but this is a great achievement and honor," Verso said. "It's a great honor to get this award because there are a lot of incredible players that come out of the division. I wanted to be an impact player and I had to do that by coming out and playing hard."

Verso helped St. Francis post a 15-10 record. The Golden Knights saw their season come to an end in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs.

9 — Eric Kazangian, Flintridge Prep football, soccer and tennis, senior

Though he played three sports for the Rebels, Kazangian's biggest contributions came on the tennis court.

Along with partner Kent Byun, Kazangian helped play a pivotal role in the emergence of the tennis program, which went 29-21 over the last three seasons and won the Prep League crown in 2009 for the first time since 1939.

"They were huge," Rebels Coach Ron Catano said of the tandem. "Those two guys ... were the reason why we had a such a good record the past three years. They were all talented and experienced for tournament play and they were just really tough when they would get out there.

"They were our good core guys that just put up wins like crazy. They're just super talented and they're great athletes. Without those guys, we wouldn't have been doing so well the past few years."

Kazangian and Byun were voted the All-Area Doubles Team of the Year. He also was an All-Prep League soccer play at defender. And as a running back/linebacker, he made the All-Prep League and All-Area teams.

10 — Brett Nelson, St. Francis football, senior

Though he spent only one season as a varsity starter, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound senior helped captain a prolific Golden Knights offense.

In 11 games, he completed 168 of 292 passes and averaged 251 yards per game, tallying 2,765 at season's end. And he threw for 28 touchdowns and only eights interceptions, with 14 touchdowns and only two picks over the final seven games.

For his contributions, Nelson was a unanimous pick for the All-Area Football Player of the Year.

"I thought he had a phenomenal year," St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds said.

Indeed, Nelson was also named to the All-CIF and All-Mission League teams as the Golden Knights rallied to make a playoff push and almost upset second-seeded Dominguez in the playoffs before falling, 28-25.

Others receiving votes: Harrison Thai, Crescenta Valley swimming; Jared Norsworthy, Flintridge Prep basketball and volleyball; Patrick Carroll, St. Francis football; Mike Davis, Glendale football and track; Elliott Surrey, Crescenta Valley baseball.

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