By Rick Assad
Johnny Agazaryan is a confident person and it’s helped him become one of the best water polo players in Burbank High history.
This past season, under his senior leadership and overwhelming skill, the long-suffering Bulldogs reached the CIF Southern Section Division V championship game against Carpinteria.
On that night in November in Orange County, Burbank, which finished the campaign 23-3 and 8-0 in the Pacific League, came up three goals short and lost 12-9, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
“Our change in coach is what definitely helped us get so far my senior year. It caused the team’s mindset to change,” Agazaryan said. “Our coach pushed them to work harder and harder every day. He created a group of kids who all thought the same and had the same goal, getting to the championship.”
That man is David Arakelyan, a former standout water polo player at Burroughs who instilled something special in this team.
Arakelyan was thrilled to have Agazaryan on the team.
“Johnny is a very talented player who was a great leader for our team this year,” he said. “He led our team in almost every category this year and was our go-to guy. He’s a fantastic player who can go very far in this sport.”
Arakelyan addressed him as a person out of the pool.
“He’s a fantastic person. He not only cares about his success but also the success of those that are around him, and that’s what makes a great leader like him shine,” he pointed out.
That run was impressive as the Bulldogs beat Cathedral 18-6, Valley View 14-7 and Buena 9-8 before falling to Carpinteria.
Agazaryan, named the CIF Division V Most Valuable Player and the league MVP, was a veritable scoring machine who accounted for 370 goals in his four-year career, including 150 tallies this season, pointed out a few matches that were memorable.
“There are three games that stand out to me most. The first being Burbank versus Crescenta Valley my freshman year,” he said.” An hour delay on the game and the whole crowd was still there. Head-to-head until the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, we lost by one point. The game will go down as one of the best games I’ve played, scoring seven of the 11 goals”
Agazaryan, who also totaled 200 steals and countless assists, added: “Following that is the buzzer-beater by Robert Kharazyan in the game against Buena in the semifinals and lastly my CIF Finals game, although we lost,” he noted. “It was our goal to take my team to the finals one day. I did that.”
Any time Burbank took on city rival Burroughs, Agazaryan was pumped.
“Playing against Burroughs was definitely one of the highlights of the season,” he said of that 13-7 triumph. “The crowd was amazing; the energy was great, and it felt great to finally beat Burroughs after seven straight years of losing.”
Though Agazaryan could put the ball in the net almost at will, his primary goal was to win the match.
“To me, scoring is not a big deal. The end result is what matters to me most at the end of the day,” he said. “I can score 11 goals in a game and if we win, I’m content.”
There were a few bumps in the road, but not many this season, which included a 19-match winning streak, as Agazaryan fought through them.
“When I see things start going down, I take a step back, access and rely on my family and God,” he said. “I keep my faith and just keep working harder and harder.”
More than anything, Agazaryan wants to play for UC San Diego, and has had discussions with them.
“Yes, I am confident, but I don’t let my confidence alter my judgment,” he said. “I go in every day to practice with an open mind ready to have new things every day. That is why I think I would prevail in college water polo.”
Regardless of whether Agazaryan gets into UCSD and plays water polo, he gives everything he has.
“My drive and my mentality is why I think I will succeed,” he said. “In my mind, I always think I’m not good enough, pushing myself to act better every day and my willingness to put in the work.”
In a way, Agazaryan, who was the Offensive MVP all four seasons, is most at peace when he’s in the water playing water polo.
“To me, water polo is not just a sport, it’s something where I can just shut my mind off and play,” he offered. “The dynamic, intensity, teamwork and all-around challenge of the sport is what keeps me in love and going.”
There are no more high school water polo matches for Agazaryan, but that’s okay.
“The thing I will definitely miss most about high school water polo is the energy of the crowds and the bond you make with your teammates in just one season,” he said.
Reflecting on his remarkable career, Agazaryan said he left no stone unturned, except maybe one.
“Looking back, the only thing I would do differently is not take time for granted,” he said.” I would work even harder than I did.”
This is saying something because no player worked harder than Agazaryan in or out of the pool.