2020 Men’s SEC Championships Fan Guide: A&M Seeking First SEC Men’s Title

2020 SEC MEN’S Swimming & Diving CHAMPIONSHIPS

  • Tuesday, February 18 – Saturday, February 22, 2020
  • Auburn, AL – James E. Martin Aquatic Center
  • Prelims/Finals: 9:30 AM/5:30 PM Wed-Sat, 10/4:20PM Tues (Central Standard Time)
  • Defending Champion: Florida (7x) (results)
  • Live results
  • Live Video – SEC Network
  • Championship Central

Last season at the SEC Men’s Swimming & DIving Championships, the Gators came out on top of the team battle for the 7th time in a row, but the meet was closer than it had been in recent years. We once again have 5 teams who could fight for the title this year. While Florida is gunning for 8 straight, we could see Missouri, Texas A&M, Tennessee, or Georgia on top as well.

SCHEDULE

Tuesday:

  • Women’s 1-meter diving
  • 200 Medley Relay
  • Men’s 3-meter diving
  • 800 Free Relay

Wednesday:

  • 500 Free
  • 200 IM
  • 50 Free
  • Men’s 1-meter diving
  • 200 Free Relay

Thursday:

  • 400 IM
  • 100 Fly
  • Women’s 3-meter diving
  • 200 Free

Friday:

  • 200 Fly
  • 100 Back
  • 100 Breast
  • Men’s Platform diving
  • 400 Medley Relay

Saturday:

  • 1650 Free
  • 200 Back
  • 100 Free
  • 200 Breast
  • Women’s Platform diving
  • 400 Free Relay

STARS

Alabama Zane Waddell (senior sprinter), Kyle Maas (senior IMer), Derek Maas (freshman IMer), Liam Bell (freshman breaststroker) Nicholas Perera (sophomore IMer), Jonathan Berneburg (sophomore sprinter), Kevin Li (sophomore diver) – SEC Champion Waddell is Bama’s top returning scorer. They have some big shoes to fill now that Bams and Howard have graduated, but they’re bringing back some scorers in the 20-point range with Kyle Maas, Perera, Berneburg, and Li. Freshmen Bell and Derek Maas have big scoring potential.

AuburnSantiago Grassi (senior butterflier), Spencer Rowe (junior breaststroker), Conner Pruitt (sophomore diver), Aryan Makhija (sophomore freestyler), David Crossland (senior backstroker), Lleyton Smith (freshman backstroker) – The Tigers lost a handful of their top scorers to graduation or transfer, but return finalist Grassi and 27-point-scorer Rowe. Makhija has big scoring potential in the mile after finishing in the top 10 last season. Freshman Smith holds a top 10 ranking in the 100 back in the SEC.

Florida – Khader Baqlah (senior freestyler), Robert Finke (sophomore freestyler), Kieran Smith (sophomore IMer), Grant Sanders (senior IMer) – Florida has a powerhouse group returning a ton of points and return all but two of their stars from last season. One of those is Trey Freeman, who has chosen to take a redshirt this year. Champions Finke, Smith, and Baqlah return as the Gators vie for their 8th-straight title.

Georgia – Greg Reed (junior freestyler), Clayton Forde (senior free/fly/IMer), Andrew Abruzzo (sophomore free/IMer), Kevin Miller (senior freestyler), Walker Higgins (senior freestyler), Camden Murphy (junior butterflier), Ian Grum (freshman back/IMer) – The Bulldogs return nearly all of their top scorers from last season, but Javier Acevedo is taking an Olympic redshirt. Camden Murphy, a returning SEC Champion, should bring in a lot of butterfly points. They should get plenty of distance points as well between Higgins, Reed, Miller, and Abruzzo

Kentucky – Chase Lane (sophomore diver), Mingli Zhang (sophomore diver), Glenn Brown (senior IMer), Mason Wilby (sophomore fly/back/freestyler), John Mitchell (senior freestyler), Peter Wetzlar (senior freestyler) – Lane and Zhang were both diving finalists last season. Wetzlar returns after scoring in the 100 free final. Wetzlar is ranked in the top 10 in the SEC sprints this season. Brown and Wilby also hold a top 10 ranking.

