2016 M. NCAA Picks: Big Graduations Leave 100 Breast Field Wide Open

2016 Men’s NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships

100 Breaststroke

The 100 breaststroke is one event that will go through a changing of the guard this year at NCAAs. Not only is the American record holder and winner of the last 4 NCAA titles Kevin Cordes no longer in the field, 7 of the 8 A-finalists last year were seniors, meaning there will be plenty of new blood heading up this years event. Along with Cordes, departures include Nicolas Fink (Georgia), Richard Funk (Michigan), Chuck Katis (Cal), and Sam Tierney (Mizzou).

The only surviving member of last years championship final comes in as one of the favorites this year, as Missouri junior Fabian Schwingenschlogl is the top seed after placing 6th last year. Schwingenschlogl threw down his NCAA leading time and new personal best in November, going 51.36. He was a tad off his top form at the recent SEC Championships, placing 2nd in 52.13, but in all likelihood we’ll see Schwingenschlogl back down into the 51s at the big meet. Historically Schwingenschlogl has dropped significant time from conference to NCAAs, and his 52.13 from SECs is the fastest he’s ever been in February. Last season Schwingenschlogl was 54.05 in November and he ended the season with a 51.66. He was 51.36 this November, so all signs are pointing to a big swim from the German. Look for him to push for the win.

The man who took out Schwingenschlogl at the SEC Championships was Auburn junior Michael Duderstadt, whose clocking of 51.94 has him seeded 5th for NCAAs. Duderstadt comes in looking for his first career individual A-final at NCAAs. In his freshman year Duderstadt was 12th in the 100 breast, and then last year he was forced to swim-off for the last spot in the final after tying for 8th with Louisville’s Thomas Dahlia. Dahlia went onto win the swim-off, and Duderstadt finished 10th overall. With 7 of the 8 finalists from last season graduated, the door is now open for Duderstadt to come in and make an impact. Duderstadt swam 0.01 slower at SECs than he did at the same meet last year, but moved up two spots highlighting the significant losses the event has endured this season. Duderstadt only dropped a tenth from SECs to NCAAs last season, and a similar drop would place him where I believe the bulk of the contenders will be. If he wants to differentiate himself and challenge for the win, he’ll likely need to drop a few more tenths from his best time and get down to 51-low. With a lack of experience in the field, I see Duderstadt emerging as the runner-up to Schwingenschlogl.

Those two SEC heavyweights are certainly two of the favorites, but the rest of the major conferences each have someone who can contend for the win. Ian Finnerty of Indiana, Connor Hoppe of California, Brandon Fiala of Virginia Tech, and Michael Barnosky of Air Force all recently went sub-52 at their respective conference championships, and will be major threats to the likes of Schwingenschlogl and Duderstadt.

Indiana freshman Ian Finnerty exploded at the B1G Ten Swimming Championships, dropping his personal best from 53.19 to 51.75, picking up the conference title in the process. Finnerty comes in as an unknown quantity in the NCAA, as his best swim in college prior to the conference championships was a 54.80 in a dual against Louisville. Finnerty is definitely a threat after that 51.75, but is also a wildcard as we won’t know if he’ll be able to drop that time down some more at NCAAs or if he’ll be a bit slower. Finnerty’s Hoosier teammate Tanner Kurz announced himself as a legitimate threat at Big Ten’s when he broke 53 seconds for the first time in his career, going 52.07 in prelims. He added a bit in finals, going 52.32 for 3rd, but Kurz showed he is in for his best NCAA performance of his collegiate career in his senior season. After finishing in a tie for 30th place last year at NCAAs, Kurz will look to crack the A-final and push for a spot on the podium. Iowa senior Roman Trussov also had a big drop at Big Ten’s placing 2nd in 52.17. With Finnerty delivering his best time in the final and Kurz in prelims, I see both men getting to the final but Finnerty ultimately outdoing his teammate, finishing 4th and 5th respectively.

