Kevin Bressler swam with the best of the best on Friday.
Bressler, a sophomore at Perkins, was one of just two area boys swimmers -- the other was teammate Michael Kessler -- in the pool during the Division II State Swimming and Diving Championships on Friday at C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton.
The two-time district champion in the event finished in 59.33 seconds and stood sixth on the podium.
"It was really hard. And really fast," Bressler said after collecting the first individual medal of his career.
Calling it the fastest breaststroke he's ever raced in, Bressler was swimming against a pair of University School seniors in Andrew Malone -- who broke his own state record with a 55.54 -- and Korey Schnieder, second with a 56.23.
In all, there were four seniors ahead of Bressler and one other sophomore, Kenston's Austin Dickey.
"It was one of the fastest races against the best. It was a lot of fun," Bressler said. "It took a lot of hard work to get up there."
Kessler put together a solid swim in the 200 individual medley, moving up from a fifth-place spot to third overall by clocking 27.56 seconds in the final leg, the freestyle, of the event.
"The last 50, you have to give it your all and put everything you've got out there," Kessler said. His time, a 2:01.11, was a hair faster than the 2:01.27 from Thursday's preliminary. "I feel like I've gotten a lot of experience here in the IM."
Kessler also swam the 100 butterfly consolation and touched in at 54.28 seconds, the No. 15 time.
The duo were both state qualifiers a year ago and were on hand to watch as then teammate Chris Waldock and SMCC's Michael Gallagher won state titles.
On Friday, they were alone.
"We just graduated so much last year," Bressler said. Aside from the two champs, Michael Mulvin and Jonathan Harris, 200 medley relay champions with Waldock in 2009, also graduated.
Port Clinton sent five boys swimmers to state, but none made it past the preliminary round on Thursday.
Asked if there was anything to learn from his race, Bressler said, "You've done the work and the learning. Districts and state is the time to put it to use."