LSU – Juan Celaya Hernandez (senior diver), Karl Luht (senior backstroker), Matt Klotz (senior backstroker), Luca Pfyffer (junior breaststroker), Brooks Curry (freshman sprinter) – Celaya Hernandez returns as the 1-meter champion with big potential for diving points. Luht has big scoring potential as he narrowly missed a couple of finals last season. Freshman Curry is ranked in the SEC top 10 for the 100 freestyle this season.

Missouri – Daniel Hein (senior backstroker), Nick Alexander (senior back/IMer), Jack Dahlgren (sophomore freestyle/backstroker), Carter Grimes (junior fly/back/IMer), Danny Kovac (sophomore fly/breast/IMer), Micah Slaton (senior butterflier) – Missouri only lost one major scorer to graduation. Alexander and Hein are the team’s top returning scorers. Alexander has a shot to bring home the 200 IM title in his final season. Dahlgren and Kovac were multi-event championship finalists as freshmen.

South Carolina – Itay Goldfaden (senior breaststroker), Lionel Khoo (senior breaststroker), Anton Down-Jenkins (sophomore diver) – The Gamecocks had top scorers Bekemeyer and SEC Champion Minuth graduate after 2019, but they return the defending 100 breast champion Goldfaden.

Tennessee – Matthew Garcia (senior backstroker), Matt Wade (sophomore diver), Taylor Abbott (senior freestyler), William Hallam (junior diver), Michael Houlie (sophomore breaststroker), Marc Hinawi (senior fly/freestyler) – The Volunteers will have to make up for the loss of Decoursey and SEC Champions Reilman and Zeng. Backstroke finalist Garcia returns along with diving finalist Wade after scoring 50 plus points last year.

Texas A&M – Shaine Casas (sophomore back/IMer), Benjamin Walker (senior breaststroke), Adam Koster (senior sprinter), Mike Thibert (senior sprinter), Kurtis Matthews (junior diver), Mark Theall (junior freestyler), Andres Puente (freshman breaststroker) – Almost of the Aggies’ top swimming scorers from last season return aside from Jose Martinez. Walker is the defending 200 breast champion. Casas is a huge threat to win the backstrokes and 200 IM. Freshman Puente is currently #2 in the SEC for the 100 breast and the fastest man in the 200 breast.

SHOWDOWNS

500 Free: This event features several men who could take the title. Last season’s champion, Fynn Minuth, has graduated. Runner-up Trey Freeman is a redshirt but Khader Baqlah of Florida returns after finishing 3rd last season. Teammate Bobby Finke, the mile and 400 IM champion, won the B final last season in a time that would have placed 5th, so he’s a threat here. Texas A&M’s Mark Theall leads the SEC this season with his best time from midseason. Georgia’s Walker Higgins was a close 4th behind Baqlah in 2019. All of these men have been under 4:14 except Finke.

100 back: Texas A&M’s Shaine Casas looks like the man to beat. He’s already been faster than the SEC Meet Record this year. However, Alabama’s Zane Waddell will look to defend his title. Waddell was just hundredths shy of the record last year. They’re the only men in the SEC with career bests under 45, but Missouri’s Daniel Hein could challenge as he’s been 45-low.

200 Free: Over half the finalists from last season have graduated, but Florida’s Khader Baqlah, who won this event in 2018, returns after taking 3rd. We’ll also see returning finalists Mark Theall (Texas A&M), and Jack Dahlgren (Missouri). Theall again leads the way so far with his time from midseason.

SELECTIONS

We could be looking at another 5-team battle for the top, with the Gators trying to grab their 8th-straight win. Swimulator shows Georgia taking a slight lead over Texas A&M, though it doesn’t account for diving points. Missouri is also pretty close in the rankings. The top 3 are all within 100 points of each other. Florida is ranked at 5th, but they typically make big improvements from their in-season times to conference. Diving will probably play a big role in the team outcome this season.

SWIMULATOR

Georgia 1125
Texas A&M 1090.5
Missouri 1037
Tennessee 902
Florida 749
Alabama 532.5
Kentucky 495
LSU 461.5
Auburn 396.5
South Carolina 323

SWIMSWAM PICKS

We have to take some things into consideration when looking at the Swimulator rankings, which are based on the fastest times posted this season ahead of the meet. Considering the diving points that will factor into this team battle, the divers may push Texas A&M ahead of the pack. Relays are also likely to shake up from their midseason standings, especially for the Gators, who tend to improve a lot from their in-season times to conference.

