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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2 Cents
9 months ago

Could the SEC meet end up with 2 first time champions? Women with UTK and Men with TAMU? I think that would be cool to see.

Admin
Reply to  2 Cents
9 months ago

No guarantees in a conference this deep, but it seems like a distinct possibility for me (as evidenced by our picks).

Superfan
Reply to  2 Cents
9 months ago

And Georgia men haven’t won in FOREVER!! SEC might be deep but not very elite at top for first time in long time. No Auburn or UF at the top!

Mody Ciller Vlogs
Reply to  Superfan
9 months ago

@SUPERFAN What are you talking about? The SEC definitely has some elite swimmers in it. I don’t know what you’re smoking to say something like that, but pass it along. Must have some dank hallucinogens in it or something.

Superfan
Reply to  Mody Ciller Vlogs
9 months ago

No elite teams! Any team in top 5 for sure at men’s ncaas? When was the last time that happened?

ClubCoach
Reply to  Superfan
9 months ago

What is your definition of elite?

Superfan
Reply to  ClubCoach
9 months ago

Top 3-5 at ncaas. Like auburn or Florida in their respective hey days

Bobby Shmurda
Reply to  2 Cents
9 months ago

I’ll bet my first born Son on TAMU taking it this time.

Topeka 1234
9 months ago

You guys are forgetting about Hugo, big points for the war eagle. His 400 im time of 3;35 would’ve won last year.

Admin
Reply to  Topeka 1234
9 months ago

There is nobody named Hugo on Auburn’s roster.

Austinpoolboy
Reply to  Topeka 1234
9 months ago

Somebody is living in the past

BeepBoop
Reply to  Topeka 1234
9 months ago

I believe you are confusing him for Nathaniel higs. Last name is similar to Hugo

Taa
Reply to  Topeka 1234
9 months ago

Get back in your time machine

Horninco
Reply to  Topeka 1234
9 months ago

*Topeka thinks* “Wait, how do I delete….?”

swimgeek
Reply to  Topeka 1234
9 months ago

…not one but TWO schools ago for Hugo

wolfensf
9 months ago

Is Michael Taylor really swimming? No meets as of yet this year….

Admin
Reply to  wolfensf
9 months ago

No, he probably isn’t, though he did race 1 meet for Florida very early in the season.

JCO
Reply to  wolfensf
9 months ago

I think it’s pretty unlikely that he swims. He isn’t on the initial psych sheet

ShrimpSwims
Reply to  JCO
9 months ago

Where are the initial psych sheets posted?

SBS
Reply to  JCO
9 months ago

Is there a psych sheet out there somewhere? I can’t find it. Help Please.

Swim3057
Reply to  SBS
9 months ago

Psych sheets were emailed to coaches yesterday….not sure if they will be put online until after teams scratch non competing athletes to get to travel limit on Monday afternoon.

Admin
Reply to  Swim3057
9 months ago

We’ll be posting them shortly.

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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