Over the next few weeks, as the Long Course season closes out, new freshman are arriving on campus, and fans everywhere ramp up for another exciting NCAA Season, we will be running a team-by-team preview of the upcoming NCAA season. Starting with the no.12 teams and finishing with the defending National Championships (Texas men and Florida women) we will work our way down the top finishers from last year’s NCAA teams, and will also jump into some rising teams that we expect to break into the top tier this season. Click here to see the other men’s previews, and click here to see all of the previews for both Men and Women.
Key Losses: James Martin (NCAA Qualifier, two-time co-captain), Zoltan Povazsay (3 NCAA Relays)
Key Additions: Dimitri Colupaev (free, fly, IM), Vlad Morozov (sprint free, sprint fly, sprint back), Jack Wagner (free, back, IM), Chase Bloch (free, fly, back), Nicholaus Johnson (distance free, IM), Sean Mulroy (distance free), Matthan Stroethoff (Breast)
2009-2010 NCAA Highlights: The big highlight of the 2010 NCAA Championships for USC was freshman superstar Clement Lefert. Lefert scored points for USC in all 3 of his individual events (200 fly, 200 free, 500 free), and scored BIG points in the 500 free (4:13.77), where he was third. USC has a very young core group of swimmers returning, and only lose two swimmers off of their NCAA roster. That includes Zoltan Povazsay, who was the Big East Swimmer of the Year as a freshman at West Virginia, but never quite blossomed after transferring to Southern California.
Incredible Diversity in Freshman Class: Any Conversation about USC in 2011 has to begin with their unbelievable freshman class, which features 4 out of the top 20 recruits in the nation.
The biggest name to most American readers will be Vlad Morozov, who this past season broke both the 50 (19.43) and 100 (42.83) yard free National High School records, both previously held by Jimmy Feigen of Texas. Morozov was also named the Swimming World National High School Swimmer of the Year. While Morozov is scary good, and has an insane amount of potential, he’s not even the best swimmer in this class.
That title goes to Dimitri Colupaev, a German import and an absolute stud. Colupaev already has a huge international resume in the junior ranks, including a Youth World Championships record in the 200 IM from 2008 (2:02.28 LC, 1:44.8 converted). He also has clocked a 1:33 200 free (SC converted) and :42 100 free (SC converted). He will definitely score A-final points in the 200 free at NCAA’s, and has a very good chance in the 100 free and 200 IM as well. He has also gone a :53.2 (SC converted) 100 breaststroke, and a 47-high (SC converted) 100 fly, giving USC a ton of versatility.
Another outstanding member of this class is Jack Wagner, the top recruit out of New York. His best event is the 200 back, where he’s gone a 1:46.64. He’s also gone a 1:37.77 in the 200 free, and a 44.66 in the 100 free.
But lest we forget about the aforementioned Morozov, he is a powerhouse that is fast off the blocks and even faster in the water. He will be the anchor for a crew of what will definitely become very successful relays for the Trojans over the next 4 years, if he can hold off the overtures of professional swimming that long.
But the class doesn’t stop there. The highly versatile Chase Bloch is also headed to campus, giving USC the top 2 recruits from the state. I don’t have any official stats on this, but I’d imagine that it’s been a long time since Stanford or Cal could claim that accomplishment.
Bloch has a best time of 1:37.04 in the 200 free from 2009. Last year, he focused his efforts on back and fly, where he went 48.8 and a 47.5 100 times, respectively. As a freshman, his best bet will be a B-final in those two races, along with the 200 back, but in the long term, he could easily be a top 200 freestyler.
Those four swimmers, Bloch, Colupaev, Morozov, and Wagner, could probably make several top-10 NCAA relays by themselves. When you add in Lefert’s returning 1:33.6 flat-start 200 and Nick Karpov’s returning 1:36, along with some 43 100 free’s, USC has top 5 potential in every relay.
But Don’t Overlook: This class is so good, that Nationals qualifier Nicholaus Johnson (4:27 500 free, 15:32 mile) is often not even mentioned. Also add in a 57.0 breaststroker (Matthan Stroethoff) from Montana with huge potential once he gets into a more elite swimming environment. While not as huge of a class as programs like Michigan (20+ freshmen) are bringing in, this class is hugely talented, has a lot of room for even bigger drops, and extremely versatile. By the time they’re done, this is a class that will win many individual National Championships, might dethrone Stanford as the king of the Pac-10, and will definitely challenge for National Titles.
Returning Stars: The strength of this team is not only in it’s freshman. In addition to the aforementioned Lefert and Karpov, USC will return many other NCAA scorers. The Trojans have two great breaststrokers returning in senior Dillon Connolly (52.71) who was 13th and junior Emmett Walling (53.52) who was 16th last year in the 100. Junior Richard Charlesworth, a British National Team member who swam his first season with USC last year, was a B-finalist in the 500 free (4:19) and 9th in the mile (14:54).
Last year, a lack of depth forced Lefert into duty as the butterflier on USC’s medley relays, and only split a 47.00 in the NCAA finals (46.53 in prelims). The freshman Bloch could come in and immediately relieve him of those duties, and really shore up a weak spot of the team. Wagner will be in a battle to do the same for the backstroke leg, where sophmore James Lendrum went a 48.74 in the finals and 48.2 in prelims last year.
Either way, the freshmen will come in and push the returning swimmers in a huge way, which should lead to huge performances from the USC relays.
Experienced Youth: The loss of James White’s leadership as a two-time Co-Captain and a fantastic relay swimmer will hurt a little. Despite it’s youth, this USC squad will be rife with tons of national and international-level experience, and shouldn’t have any problem maintaining their focus.
Diving Back on Form: Harrison Jones, a 5’3” junior who was one of the best American high school divers ever in Texas, had a big of a disappointing Championship last season. He was 9th on the platform, his specialty, and 15th on the 1-meter, an event he placed fourth in as a freshman. Jones looks to be rounding back into his previous top form after placing second at this summer’s US Diving Nationals on the platform, behind only an all-time great performance from David Boudia as the first American to ever break 600 in the event.
Season Outlook: The USC coaching staff, lead by 4th-year head coach Dave Salo, has already demonstrated through the Trojan Aquatic Club that they are one of the best in the country. They now have the recruits to demonstrate this on the collegiate side of the operation. Although Texas demonstrated last year that Freshman can be an important piece of a National Championship squad—Freshman Austin Surhoff was their top individual scorer–the Trojans are not ready to win it all yet. They will, however, make a huge jump into the top-6 at NCAA’s this year. The 2012 season outlook, however, will definitely have them as a National Title contender.