2022 ACC Men’s Fan Guide: New Defending Champs and Schedule Set Up Thriller

by Robert Gibbs 13

February 14th, 2022 ACC, College, News, Previews & Recaps

2022 ACC Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships

  • When: Tuesday February 15th to Saturday, February 19th Prelims 10:00am | Finals 6:00 pm (Tuesday 11:00am/4:30pm)
  • Where: McAuley Aquatic Center, Atlanta Georgia (Eastern Time Zone)
  • Defending Champion: University of Louisville (1x) (results)
  • Streaming: ACC Network
  • Championship Central: Here
  • Detailed Timeline: Here
  • Psych Sheets: Here
  • Live Results

The 2022 Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships appears to be track to be like no other one in recent memory. Where to start?

First, the meet returns to McAuley Aquatic Center at Georgia Tech (the 1996 Summer Olympics pool)for the first time since 2017 after four straight years in a row of the Greensboro Aquatic Center hosting.

Second, the men and women will be competing together during the week, in a new, five-day schedule similar to what the SEC has adopted for its championships. We’ll delve into some of the scheduling implications below.

Third, for the first time since 2014, the NC State Wolfpack will not be the defending championships. Instead, the University of Louisville Cardinals head to Atlanta with that title after securing their first ACC crown after a thrilling four-day competition last year.

The Cardinals have managed to keep most of their core from last year’s team intact, including the quartet that won the NCAA title in the 200 medley relay. Not only that, but they may even be stronger this year after bringing in a squad of high-powered international recruits like Denis Loktev, Denis Petrashov, and Murilo Sartori. Arthur Albiero and Co. tend to keep their hands close to their chest during the season, but don’t be surprised if this group explodes in Atlanta. There is an interesting wrinkle here, though. Fifth year Nick Albiero has traditionally done the 100 fly/back double on day three, plus the 200 fly on day four. The new schedule now has the 100 back immediately after the 200 fly on day four, so it’ll be interesting to see if Albiero attempts that double, or instead switches to a new third event, perhaps the 50 or 100 free.

That’s not to say NC State is out of the running by any means. They were missing a few key swimmers last year (most notably sprinter Nyls Korstanje, now returned), and one relay DQ cost them dearly, but the Wolfpack should be looking for vengeance. However, the trip to the top of the podium hit a few road bumps when Olympic medalist Noe Ponti chose to return home after only a few weeks in the states, and Alexander Norgaard doesn’t seem to have made it to NC State this year either. Not having either of those stars on hand is going to hurt, but the Wolfpack should get a ton of help from a dynamite class of freshmen, including David Curtiss and Aiden Hayes.

Virginia Tech’s depth helped push them past Virginia last year for a 3rd place finish, their best since they won the conference title in 2014. Then-freshman Youssef Ramadan had a breakout performance, winning the 100 fly with a 44.32 that made him the fastest freshman ever. The Hokies had three men made three A-finals each, but also got plenty of contributions all the way down the roster. They had a great showing last weekend at the Hokie Invite — Ramadan has already been under 45, Samuel Törnqvist went under 46 in the 100 back after going 47.16 at last year’s ACCs, and newcomers like Luis Dominguez could have a big meet next week.

Looking back at last year’s preview, one thing we noted was that the Virginia Cavaliers needed to improve on “missed swims,” splashes where a swimmer does not score, if they wanted to challenge the top of the conference. That didn’t happen, as they ended up with roughly the same number of non-scoring swims, 14, as the year before. Additionally, they only had a single diver, who’d didn’t score at all. The good news for UVA is that they have some heavy hitters at the top of the roster, including sophomore Matt Brownstead, who swept the 50 and 100 freestyles last year, and his near-time-clone Matt King, who transferred from Alabama. One swimmer to keep an eye on is freshman Jack Aikins, who has been pretty quiet so far this season, but whose lifetime best in the 200 back would have won that event last year.

Buoyed, as seemingly always, by strength in the sprints, the Florida State Seminoles finished 5th for the second year in a row, beating UNC by just 11 points. They already have four men at 19.5 or faster in the 50 free this season, the most of any school in the ACC. The UNC Tar Heels have gone from 10th the season before head coach Mark Gangloff took over to 7th in 2020, then 6th in 2021. There’s not a lot of “big names” on the roster, but diving continues to be a strength for them.

