2018 ACC Men’s Champs Fan Guide: NC State at The Top, Other Schools Look to Reload

by Robert Gibbs 14

February 20th, 2018 ACC, College, Previews & Recaps


  • When: Wednesday, February 21st to Saturday, February 24th | Prelims 10:00am | Finals 6:00pm
  • Where: Greensboro Aquatics Center, Greensboro, NC (Eastern Time Zone)
  • Defending Champion: NC State Wolfpack (results) fix
  • Psych Sheet: here
  • Live Results: here
  • Streaming: WatchESPN (subscription required)
  • Championship Central: here

Let’s cut to the chase: the NC State Wolfpack are going to win their 4th-straight conference title.  They’ve got top-end talent, they’ve got depth, they could/should win all five relays, and short of an influenza outbreak that’s limited to their team, you’ve got to try to really hard to imagine a scenario where they don’t win.

The bigger question is going to be: how will the rest of the conference else do?

A year or two ago, it looked like the ACC was rapidly catching up to the B1G, SEC, and Pac-12 in swimming prowess.  However, a lot of teams lost their top swimmers to graduation, and it remains to be seen if they’ve reloaded enough.  Teams like Louisville and Virginia Tech took a big hit by the departure of stars like Grigory Tarasevich and Trevor Carroll (Louisville) and Brandon Fiala and Robert Owen (Virginia Tech).

Virginia faded to 5th last year, but after their women won an unexpected championship last week, it’ll be interesting to see if their men can ride some of that momentum and jump up a couple of spots this year.  Notre Dame will also be in the hunt for a repeat 3rd place finish, while Florida State and its solid sprint free crew will be another team vying for a spot in the top five.

UNC and Duke also lost on the top end after last year, although the Tar Heels in particular have some freshmen who could make some noise this week.  Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, and Boston College all look pretty similar to last year, although Georgia Tech has a strong breaststroke crew that’ll help keep them in the middle of the pack.

All that to say, while it’s not exactly the Big 12, there’s probably not going to be much drama at the top of the team standings.  Still, there should be an exciting battle for 2nd-5th or so, and fans should have some fun watching to see if any of the up-and-coming swimmers are able to throw down some times that could make them players at NCAAs in a month.



  • 200 Medley Relay
  • 800 Freestyle Relay


  • 500 Freestyle
  • 200 IM
  • 50 Freestyle
  • 200 Freestyle Relay


  • 400 IM
  • 100 Butterfly
  • 200 Freestyle
  • 100 Breaststroke
  • 100 Backstroke
  • 400 Medley Relay


  • 1650 Freestyle
  • 200 Backstroke
  • 100 Freestyle
  • 200 Breaststroke
  • 200 Butterfly
  • 400 Freestyle


Boston College – Taylor Cortens (junior IMer/breaststroker) Cortens was the only Eagle swimmer to score points last year, thanks to a 20th place finish in the 200 breast, and he’s the only one projected to score based on the psych sheet.

Duke – Nathaniel Hernandez (sophomore diver), Judd Howard (junior breaststroker), Maximilian St George (sophomore IMer/backstroker)  Hernandez is the returner with the highest point total from last year, while Howard and St. George are the only swimmers ranked in the top ten in any event.

Florida State –  Connor Kalisz (junior backstroker) Chad Mylin (senior sprinter, Will Pisani (junior sprinter)   –  The Seminoles have the best sprint free group outside of NC State, having already secured NCAA qualifying marks in both of the shorter free relays.

Georgia Tech – Rodrigo Correia (junior freestyler), Moises Loschi (senior distance freestyler and breaststroker), Caio Pumputus (freshman breaststroker/IMer)  The Yellow Jackets boast one of the better breaststroke groups in the conference, and Pumputus is seeded 2nd in the 200 breast, only .7s behind Louisville’s Carlos Claverie, so he could very much be in the title hunt in that event.

Louisville Marcelo Acosta (junior distance freestyler), Nick Albiero (freshman flyer), Andrej Barna (sophomore freestyler), Carlos Claverie (junior breaststroker), Zach Harting (sophomore butterflier) – Claverie could end up as the only non-Wolfpack swimmer to win an individual event.  Albiero is a rising star who will help blunt some of the big losses Louisville suffered due to graduations.

North Carolina – Valdas Abaliksta (freshman breaststroker),  Alvin Jiang  (freshman backstroker) – the two freshman are the only Tar Heels ranked in the top ten in any swimming event, with the Lithuanian Abaliksta projected to make the A-final in both breaststrokes.

