Center Grove swimmer Martin has rapid rise to elite level

By Mark Ambrogi

Center Grove senior Ethan Martin is a bit of enigma in swimming circles. The majority of top high school swimmers began in club competition by the time they were 8 years old or earlier.

Martin played on travel soccer teams and didn’t start competitive swimming until middle school.

“When these kids started swimming, I played soccer,” Martin said. “I played soccer for 11 years and my freshmen year in high school I did half soccer and swimming.”

Martin found he was often getting hurt; Center Grove swimming coach Jim Todd had a message for him.

“I think you have the potential to be the best swimmer Center Grove ever had, so you need to quit soccer, so you stop getting hurt,” Martin said. “Then we can go from there, so that’s what I did. I trusted him.”

Now as Trojans senior, Martin holds four individual school records and is on two other record-setting relay teams. Martin recently set two school records in the 200-yard individual medley and 200-yard freestyle.

“Those records usually get broke in the sectional or state meet after they’ve been tapering,” said his mother Kylah Martin. “He never ceases to amaze me, honestly.”

Martin already has school records in 50-yard freestyle and 100 freestyle.

Martin, who has signed a national letter-of-intent for a full swimming scholarship at the University of South Carolina next season, placed second in the 2020 state high school finals in the 50 freestyle and sixth in 100 freestyle. He was on two relay teams that placed in state, the fifth-place 200 freestyle relay and sixth-place place 200 medley relay.

His final three choices were University of Tennessee, University Missouri and South Carolina.

“Things just added up with South Carolina with personal ties with the coaches,” Martin said. “It felt right.”

One major connection is Gamecocks’ associate head coach, Kevin Swander, swam for Todd at Center Grove.

Ethan Martin. (Submitted photo)

Kylah said her son was just about 5 foot, 8 inches as a freshman.

“He was getting hurt in soccer with all the running and jumping,” Kylah said. “From freshman year through junior year, he probably put on 60 pounds and he now stands 6 foot, 4 inches (and 185 pounds). He’s a big boy all of sudden.”

While Martin did start swimming in middle school, it was more of a way to stay active.

“He’s one of those kids that has a lot of energy, so we threw him on the team just to get rid of winter energy when there was no soccer back then,” Kylah said. ”But his life was soccer at that point.”

Martin didn’t begin club swimming until his sophomore year.

“I am amazed at how fast he has developed in a short time frame,” his father Buddy Martin said. “He has always picked things up quickly, but this has been exceptional. Ethan has always been a fast learner when it is something that interests and challenges him. He is naturally athletic and smart, so a combination of those (dedication and talent) have led him to where he is with his swim career.”


NAME: Ethan Martin

YEAR: Senior

HEIGHT: 6 foot, 4 inches

AGE: 17

SPORT: Boys swimming

POSITION: Sprint races

HOBBIES/INTERESTS: Trampolines, roller skating (works at roller skating rink), stereo and Bluetooth speakers.

COLLEGE PLANS: Will compete for the University of South Carolina.

FAVORITE MOVIE: Tommy Boy or Black Sheep.


PARENTS: Buddy Martin and Kylah Martin.