For example, the Gators are ranked just 7th in the 800 free relay ahead of conference, while they’re one of the favorites to defend their title at SECs. They also have several likely finalists and defending champions ranked well below their potential. They are, however, without a couple of key relay players from last season. Based on the way A&M has been performing this year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them earn their first men’s title, but realistically any of the top 5 Swimulator scorers could come out on top this year.

  1. Texas A&M
  2. Florida
  3. Georgia
  4. Missouri
  5. Tennessee
  6. Alabama
  7. LSU
  8. Auburn
  9. Kentucky
  10. South Carolina

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Texas A&M Swim Fan
2 years ago

I’m “all in” for Texas A&M!! It’s “our time now”! As they say in my part of the woods: “The wrapping is about to be taken off the package”!!
Wonderin about something though:
Have looked at “top times” for SEC events & I don’t see a time posted for Mizzou in the 800 free relay this season. Anybody know if they plan on putting a “team in the water” for that event?? If not…. big time “UH OH” & a “head bangin” headache is awaiting them when this is all “said & done”!!
Just “chompin at the bit” to get this a going. Jay Holmes, Jason Calanog, & Jay Lerew will turn our guys “loose” to just… Read more »

dmswim
Reply to  Texas A&M Swim Fan
2 years ago

Why do you like quote marks so much?

Dabestestman
Reply to  dmswim
2 years ago

Why do not the TN VOLS get any credit? They will dominate the diving, can win both Medleys, with the new stud mid-year flyer, Houlie, Garcia, Walsh and Connelly who can win both sprints – have tremendous power. I see no event where they do not final one or two men. The balance, experience in dual meets 7-1, and the invite WON will put them over the edge. They have free, back, breast and flyers out the wazoo. When they shave and suit up it will be the Vols of old stomping the opposition. I believe in this group.

dmswim
Reply to  Dabestestman
2 years ago

What does this have to do with my comment on quote marks?

Mody Ciller Vlogs
Reply to  Dabestestman
2 years ago

😂😂😂😂. Funniest comment here lol. What world are you living in???

Dabestestman
Reply to  Mody Ciller Vlogs
2 years ago

Exactly how I feel about DMSWIM. Thus quote the raven

Texas A&M Swim Fan
Reply to  dmswim
2 years ago

Because I don’t want “anybody” to miss anything👍👍

Swimnerd
2 years ago

Every team has their X factor going into this meet to moving up in the overall team scores
Bama: anything over a 100
Auburn: Their Freshman class
Georgia: Sprinting and relays
UF: Depth after their top tier guys
Missouri: showing if the suits in season were all smoke and mirrors or if there’s more in the tank
Tenn: Events over 200 yards
USC: haven’t been watching
LSU: is there help after Curry and Luht?
TAM: Flyers and 4IM
UK: potential finalists making scoring in the top 16 vs the top 24

wolfensf
Reply to  Swimnerd
2 years ago

I think Florida has the depth not sure if they have enough top tier guys left. Baqlah, Finke, Smith (3 A finals?), Sanders, Beach, Guarente(2 A finals?)… but after that can anyone make A level points? Relays top 3 but any wins?

Swimnerd
Reply to  wolfensf
2 years ago

I thought out of HS, Kieran Smith and Jack Dahlgren would be stars.
Smith will win the 4IM for the Gators, I don’t know if he has enough speed to go with Casas on the 200.

Mody Ciller Vlogs
Reply to  Swimnerd
2 years ago

Not even close buddy

Aquajosh
Reply to  Swimnerd
2 years ago

Hot take: Kieran Smith swims the 200/500 and a mystery third event. Finke can win the 400 IM. Smith was #1 in the US last year in the 200 free. It would be a shame not to swim him there, and both his 500 and 400 lc have been popping this season.

Geauxtigers
Reply to  Swimnerd
2 years ago

LSU has Klotz. Top 10 in all 3 of his events. Don’t rule him out!