California sophomore Connor Hoppe is another NCAA breaststroker who had a big performance at the conference championships. At the Pac-12 Championships Hoppe cruised into the A-final in the 100 breaststroke with a 53.24 morning swim, and then exploded at night, posting a massive personal best winning in 51.86. The swim eclipsed his previous personal best of 52.72 from Pac-12s the year prior and sets him up well heading into NCAAs as only one of 6 men entered under 52. After an 18th place finish in his freshman year, Hoppe will look to contend for a top finish this year. Last year he swam about the same time from Pac-12s to NCAAs, so we’ll see if he can dip below 51.8 later this month. Hoppe’s big drop at Pac-12s coupled with his close miss on making a second swim last year leads me to believe he’ll swim well, and snag a top-3 position.  Pac-12 runner-up Carsten Vissering of USC will be one to keep an eye on as well. Vissering, a key second semester addition for the Trojans, will need to improve upon the personal best he set at Pac-12s (52.41) if he wants to place in the top-8. Vissering’s impressive high school career has me thinking he’s only scratching the surface of what he’s capable of, and I think we’ll see him sneak into the top-8 at his first NCAAs.

Virginia Tech junior Brandon Fiala took his best time down from 53.23 to 51.86 at the ACC Championships in the prelims, announcing himself as a major contender for NCAAs. In the final, Fiala was upset by NC State’s Derek Hren who out-touched him 52.27 to 52.28. In what has to be considered one of the most wide open events at the meet with just 0.42 seconds separating seeds #2 through #10, both men are capable of a high finish. Fiala will need to prove his 51.86 prelim swim wasn’t a one-off, and Hren will need to drop a little more time. Like Fiala, Hren dropped a significant amount of time at ACCs, taking off 0.67. Fiala, after going 51 in prelims at ACCs, makes the A-final.

Another surprise coming in is senior Michael Barnosky of Air Force, who saw two large personal bests at the WAC Championships, ultimately winning the final in 51.98. Coming into this season Barnosky hadn’t broken 53, and had never competed at the NCAA Championships. He has now broken 52, and comes into his first NCAAs as an unknown. He comes in seeded 6th, but he definitely aimed to peak for WACs, so it will be interesting to see if he can take off more time at NCAAs or if he adds a bit. Barnosky is the only swimmer Air Force has in the meet, so he’ll look to make his team proud.

In such a wide open event, there are many more who could make some noise. Others to watch out for include Peter Kropp of Duke, Jason Coombs of Florida State, and Peter Stevens of Tennessee.

Note: Ranked 5th in the NCAA this season with a time of 51.88, Florida’s Caeleb Dressel did not enter the 100 breast, and instead opted to swim the 50 free, 100 free, and 100 fly individually. 

Fabian Schwingenschlogl  Mizzou 1st – 51.36      51.36
Michael Duderstadt   Auburn 5th – 51.94     51.83
Connor Hoppe  Cal T-3rd – 51.86      51.86
Ian Finnerty  Indiana 2nd – 51.75      51.75
 Tanner Kurz  Indiana 7th – 52.07       52.07
 Brandon Fiala Virginia Tech T-3rd- 51.86      51.86
Michael Barnosky  Air Force 6th – 51.98      51.98
 Carsten Vissering  USC  T-13th – 52.41      52.41

Dark Horse: Louisville sophomore Carlos Claverie is someone who could have a breakout performance at NCAAs. After a 34th place finish in his freshman year, Claverie has made tremendous strides this year and comes in seeded T-13th. Two personal bests at the ACC Championships indicate Claverie is on good form coming in. 

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4 years ago

I think Peter Kropp has saved his best for NCAAs this year… he is still on a really steep upward progression, and I think he has the potential to dip well under 52.

4 years ago

What about Alabama’s Anton McKee?

Reply to  BamaSpd
4 years ago

Anton’s Breaking 51 easily this year. He was 51.7 two years ago. I also see him in a top 3 spot in the 200

Reply to  Bamafan123
4 years ago

bamafan… you’ve gotta make your predictions more realistic my man. yes he was 51.7 two years ago, but he was 52 mid last year with plenty of time to recover from his injury. I can see him under 52 again but your out of your mind if you think he has a better shot at winning the 100 than he has at top 3 in the 200.

4 years ago

I think Derek Hren is very much dark horse in this race. The kid is such good racer and nows how to get hand on the wall. Expecting large swim from him.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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