Jim Wagner, a Corona del Mar High School senior, doesn't concern himself with numbers.
He's the kind of athlete who doesn't keep track of his individual statistics, preferring instead to focus on team achievements.
After all, Wagner's job is defense, not piling up statistics. As the most dominating water polo goalie in Orange County this year, an achievement that has earned him honors as The Times' water polo player of the year, Wagner wasn't racking up the numbers. He was keeping the other guy from scoring while helping Corona del Mar to a 27-4 record and the Southern Section 4-A championship.
Ask Wagner how many saves he had in the 4-A final, a 10-8 victory over Newport Harbor, and he won't know. (The correct answer: 10.) Wagner knows he had a great game in the Sea Kings' 5-4 semifinal victory over Sunny Hills, but he didn't pay much attention to his specific numbers. (He had 15 saves in the match, including 2 in the final 30 seconds.)
"To tell you the truth, I've never paid attention to that stuff," Wagner said. "This year, no one individual stood out, our team was so great."
But there is one figure Wagner always remembers--5-10. As in standing 5-feet 10-inches.
That's Wagner's height, and he's worried that it might hurt his water polo career.
"People think the taller a goalie is the better, like over 6 feet," Wagner said. "But I think I've shown them I can play."
He certainly has. Jim Sprague, Sunny Hills water polo coach, earlier in the year said, "Wagner must walk on water," after Wagner had 15 saves against his team.
"He changes the style of a game," Sprague said. "Smart teams don't try to shoot on him because they know they can't."
Wagner, 17, has been been praised for his quickness and smart play and admired for his self-confidence and composure in tough situations. He also was named the Southern Section 4-A player of the year.
And Wagner, a member of the U.S. junior national 18-and-under water polo team, is dedicated. After he won the section championship on a Saturday, he took only two days off before he resumed his daily workouts.
Despite all that, colleges aren't beating down his door. So Wagner sent off applications to colleges on his own and is keeping his fingers crossed.
"He's such a good athlete. . . . I think he could overcome the height," Sprague said. "The best thing I can say about Jim Wagner is that I'm glad he's gone. I'm glad we don't have to play against him anymore."
WATER POLO FIRST TEAM
Jim Wagner Corona del Mar Senior Jason Belanger Newport Harbor Senior Shane Coons Costa Mesa Senior Steve Kidder El Dorado Senior Greg Morris San Clemente Senior Chris Oeding Corona del Mar Junior Javier Santiago Sunny Hills Senior
Tom Feuerborn Tustin Senior Scott Fairchild El Dorado Junior Mark Herman University Senior David McIntosh Fullerton Senior Jose Santiago Sunny Hills Junior Jeff Wimbish Los Alamitos Senior Jon Wimbish Los Alamitos Senior