Geauxtigers
Reply to  Geauxtigers
2 years ago

Klotz curry and Luht all have a top 5 seeding!

swimboi
2 years ago

I love the different colors you used

Raiders
2 years ago

Nobody beating Florida men!! They are always seeded low going into this meet as they have not shaved or rested yet. Other teams in the SEC just don’t have their depth of talent.

Texas A&M Swim Fan
Reply to  Raiders
2 years ago

Well….warning!! warning!! Watch out so that the door doesn’t hit you on your way out!! I hear that gators have a “quarter sized “kill spot”” located on the top of their heads so we’ll find it and put them out of their misery!! By the way, I hear that A&M has had no rest as well (well, only one day of rest (per Shaine Casas) for their Art Adamson meet held back in November (where most of their fastest times were swam by the way)) so we’ll see what these Aggies can do tapered, suited up, & with their “tanks” full of high octane fuel!! Gonna be hittin on all cylinders starting next Tuesday all the way through that week’s… Read more »

Aquajosh
2 years ago

It will be closer than previous years, but Florida should be able to squeak out the win again. There are some big drops coming, and between Finke and Smith alone they could win 5-6 individual titles. If Clark Beach can swim as well as he did this summer, their medley relays will do a lot better than projected. I think Eric Friese is a sleeper, and if he can channel the energy and excitement of his first SECs into his swims, he’s going to have a very good meet.

It will be a close meet, and as exciting as SECs already are, the team battle and the Olympic year boost will ramp this meet up to another level.

Mody Ciller Vlogs
2 years ago

Curious to see how the Stars in the SEC can perform.
500: Theall 4:10
200 IM: Casas sub 1:40
50: Toss up between Zane and Koster. Gonna take under 18 for sure
400 IM: no idea who sub 3:38
100 Fly: Murphy 44 high
200 Free: Theall 1:31 low
200 Fly: Murphy 1:39 high
100 back: Casas 43 high
100 breast: Puente 51.2
200 Back: Casas 1:37.0/1:36.80
100 free: Koster 41.0
200 breast: Walker 1:50

Relays are a toss up between Aggies, Gators, and Tigers.

Caleb
Reply to  Mody Ciller Vlogs
2 years ago

A lot of talent here but those look more like end-of-season times to me. I don’t think you’ll see many of those cards played at SECs…

Texas swims in a short pool
Reply to  Mody Ciller Vlogs
2 years ago

under 18 50 free. now that is a hot take

Billy
Reply to  Mody Ciller Vlogs
2 years ago

Which Tigers? There’s Mizzou, Auburn and LSU and they’re all called the Tigers….

Billy
Reply to  Billy
2 years ago

Why would someone downvote my comment. I’m just telling the truth! Ya know, Mississippi State and Georgia are the Bulldogs, you’re free to downvote that too!!

John
Reply to  Mody Ciller Vlogs
2 years ago

As an Aggie I would be thrilled for all of this to happen at NCAAs but not SECs. If they are capable of these times they can do some damage at NCAAs. Can’t wait to see.

Also, I think he meant under 19 for sure. At least I hope that’s what he meant…

Horns up
Reply to  Mody Ciller Vlogs
2 years ago

You’re insane. Not one of those predictions is happening.

John
Reply to  Horns up
2 years ago

Casas could absolutely go 1:39 200 IM. The rest are pretty unlikely.

DravenOP
2 years ago

Won’t be as fast at the top as previous years but should be a very exciting team race. I think Florida has some big time drops/surprises and wins.

Mody Ciller Vlogs
Reply to  DravenOP
2 years ago

Maybe the middle half but the top seeds will definitely put up great times.

2 Cents
Reply to  DravenOP
2 years ago

It very well could be deeper and I think Casas will put up some impressive times. But no way you can compare the top to when Dressel was still there for sure.

DravenOP
Reply to  2 Cents
2 years ago

There just aren’t any “elite” teams this year when you compare them to others at an NCAA level. They definitely have some fast swimmers but no real complete teams that should score top 5 at NCAAs. Maybe some will surprise me though, who knows!

Wow
2 years ago

Rafa isn’t swimming for South Carolina this season.

About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona (2013-2015) and the University of Florida (2011-2013). While her college swimming career left a bit to be desired, her Snapchat chin selfies and hot takes on Twitter do not disappoint. She's also a high school graduate of The …

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