That’s the nickname bestowed upon John Swabik by Pam Warner. The Clymer/Sherman/Panama track and field coach has good reason for giving the moniker to the junior athletic standout.
She can put Swabik in pretty much any event, and he finds a way to achieve success. Sprints. Distance. Hurdles. Jumps. Shot put.
Feel free to mix in some pole vault and javelin.
There’s a reason Swabik won the state title in the pentathlon last spring and followed that up by placing second in the decathlon in the 15-16 age group at the Junior Olympics.
“He’s a coach’s dream,” Warner said. “I think a lot of it is just natural athleticism, and I think he has such a desire to perform at a high level. … I’m extremely fortunate I have the opportunity to work with him.”
Warner isn’t the only CSP coach feeling that way.
It turns out, the Mr. Versatility nickname suits Swabik just fine on the football field, too. He’s been one of the many standouts for coach Ty Harper’s talent-rich Wolfpack – especially during the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association tournament. Swabik, who also plays basketball, is a big reason CSP has a chance at defending its Class D championship at noon Friday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. In a rematch of last year’s state final, the Wolfpack (10-1) meet Section VII champion Moriah (8-3) with the winner once again claiming the prize as New York’s best team in this classification.
Good news for CSP. The weight from the pressure of extending Western New York football’s state championship streak isn’t on the Wolfpack because Canisius captured the state Catholic crown last weekend. That means at least one football team from the area has won a state title each of the past nine seasons and in 11 of the last 12.
Reaching the Dome has been CSP’s goal, but if you’re in a state final sometimes just reaching it isn’t good enough.
“We worked really hard throughout the season,” Harper said. “We’ve gotten better each week. This is where we wanted to be Thanksgiving Weekend. To be there is great. We’re excited to be going back to the Dome, but we have to finish the job.”
“We definitely would like to win,” Swabik said. “If we didn’t, it’d be kind of disappointing.”
Such is the standard with this fifth-year combined outfit, which has won 23 of its last 24 games.
CSP rallied for a 28-27 victory in the semifinals last weekend against Tioga, a game in which it trailed by two scores at halftime. The Wolfpack didn’t play their best in the first half and knew it. They felt angry according to senior quarterback Gerrit Hinsdale, reminiscent of how they felt at halftime back in Week Three – their only loss of the season at Franklinville/Ellicottville, and how they felt two years ago after suffering a season-ending loss to Maple Grove in the sectional semifinals. They didn’t want to go out without a fight.
Instead they punched their way to victory over the Tigers with tough-as-nails fullback Brendon Ramsey scoring both second-half touchdowns, Connor Cooper securing the win with a late interception and Swabik providing the go-ahead 2-point conversion serving as the wildcat quarterback on the play.
That conversion was one of several big plays in the game by Swabik, who rushed for a team-high 169 yards and made 12 tackles.
Swabik, who at 6-foot, 160 pounds, is CSP’s fastest player (4.55-40-yard dash). He is listed as a running back/defensive back on the roster but in addition to being able to play all three positions (QB, tailback and fullback) in the offensive backfield, he has lined up at slot receiver and outside linebacker. He also returns kicks and punts.
Swabik shined in the state quarterfinal win over Batavia Notre Dame, as he amassed more than 130 total yards (including 90 on four catches), scored on a 21-yard touchdown run, made nine tackles, recorded two sacks, picked off a pass and forced a fumble. In the sectional final, he made SportsCenter’s top plays after breaking a tackle and launching a deep pass on a half-back option to Cam Barmore for a 69-yard touchdown late in the third quarter that enabled CSP to pull away.
“He’s a Swiss Army Knife,” Harper said. “He can run, he can catch. He can throw. He can block. He can tackle. He can do it all. He’s been really solid for us all year. He’s just getting to showcase it more for people the deeper we go into playoffs.”
“They can put me anywhere, and I’ll do the best that I can,” said Swabik, who also played baseball and wrestled when he’s younger. “I’m just kind of standing out more because things are just kind of going in my direction.”
That’s because the Wolfpack have a lot of talent at the skilled positions, including 6-6 receiver and state high jump champion Barmore, that opponents are having a tough time guarding them all.
“We can put John in multiple positions, and it makes us that much more difficult to defend,” Harper said. “Throw in Zavon Overton and he too is an outstanding athlete. We’ve just been very fortunate.
“John’s so valuable you can use him for everything,” Harper said.
That's Mr. Versatility.