Josh Hedberg could become greatest of all diverse to come from Rockford

After Jacob Hedberg earned his fourth straight Illinois state diving medal with a career-high fifth-place finish as a senior in 2018, Garry Cacciapaglia, Belvidere Co-op’s diving coach, went out to dinner with Hedberg’s parents. They wanted to talk to him.

“Wait! Are you moving?” Cacciagaglia asked.

The answer was yes, to the Indianapolis suburbs so Jacob’s younger brother could get more specialized coaching.

“I was heartbroken,” Cacciapaglia said. “I couldn’t wait for Josh to come to Belvidere. But I wasn’t upset at all. Our area — not even Chicago — could provided what he needed.”

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Rockford has produced 15 state springboard diving champions, including three-time boys champ Tom Wright of Guilford (1989-91) and three-time girls champ Carrie Zarse of Auburn (1988, 1990-91), as well as Ron Merriott, who won NCAA titles at Michigan in 1982 and 1984 and an Olympic bronze medal in 1984 on the 3-meter springboard.

Josh Hedberg, who was born in Rockford and grew up in Belvidere, could become the best of all of them.

“The potential is absolutely there,” Cacciapaglia said. “And the drive is absolutely there. And he is absolutely in the best place to be.”

Josh Hedberg finished fourth this summer at the Olympic Trials and in December became the youngest US male diver to ever qualify for the World Championships. He was only 14 at the time of both events, but he will be 15 years and 4 months old when he dives at the World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, in May. That is three months younger than Thomas Finchum was when he competed for the US at the 2005 World Championships in Montreal.

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