Bahamian junior national team player in water polo Gabriel Sastre Jr. made history when he committed to Wagner University on Staten Island, New York, United States of America (USA), to play collegiate water polo. Sastre has signed on to play collegiately with the Wagner University Seahawks this fall, and with that, he is the first Bahamian water polo player to commit to a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I (DI) program.
“Wagner was an easy choice as it contained everything I’d hope for. It is an excellent NCAA DI water polo school, it’s an excellent environment to pursue business and a quiet yet fun place to experience new things,” Sastre said.
Sastre, who plans on majoring in business and finance, said the opportunity of becoming successful in the business world at Wall Street is just a short drive away.
Apart from Wagner, he had offers from Salem University, Golden West College and Lynn University.
His long-time coach who also serves as the national team coach, Laszlo “Coach Lotty” Borbely, said he is happy that Sastre and a few other Bahamian water polo players were able to receive collegiate water polo scholarships. He said that Sastre displayed a high level of water polo during the visit to Wagner University.
In the water, Sastre is regarded as being relentless in his play, sometimes scoring at will or setting up his teammates for scores. The long distance shooter who sometimes plays center forward, hopes to help the Seahawks win the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference (MAWPC) title in his first year with the team.
“I hope to bring Wagner the best of my ability and skill sets, athletically and academically,” said Sastre. “I wish that I can bring success to the Wagner men’s water polo team to achieve a MAWPC championship and more.”
The Seahawks finished fifth in the MAWPC this past season, with an 8-23 win/loss record. They lost six seniors and Sastre will be looking to make an immediate impact.
The Bahamian is no stranger to tough competition, having represented The Bahamas on several national teams after being introduced to the sport five years ago. Just this past year, he was the captain of the under-18 national water polo team – a role that Borbely to entrusted him.
“He got his position because he scored the most goals and he showed excellent dedication both in training and in competition. He is very strong physically. He is fit. Both his endurance and speed are ranked in the top two on the team and he is a great teammate, leading and helping everyone on the team,” Borbely said.
In addition to captaining the team, Sastre was a member of the under-16 national team that won three consecutive CARIFTA water polo gold medals. He also represented The Bahamas on three consecutive Central American and Caribbean Amateur Swimming Confederation (CCCAN) Water Polo teams. Sastre was also on The Bahamas’ first Junior Pan American Championships water polo team.
He said he fell in love with the sport after being introduced to it at Queen’s College (QC) during a physical education class. Sastre said he loves the physicality and mental awareness that is needed to compete at a high level in water polo.
At QC is where he met coaches Borbely and Krisztian Kelemen.
“Coach Lotty is an excellent coach who has taught me the fundamental attributes to excel in water polo at a very high level. Also, he taught me the practical lessons that has improved myself as a person in life. He is an important part of my success and I’m grateful to have him as a coach,” Sastre said.
Sastre is a 2020 graduate of Blake Academy. He said he owes his success to his mother and father, Tanya and Gabriel Sastre Sr.; sister Mia Sastre, a CARIFTA open water swimmer; another family member Jaume Sastre; coaches Borbely, Kelemen and Edwin Barrera; Daniella Macre; the Pinder family; the Maillis family; other family and friends; teammates and, most importantly, God.
Apart from Sastre, Saequan Miller, who chose to play for Salem University, and Alexander Turnquest, who will be heading to Connecticut College, will also play collegiate water polo. One more Bahamian player has yet to decide on a school.