NC StateAnton Ipsen (senior distance freestyler), Ryan Held (senior sprinter), Jacob Molacek (junior freestyler/breaststroker) , Justin Ress (junior freestyler/backstroker) Andreas Vazaois  (junior IMer/freestyler/flyer/backstroker) – It’s really impossible to list all of NC State’s stars, and there are Wolfpack swimmers not on this list who would be the centerpiece of the team at most of the other ACC schools.  

Notre Dame –  Tabahn Afrik (junior freestyler),  Justin Plaschka (senior freestylier/butterflier), Robert Whitacre (senior backstroker), Zach Yeadon (freshman distance free) Yeadon has been one of the best freshman in the NCAA so far this year, and looks to be one of the few guys capable of challenging Ipsen in the distance events.

Pitt – Aaron Sett (senior distance freestyle)  While Sett lurks further down the psych sheet that most teams’ stars, he’s Pittsburgh’s top returning swimmer from last year.

Virginia –  Brendan Casey (junior freestyler), Joe Clark (sophomore backstroker), Ted Schubert (sophomore IMer), Zach Fong (junior butterflier)  UVA lacks one clear star on this team, but each of these swimmers is seeded in the top 5 in at least one event.

Virginia Tech – Michael Craddock (junior distance freestyler), Ian Ho (junior sprint freestyler), Norbert Szabo (junior freestyler/IMer) – Craddock is the team’s top returner in terms of individual points, while Ho and Szabo are the only two other Hokies ranked in the top ten in any even coming into the meet.

Showdowns –

100 Breast

As we’ve mentioned, the breaststrokes are arguably the Wolfpacks weakest events, although they’ll still have a former national high school record holder, Jacob Molacek, swimming the 100 breast.  Molacek will square off against a field that includes the fastest returning man from last year’s contest, Louisville’s Carlos Claverie.

100 Free

It’s impossible at this point to predict what NC State’s versatile top-end talent will be swimming on Day 3, but it’s pretty safe to say that we’ll get to see a Held vs. Ress vs. Molacek showdown in the 100 free on Day 4.  Held is the two-time defending champion, while Ress had a breakout summer, and we’ll have to see what Molacek has in the bag after a full season of training with the Wolfpack.

Selections –

Men’s diving competed last week, and when you add those results into our Swimulator projections (using season top times), this is what you get:

Swimulator Points Dive Points Total Projected
1 NC State 1301 65 1366
2 Louisville 1098 38 1136
3 Florida State 918 195 1113
4 Notre Dame 779 95 874
5 Virginia 828 19 847
6 Georgia Tech 626 56 682
7 Virginia Tech 428 179 607
8 Duke 394 212 606
9 UNC 361 119 480
10 Pitt 406 14 420
11 Boston College 167 0 167
12 Miami 0 94 94

Obviously NC State is the favorite to win, and the bottom end of the projections look about right as well.  Notre Dame and Virginia Tech have some pretty strong recent history of finishing better than projections, while FSU tends to slip a bit.  Virginia is a little harder to read, as they have tended to underperform projections the past couple of years, but you can’t completely ignore what the women’s team did last week, either.  Taking all of that into account, here’s what we’re expecting to see by the end of Saturday:

  1. NC State
  2. Louisville
  3. Notre Dame
  4. Virginia
  5. Florida State
  6. Virginia Tech
  7. Georgia Tech
  8. Duke
  9. North Carolina
  10. Pittsburgh
  11. Boston College
  12. Miami (FL) – diving only

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For NC State, Ipsen and Held are seniors. Molacek is a sophomore and Ress is a junior.


UNC 9th? Talk about ouch.


I bet UNC finishes sixth or seventh as I do think Jiang, Campbell, Dimitrois, and Albaskas put up a lot of points but that’s all they got and even them only go 1-2 events and not 3. Campbell is really their only 3 event stud.

They can’t recruit at all in men any more. All they are getting is foreigners and JC transfers. It’s so readily apparent to everyone but DeSelm and the AD that a coaching change is needed. UNC should never be out of the top 3 given its school and funding situation.

Ouch is an understatement


I’m pretty sure it’s Abaliksta and Dimitrios, not Albaskas and Dimitrois


I don’t expect our guys to rest for ACC’s. With the conference title pretty much guaranteed, I think the focus is going to be at NCAA’s and a top 2 finish.

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