2021 Big Ten Men’s Fan Guide: After Lots of Graduation Turnover, IU Has Edge

2021 B1G MEN’S CHAMPIONSHIPS

Last year, the Michigan Wolverines snapped a three-year Indiana Hoosier streak, claiming the title by over 200 points. The race in 2020 turned out to be for second, as a deep Ohio State team was able to surpass Indiana, winning by a mere 7.5 points over the Hoosiers when the dust settled. Wisconsin was squarely in fourth last year, while the Northwestern Wildcats moved up from ninth in 2019 to fifth in 2020, their highest finish since 2007.

Iowa and Michigan State are also facing program cuts, and while the Iowa women were able to reverse the decision and reinstate the program, the Hawkeye and Spartan men could be facing their last Big Ten Championships.

Note that, like the women’s meet, this year’s championships are spread out over five days instead of the usual four. The event schedule is tweaked, too, with no more than three individuals per day (except for the final day with the mile), and the order has been shifted around as well.

Diving has already concluded, with Ohio State, Indiana and Purdue jumping out to huge leads. OSU totaled a whopping 321 points with their diving group, over 100 points more than Indiana did. These top three teams were the only teams to surpass 100 points, with fourth-place Northwestern (97) and fifth-place Michigan (95) fairing well, too.

Indiana scored over 100 more points than last year, and Purdue (+62) and Penn State (+35) both out-performed their 2020 diving scores. Meanwhile, every other team performed worse than last year (OSU only by one point, though).

TEAM SCORES (THROUGH DIVING)

  1. Ohio State – 321
  2. Indiana – 211
  3. Purdue – 164
  4. Northwestern – 97
  5. Michigan – 95
  6. Minnesota – 74
  7. Wisconsin – 70
  8. Penn State – 39
  9. Iowa – 18
  10. Michigan State – 0

SCHEDULE

Tuesday

200 Medley Relay
800 Free Relay

Wednesday

200 Individual Medley
50 Freestyle
500 Freestyle

400 Medley Relay

Thursday

100 Butterfly
400 Individual Medley
200 Freestyle

Friday

100 Breaststroke
100 Backstroke
200 Butterfly

200 Freestyle Relay

Saturday

100 Freestyle
1650 Freestyle (timed finals)
200 Backstroke
200 Breaststroke

400 Freestyle Relay

STARS

Indiana – Brendan Burns (sophomore butterflier/backstroker), Michael Brinegar (redshirt sophomore distance specialist), Zane Backes (senior backstroker), Mikey Calvillo (junior distance specialist), Gabriel Fantoni (senior backstroker), Jack Franzman (junior sprinter), Tomer Frankel (freshman sprinter), Andrew Capobianco (redshirt junior diver) — Sophomore Burns is a massive butterfly/backstroke presence for the Hoosiers, while freshman Frankel’s presence is even more important with top sprinter Bruno Blaskovic out due to injury. Fantoni is back after winning both 2020 Big Ten backstroke crowns, too. Meanwhile, Capobianco and Brinegar are back after Olympic redshirts, which is huge.

Iowa – Aleksey Tarasenko (redshirt junior sprinter), Anze Fers Erzen (junior backstroker/IMer), Mateusz Arndt (junior distance specialist), Will Myhre (sophomore breaststroker), Sergey Kuznetsov (sophomore butterflier) — The Hawkeyes have at least one highly ranked swimmer in each stroke. Tarasenko returns for Iowa after making the 100 free A-final.

MichiganGus Borges (senior sprinter), Patrick Callan (junior freestyler), Wyatt Davis (freshman multi), Jake Mitchell (freshman freestyler) Mason Hunter (junior breaststroker)River Wright (sophomore multi), Will Chan (junior breaststroker)Michigan just lost a massive senior class, and senior Ricardo Vargas is home in Mexico and unable to travel back to Ann Arbor due to COVID-19 restrictions. Nonetheless, two of the nation’s best freshmen, Wyatt Davis and Jake Mitchell, are capable of debuting at Big Ten as stars and potential triple A-finalists. Gus Borges is this team’s senior leader.

