Levi Takes Over Linsly Swimming
Former Ferry coach replaces Bill Brubaker
WHEELING — There comes a time when everyone simply needs and wants a new challenge.
As it pertains to coaching swimming, Nick Levi didn’t have to look far for his next challenge.
Levi, who recently resigned after 13 seasons as the head coach at Martins Ferry, has been hired as the next boys and girls swimming coach at Linsly School.
Levi takes over the OVAC’s premier swimming program and gets the unenviable task of replacing legendary head coach Bill Brubaker, who has retired.
“I realize the shoes to fill are huge, but I am definitely looking forward to the challenge,” Levi said. “Coach Bru has been Mr. Swimming in the Ohio Valley for over 40 years. If it was swimming related, Bru was there. When you think of high school swimming around here, you think of him.”
Brubaker guided the Linsly boys and girls teams for 42 seasons and won 40 OVAC titles between the two teams. He’s a member of the OVAC Hall of Fame and the OVAC Swimming Championship Meet is named in his honor.
Brubaker has already said he will remain involved at Linsly — both in terms of the academic side as well as the swimming program — with the hopes of helping Levi’s transition.
“It’s going to be nice to have him around and guide me through this process,” Levi said. “I will definitely lean on him. I just want to build on the groundwork that Bru has already laid. I do know some of the kids, which helps, and I will put my own touch on things, but I will keep some of Coach Bru’s touch, too. I am just looking forward to getting started.”
Though Brubaker and Linsly just formally announced his retirement from coaching, the idea that he may not return to the deck as the head coach had been going through his head for a while.
“I got a call from Coach Bru asking me if I’d have any interest,” Levi recalled. “I said I would and he asked me if I wanted to meet. We talked and he put my name forward (to the Linsly administration) and really got the process started.”
While the swimming tradition and its own pool were huge factors for Levi to pursue the job, there was much more to it than just the sports side.
“It’s the entire tradition of Linsly,” Levi said. “The school has been around for more than 200 years, it’s greatly respected academically and athletically as one of the premier (private) schools in the tri-state area and region. Everything Linsly offers to develop the entire student is what made it attractive.”
An admitted swimming junkie, Levi has spent plenty of time inside the Linsly pool during meets and spring workouts for the YMCA team. He’s caught himself staring at the 71 OVAC Championship banners.
“They have such history and tradition with their (swimming) program,” Levi said. “They’ve only had three coaches (Warren Pugh, Paul Blair and Brubaker) in history and all three are legends. I just want to do my best to continue the (tradition).”
The hardest part of the decision was dealing with the fact that he was leaving a Purple Riders’ program that he’s basically been a part of his entire life.
Other than the four years when he was a student at Ohio University, Levi has been involved with Ferry swimming in one capacity or another. Actually, he was a member of the first boys’ high school swim team in school history in 2000-01.
“It’s definitely been a special time,” Levi said. “I’ve been involved for 19 years and you always cherish the opportunity to coach at your alma mater. Really, I just wanted to give back to the kids and help any way I could.”
Levi certainly left a lasting imprint in the Riders. He led the Purple to OVAC swim titles in 2010, 2015 and 2017, saw at least one competitor qualify for the district swimming championship in every season and had individuals qualify for the OHSAA state meet four consecutive seasons.
“I really look back on my time at Martins Ferry very fondly,” Levi said. “We had a lot of fun. It’s always nice when the alumni come back and help out with the summer team and they’re talking about this meet or that meet. We did some special things and had a really nice run.”
After three seasons as an assistant coach, Levi ascended to the head-coaching position as a mere 24-year-old.
“It was an honor when (Superintendent) Nick Stankovich hired me in 2009 and took a chance on a young guy,” Levi admitted. “My time at Martins Ferry will hold a special place with me. We had a lot of great, hard-working swimmers and coaches. Without them, we wouldn’t have had the success and the culture that we did there. I am also grateful for the support the administration provided.”
Along with the program accomplishments, Levi has been recognized several times for his coaching success and for his work in the sport. He received the 2022 OHSAA Sportsmanship, Ethics and Integrity Award for girls swimming; was named 2019 District Coach of the Year, OVAC girls swim coach of the year in 2015, 16 and 17. He was also named the boys’ coach of the year.
On top of his duties in prep swimming, Levi also serves as the head coach of the Martins Ferry Aquatic Club, which includes kids from all over the Ohio Valley ages 5-18. He’s also a USA Swimming Certified Coach as well as a member of the American Swim Coaches Association.
Levi has already hired Martins Ferry alum Jarrett Bollinger, who was an eight-time OVAC champion in swimming and three-time OHSAA state qualifier, as his chief assistant.
Away from the pool, Levi owns a degree in business administration and works at WesBanco in Wheeling.