Soldier turned swimmer has big goals freshman year

If all goes according to plan, freshman Lior Grubert might just be the next great swimmer in Seton Hall history.

“I want to get on that list,” Grubert said as he pointed to the Seton Hall and Big East records banners hanging in the Richie Regan Athletic Center pool. “Which means break the school records maybe one, two, three – I don’t know – relay records and get an individual Big East championship.”

Grubert is one of 11 newcomers to the Pirates’ swimming and div- ing team, but he is not a prototypical freshman. He is a 21-year-old hailing from Yehud-Monosson, Israel, and has come to Seton Hall after serving a mandatory three years in the Israeli Defense Forces.

While there are some exceptions that exist, enlistment in the IDF is a requirement for all Israeli citizens.

“I wanted to do that. It was a good experience,” he said. “I think every citizen in Israel needs to do it to give back to your country.”

In his three years, Grubert climbed the ranks from what translates in English to Private to Corporal to Sergeant, finishing as a Staff Sergeant. While Grubert did not see any actual combat, he still trained and prepared as needed.

“I had a month or two where I was away from home. I shot an M16, threw a grenade. I didn’t see any actual combat. I just trained for it, but I know a lot of friends were in combat in the war last year.”

So how did Grubert go from the IDF to Division I swimming?

“He e-mailed us,” assistant coach

Derek Sapp said. “He never even came on a visit here. I think it shows how much trust he has in us and Ron (Farina) and myself as far as what we were telling him about the program and the university.”

For Grubert, Seton Hall was the perfect situation.

“I wanted to come here; it’s a dream come true. Seton Hall gave me the best options both athletically and academically,” he said.

Grubert started swimming when he was six years old after a doctor suggested he swim to deal with a high cholesterol problem. He started competing at the age of 10 and qualified for Israeli Junior Champi- onships for his age group. Grubert came away victorious in the 2012 Israeli Junior Championships. His converted times coming in would have placed him in the “A” finals of the 200-IM, 100-free and 200- free and the “B” finals of the 500- free and 100-fly had he competed in the 2015 Big East Conference Championships.

In his latest meet with the Pi- rates at the Big East vs. Big 12 Weekend, Grubert recorded a pair of second-place finishes in the 500- free with a time of 4:42:73, which outpaced his closest Big East competitor by more than four seconds. His 1:54:66 in the 200-IM was also good for second place. Grubert is off to a scorching start in his freshman campaign, tallying three first-place finishes in his first three events.

“He’s very versatile,” Sapp said.

While the pool is a familiar place for Grubert, being over 5,000 miles away from his family and in a new country is not. However, he says he is enjoying the adjustment.

The United States is not entirely new to Grubert. He has twice made visits at the ages of three and eight. He began learning English in middle school, which he now speaks in addition to Hebrew and Russian.

Being a part of a team atmosphere has helped Grubert fit into his new lifestyle.

“I think he’s fitting in very well,” Sapp said. “He’s very excited about it. It’s a change of scenery for him. It’s a different sort of style because with him, it was more focusing on club swimming and individual swimming, where here it’s more of a team atmosphere, and he’s even said it where he’s more excited about it. He wants to help the team out as much as he can.”

The team has been Grubert’s main focus this season as he looks for a big year from the Pirates.

“I want to help my team win the Big East title this year,” he said. “I think we have a great class of freshman who came in this year; we have great sophomores, juniors, and seniors. I think we can make that this year. That is my goal for this year.”

The goals that Grubert hopes to accomplish during his time at Seton Hall can be best described by Sapp.

“The sky is the limit.”


Matt Zeigafuse can be reached at

Author: Staff Writer

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