Just looking at Tyler Fozkos' full beard, it's evident that some things have changed for the Chesterton senior swimmer.
Fozkos will compete in his fourth and final IHSAA state swimming meet this weekend at the IU Natatorium in Indianapolis.
The Florida State recruit already has six state titles on his resume. He played a crucial part in the Trojans' initial state team crowns in 2008 and 2009, swimming the anchor leg on back-to-back 200 medley team champions, taking the lead leg in the 200 free relay win as a freshman and picking up the 50 free crown as a sophomore.
Even though the Trojans didn't three-peat last season, he defended his 50 free crown and swam a leg on the victorious 200 free relay team.
"It's been a long time; it definitely feels more like 40 years than four," said Fozkos, who helped Chesterton set a state record in the 200 medley relay in 2009 (1:32.01). "All of the weeks of preparation and the four Christmas breaks helped change me. All of those miles of swimming made me a much better swimmer."
For Fozkos, each state meet has brought with it a different perspective.
"I was the new guy on the team as a freshman," Fozkos said. "I didn't know what (the state meet) was about. I had been sick as a freshman, and I felt different to be healthier as a sophomore. (Kyle) Whitaker was still on the team last year, but we still lost more depth. Now, I'm the old man on the team. I know the ins and outs."
Fozkos is now the lone scoring member from those state championship teams remaining on the roster.
"Much like Bill Bass and Kyle, Tyler is leaving a huge mark," Chesterton coach Kevin Kinel said. "He's taken more of a leadership role."
Whitaker, a freshman at Michigan, has a state-record 12 titles, and Bass, a sophomore at Notre Dame, has five state crowns. Along with Fozkos, this trio was the driving force for the state titles.
"Bill took it less serious than me," Fozkos said. "Kyle took it more serious."
Fozkos, who will lose the beard as part of his taper, is looking for some serious time drops at the state meet. He's seeded 28th in the 50 free (21.98) and 16th in the 100 free (47.32).
"The state meet is a great meet for me," said Fozkos, who placed second last year and third two years ago in the 100 free. "I can turn the switch on."
Next week, Fozkos will compete in the Speedo Grand Prix in Indianapolis, then spend some less hectic time in the pool and look back at his accomplishments.
"I'll take a break and maybe play some water polo," Fozkos said. "My career still has been more fun than hard work."