Michigan StateAidan Farley (senior sprinter), Jon Lee (junior breaststroker) — Last year at Big Tens, Farley scored in three events, making an A-final appearance in the 200 free. This is probably the last meet for the Spartans in program history, and Farley will be their one-to-watch.

MinnesotaMax McHugh (junior breaststroker), Sawyer Grimes (freshman distance specialist), Kaiser Neverman (freshman butterflier), Lucas Farrar (freshman butterflier) — McHugh might be *the* star of the Big Ten, as he’s the fastest 100 breaststroker in the NCAA right now by a half-second with most conference championships done and dusted. Grimes has gone lifetime bests during a truncated COVID-19 season in the 200 back and 200 IM, while Neverman is ranked top-16 in both butterfly events. Meanwhile, Farrar and Neverman are the first true sprinters that the Gophers have had in a while.

NorthwesternKevin Houseman (sophomore breaststroker), Manu Bacarizo (junior backstroker), Marcus Mok (sophomore breaststroker) Aleksa Bobar (sophomore freestyler), Connor LaMastra (senior multi), Emils Jurcik (junior multi)  — Bacarizo is the conference’s fastest 100 and 200 backstroker so far this year, while Houseman is the best 100 breaststroker behind only McHugh. Federico Burdisso is on the roster, but he hasn’t swam yet this year, and it seems that he’s been in Italy since the pandemic began. Still, transfers LaMastra and Jurcik are potential A-finalists.

Ohio StatePaul Delakis (senior freestyler/IMer), Sem Andreis (junior sprinter), Jason Mathews (junior breaststroker), Thomas Watkins (sophomore backstroker), Hunter Armstrong (sophomore sprinter), Joey Canova (senior diver), Charlie Clark (freshman distance specialist) — Delakis is a huge talent, and after finishing runner-up in the 200 IM, 200 free and 200 breast, he’s the top returner in all three. Andreis has developed into one of the conference’s best sprinters, and West Virginia transfer Armstrong is a clutch sprint free/back addition for the Buckeyes.

Penn StateMichael Daly (sophomore IMer), William Roberson (junior sprinter), Daniel Raisanen (sophomore breaststroker), William Lulek (junior breaststroker/IMer), Jake Houck (freshman sprinter), Zac Zwijacz (junior butterflier) — Daly is an exceptionally versatile talent, while Roberson may well snag a sprint title in a year where there are no clear sprint favorites.

Purdue Nikola Acin (junior sprinter), Nicholas Sherman (junior sprinter), Ben Bramley (sophomore diver), Greg Duncan (junior diver), Ryan Hrosik (sophomore sprinter), Trent Pellini (senior breaststroker), Brandon Loschiavo (redshirt senior diver) — Purdue’s sprint group is really exceptional this year, and they lead the conference in the 200 medley relay. Acin has won the 50 free agains Ohio State, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin in dual meets, and he leads the Big Ten in that event. With Brandon Loschiavo back after a redshirt year, this is an exceptional diving crew for the Boilermakers, too.

WisconsinAndrew Benson (freshman sprinter), Wes Jekel (sophomore multi), Jake Newmark (freshman sprinter), Erik Gessner (junior backstroker/butterflier), Josh Dannhauser (junior distance specialist), Caleb Aman (junior IMer), Tazman Abramowicz (sophomore diver) — Reload, reload, reload. The Wisconsin freshmen look incredibly dangerous, with several going big lifetime bests despite this hodge-podge of a season, and Benson and Newmark each have one Big Ten #1 time. Jekel and Aman return with A-final potential, too.

SHOWDOWNS

100 BACK

Gabriel Fantoni is the defending champion in this 100 back, blasting a 44.92 after his 100 fly in the same session. The top returners behind Fantoni from the 2020 conference meet are his teammate, Brendan Burns (45.75), and Wisconsin sophomore Wes Jekel (46.48).

Freshman Wyatt Davis, if he swims this over the 200 free, is the big wild card. Davis has a best of 45.80 from the 2020 Indiana HS State Championships, and he could challenge the 45-second barrier this year.

