Five meters to the goal, the opportunity arises. Eyeing the goal, the outcome is certain. This is the moment of truth.
Hoover High School junior David Ashkharian was born to play water polo.
From starting on varsity his freshman year and notching a season high 85 goals last season, Ashkharian never disappoints. From his humble beginnings playing at the Olympic Reserves Water Polo Club (ORWP), he always triumphs.
“ORWP taught me how to swim and all the fundamentals needed in water polo,” Ashkharian said.
At the age of 8, he was introduced to ORWP through his cousin Hakop Kaplanyan. Kaplanyan was a water polo star who attended UCLA and holds numerous records in CIF, including the state record of 229 goals in the 2009 season.
ORWP served as the jumpstart to his water polo career. As he gained experience from them, Ashkharian began to grow as a player and continuously add to his craft. He thanks them for making him the water polo player he is today.
The comparisons between Ashkharian and Kaplanyan never seem to wave away. Both making five-goal games easy. Both goal-scoring machines and revolutionary athletes. Kaplanyan eventually served as a role model for Ashkharian at a young age.
“I saw how good he was and it motivated me to be as good as him,” Ashkharian said.
Kaplanyan played an enormous role in the growth of Ashkarians game. From one tremendous athlete to another, Kaplanyan always pushed him to do more, “working on his shooting technique, strength, and making him a faster player.”
From his freshman year to now, Ashkharian has grown both mentally and physically. Coach Kevin Witt made the decision of putting him on varsity freshman year and the rest is history.
“With the help of his brother Harout [Ashkharian] we were able to come to the decision of starting him,” Witt said.
Ashkharian was able to play alongside many outstanding water polo players like alumni Jonathan Salandi, Levon Gukasyan, Clark Alumni Levon Haik Gukasyan, and brother and teammate Harout Ashkarian.
“The older guys have taught me a lot over the years and I mostly learned from them,” Ashkharian said.
Later on he began to focus more on his strength in the water, leading to him becoming better at all aspects of water polo. As the years progressed, he became stronger in the water which allowed him to take care of “shooting, passing, and improving my defense.”
What separates Ashkharian is his dedication, his drive to be the best, his confidence even in the pressure-filled games
This was something he learned to adjust to from his freshman year and capitalize on in the years to come.
“When he came in as a freshman, he seemed a little timid,” Witt said. “But he was able to perform a heavily aggressive counter-attacking offensive talent that we had never seen before.”
The counter-attack is the trademark of Ashkharian’s game. It is also where he smashes in most of his goals. This is what sets him apart from most water polo athletes. His speed, power, and strength are “devastatingly difficult to defend,” said Witt.
The hard work paid off last year with Ashkharian netting in a team high 85 goals. He became more of the “go-to guy.” When it counted the most, Ashkharian crushed in ten goals during the League Championship game against John Burroughs High School.
“I’ve worked a lot on his mental game, preparing him for a game… and last year it showed that he had really worked on it,” Kaplanyan said.
Last year, Ashkharian witnessed the Tornadoes winning league for the first time since 1989. His goal for this season is simple: “Get a two-peat.”
This year’s road to league glory will come a little bit differently. With many of the seniors from last years gone, many teams see the Tornadoes as a much more vulnerable team.
“There’s a lot of pressure on us, but we want to show everyone that we really are the best team in our league.” Ashkharian said.
He has always been preparing for this moment since his freshman year. Whether it was from his older teammates to Kaplanyan, Ashkharian has received lots of advice, but none more useful than from Kaplanyan.
“I made sure he would be ready to always be able to capitalize in the last couple minutes of the game,” Kaplanyan said.
Who knew that Ashkharian would now be seen as the next great water polo product coming from Glendale? Who knew that Ashkharian would score the top goals as a sophomore and play an enormous role in last years run to CIF?
With high hopes of becoming back to back league champions, this is his make it or break it year. With all eyes on him from around the league, this is his time to reign supreme. With active scouting from UCLA and USC, this is his time to shine.