Santa Barbara Sports Figure of the Month: Wolf Wigo

Each Month, Presidio Sports recognizes a local sports figure for their extraordinary contribution to the Santa Barbara athletic community.

It is our way to recognize those who are making a lasting impact in the sports community, whether it is an outstanding athletic performance, a lifetime achievement award, or perhaps a great example of leadership.

This award is made possible by American Riviera Bank

Find the complete catalogue of Santa Barbara Sports Figures of the Month HERE.

American Riviera Bank

This award is made possible by American Riviera Bank

———-

Wolf Wigo

UCSB men’s water polo coach Wolf Wigo, a former three-time Olympian as a player, was an important piece of NBC’s Olympic water polo coverage from London. (UCSB Photo)

NBC devoted lots of air time for water polo during its coverage of the London Olympics, and UCSB men’s water polo coach Wolf Wigo made excellent use of the time.

Wigo, a three-time U.S. Olympian, provided expert commentary for the telecasts and received high marks for his work behind the microphone.

Wigo is being honored as the Sports Figure of the Month.

Working with Mike Emrick, who is more known for his play-by-play work on NHL broadcasts, Wigo pretty much carried the announcing duties for the water polo matches.

“That was pretty much how the telecast went,” he said of the longer-than-usual commentary time. “I ended up doing more talking this time because the play-by-play commentators were having trouble picking up the cap numbers. However, I am the water polo expert on the broadcasting duo so it is natural that I talk more.”

Wigo is no rookie behind the mic. He’s done water polo commentary for NBC, ESPN and Universal Sports as well as the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 and 2011 World Championships.

He knew going into the London Games, that NBC was going to give water polo great coverage, “so I knew it was important to do a good job. I tried to prepare as well as I could and luckily everything went well and I got a lot of great feedback.”

Wigo was well versed on the players from the various countries, provided in-depth analysis and broke the game down for the viewers without getting too technical. He was rated fifth of all the NBC commentators at the Olympics in a ranking done by the Web site SBNation. The Columbia Journalism Review gave him kudos, saying: “Wolf Wigo was actually poolside in London for the water polo, but he, too, was outstanding.”

“Considering the large number of high profile sports, I thought it was a pretty good placement,” he said of the SBNation poll. “NBC told us that we did a great job as well, so that was good to hear as it was a lot of long hours that the entire team put in.”

He enjoyed working alongside Emrick and Pierre McGuire, whose expertise is in hockey.

“They were great to work with — real professionals,” Wigo said. “They spent a lot of time doing research and asking questions about the sport. It was a real honor to work with them and it certainly made my job easier. I tried to get them as much information as possible.”

Emrick expressed his gratitude by plugging Wigo’s UCSB water polo team on the air.

“It was cool to just be able to listen to Mike work, period. He was so prepared for each game, had great things to say about UCSB, which was awesome, yet at the same time he gave me enough space to talk water polo and explain the game to people,” said Wigo.

MORE ON WOLF WIGO

USA WATER POLO HALL OF FAME INDUCTION (VIDEO) 
2012 UCSB MEN’S WATER POLO SCHEDULE

The Gaucho coach said it was difficult watching the U.S. men’s team struggle after winning its first three games.

“There were really high expectations and they started off really well, which only fueled the expectations, so for that reason it made it ever harder to watch what happened,” he said. “It seemed like they did not have the fire or drive in them once they lost the first game and they never really recovered. The hardest part is that everyone was asking me what was wrong and I don’t want to try and speculate as I was not in a position to truly know what the cause of the poor play was. I thought it was a combination of many things.

“They had a veteran team that should have performed at a very high level and they ended up performing very bad to the point of embarrassment, which a number of people kept pointing out to me, especially the higher ups at NBC once they realized the team did not have what it was going to take to get into the medal round — which is what NBC wanted badly after giving water polo so much air time,” he added. “This all made it hard to watch, since I had played with a number of players who were on the team and I wanted them to achieve their goal of a gold medal.”

With Terry Schroeder stepping down as national team coach, would Wigo consider applying for the job?

“I am interested in coaching the U.S. team at some point in the future, but I am not sure that now is the right time for me, if the opportunity even presented itself,” he said.

Wigo noted that there doesn’t appear to be any clear choices for a new coach and he believes a “decision should be made sooner rather than later, as lots of communication and guidance needs to take place right now with the up and coming players…”

On the U.S. women winning the gold medal in London, Wigo said: “It was awesome to watch and was a long time coming, so I am glad that it finally happened. I thought it was a great team effort, but Maggie Steffens was unbelievable throughout the tournament. Kami Craig also played very, very well which was great to see. Hats off to Adam Krikorian who was under a ton of pressure and got the job done.”

Wigo’s UCSB team enters the season as the No. 5-ranked team in the country.

“We lost a few key players from last year but a number of guys are stepping up and hopefully will continue to do so once the games start,” he said.

Wigo believes UCSB has the potential to win a national title. What holds the program back is the ancient facility the team practices and plays in. Campus Pool is over 70 years old.

“Santa Barbara is such a great draw for water polo athletes around the world due to its perfect location and high quality education,” he said. “The community is also very supportive of water polo, so if we could get a new facility built I think the sky is the limit.”