The season’s top swimmer has been Northwestern junior Manu Bacarizo. More of a 200 backstroker, Bacarizo broke 47 for the first time in January to go 46.74, about two-tenths faster than his old best. He matched that time at a February dual a couple weeks later. Another factor here is Ohio State sophomore Hunter Armstrong, who went 46.22 at the 2020 Big 12 Championships when he was at WVU; he’s been 47.06 this season.

200 FREE

Four of eight A-finalist from last year return this year, but only one, Michigan junior Patrick Callan, ranks in the conference’s top ten. Freshmen Jake Newmark (Wisconsin) and Tomer Frankel (Indiana), are ranked first and third, respectively, while Iowa’s Mateusz Arndt and Aleksey Tarasenko sit second and fourth, respectively.

Paul Delakis is the top returner at 1:32.04, which none of the above swimmers have come close to except for Callan (1:32.90). Meanwhile, Michigan rookies Wyatt Davis (1:33.6 in high school) and Jake Mitchell (1:34.0 in high school) could crash this party, though Davis might race the 100 back instead.

200 MEDLEY RELAY

Purdue leads the conference at 1:26.00, with Ohio State just a hundredth behind them. Conference-wide, this is a strong relay; the top eight teams have been 1:26 this year.

Last year, Indiana won by a second over Michigan, 1:23.07 to 1:24.16, with Purdue third (1:24.44) and Ohio State fourth (1:24.55). IU, Michigan and Ohio State all need to replace one leg, while Purdue returns the whole cast. Indiana losing Blaskovic is tough, but they have sprinters capable of at least a 19-low to anchor, while Michigan needs to find a way to replicate Miles Smachlo’s 20.2 fly leg; that said, Michigan’s Davis has been 21.15 in the 50 back in high school, which would be an improvement from last year.

The Fantoni – Backes – Burns combo over the first three legs looks hard to beat for Indiana, though, but these other three teams will likely be closer to the Hoosiers this time around.

SELECTIONS

SWIMULATOR PICKS

NOTE – this does not include diving, and Swimulator works as an approximation and projection based on 2020-21 season bests. Not every team tapers the same way, injuries/illnesses come up, and projections are merely projections. Some teams haven’t raced all of the 2021 conference meet events (and just one person, Michigan’s Andrew Babyak, has raced the mile); for example, Wisconsin hasn’t contested the 400 IM and no teams have raced the 800 free relay, so those potential points aren’t reflected in Swimulator picks.

Michigan 1032.5
Indiana 950.5
Northwestern 856.5
Wisconsin 657.5
Iowa 579.5
Ohio St 554.5
Purdue 538
Penn St 457.5
Minnesota 359.5
Michigan St 122

SWIMSWAM PICKS

This one is hard to pick; Michigan had a two-week training break due to the COVID-19 situation on campus in late January/early February. Their women seemed more or less unaffected by that training pause, though they weren’t quite as sharp in some areas.

While the Swimulator projects big things for the Wolverines, Indiana and Ohio State have significant diving advantages that the tool doesn’t account for. In terms of best times, Davis and Mitchell are the best freshmen in the conference, but Michigan lost a huge class, and Wolverines distance ace Vargas hasn’t raced all year either.

Ohio State and their depth should carry them to the top three, while Wisconsin’s freshman class will set them up well to battle with Purdue and Northwestern for fourth.

  1. Indiana
  2. Michigan
  3. Ohio State
  4. Northwestern
  5. Wisconsin
  6. Purdue
  7. Iowa
  8. Penn State
  9. Minnesota
  10. Michigan St

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IUSwimMan
1 month ago

Burn the ships!

Hatsandmittens
1 month ago

Erik not Eric

Hatsandmittens
Reply to  Hatsandmittens
1 month ago

Thank you!

Ohio swim observer
1 month ago

Combining Swimulator + diving results

1.   Indiana – 1161.5
2.   Michigan – 1127.5
3.   Northwestern – 953.5
4.   Ohio State – 875.5
5.   Wisconsin – 727.5
6.   Purdue – 702
7.   Iowa – 597.5
8.   Penn State – 496.5
9.   Minnesota – 433.5 
10. Michigan State – 122

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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