Notre Dame and Georgia Tech tied for 7th last year. Of those two teams, the Yellow Jackets appear to be in better shape this season. Christian Ferraro leads the ACC with a 1:40.33 200 fly, while freshman Mert Kilavuz has instantly adapted to SCY and leads the conference with a 14:42.62 1650. Meanwhile, Notre Dame takes a big hit as Jack Hoagland, last year’s ACC Most Valuable Swimmer, is taking a medical redshirt this season.

Pitt lost top sprinter Blaise Vera, but Cooper Van Der Laan has the fastest 100 breast time in the conference so far this season. Duke finished 10th once again 10th last year, and its top returners are a pair of divers. In 2021, the diving-only Miami program finished ahead of Boston College, with the Eagles only scoring via relays and a single individual swim.

SCHEDULE

Tuesday

800 Free Relay

Wednesday

200 Freestyle Relay
500 Freestyle
200 Individual Medley
50 Freestyle

Thursday

200 Medley Relay
400 Individual Medley
100 Butterfly
200 Freestyle

Friday

200 Butterfly
100 Backstroke
100 Breaststroke
400 Medley Relay

Saturday

1650 Freestyle
200 Backstroke
100 Freestyle
200 Breaststroke
400 Freestyle Relay

STARS

Boston College – Samuel Roche (senior backstroker), Zach Szmania (sophomore distance)  – Roche was the Eagles’ only individual finalist for the second year in a row, improving from 21st to 19th in the 100 back. Szmania has already knocked ten seconds off os his 1650 time this year

Duke – Seamus Harding (sophomore diver), Cole Reznick(senior IMer/breaststroker) Harding was the Duke’s top individual scorer last year, Reznick is once again the Blue Devils’ top-scoring returning swimmer, having scored 24 point last year in the 200 IM and breaststrokes, and he’s seeded top 8 in the 200 IM this year.

Florida State – Izaak Bastian (senior breaststroker), Max McCusker (senior sprint freestyler/flyer), David Quirie (sophomore distance  freestyler), Peter Varjasi (junior sprint freestyler) –  Bastian struggled a bit in prelims last year, but rallied to win the B-final in both breaststrokes. Varjsasi led the team in scoring thanks to a pair of A-final appearances in the 100 and 200 freestyles. 

Georgia Tech – Berka Saka (freshman IMer/backstroker), Christian Ferraro (senior flyer), Mert Kilavuz (freshman distance freestyler), Caio Pumputis (5th year breaststroker/IMer), Baturalp Unlu (sophomore freestyler)  Pumputis was largely back to form after a bit of a down 2020, winning the 200 IM, taking 2nd in the 200 breast, and finishing 6th in the 100 breast. Unlu was something of a surprise champion in the 200 free, and added points in the 100 and 500 as well. Ferraro only swam the two fly events last year, and as mentioned, currently owns the fastest 200 time this season. Likewise, Kilavuz currently has the fastest 1650 in the conference this season. Saka looks primed to add big points in the backstrokes and the 200 IM.

Louisville Murilo Sartori  – Nick Albiero (5th year flyer), Denis Loktev (freshman freestyler), Haridi Sameh (junior sprint freestyler), Murilo Sartori (freshman freestyler),  Evgenii Somov (5th year breaststroker) Mitchell Whyte  (senior backstroker) – The Cardinals, like the Wolfpack, simply have too man stars to name here. Somov swept the breaststrokes last year and took 3rd in the 200 IM. Albiero finished 2nd in both the 100 fly and the 100 back, and won the 200 fly for the fourth-straight year. Sameh continues to be a sprint lynchpin for the Cardinals, while Whyte finished 3rd in the 100 back won the 200. As if all that wasn’t enough, Louisville now adds a pair of Olympians who’ve been 1:46 in the 200 free (LCM) in the form of Loktev and Sartori. 

North Carolina – Valdas Abalikšta (5th year breaststroker), Brad Poelke (sophomore flyer), Tomas Sungalia  (senior sprint freestyler) Abalikšta is the Tar Heels’ top returning scorer after making the A-final in both breaststroke events, and he is seeded to do so again this year. Poelke had a nice improvement curve as a freshman and should haul in points in both butterfly events. Sungalia took 3rd in the 200 free in 2020 and won the B-final last year .

NC State – David Curtiss (freshman sprint freestyler), Ross Dant (junior d-freestyler), Aiden Hayes (freshman flyer), Nyls Korstanje (junior sprint free/fly), Eric Knowles (5th year distance/IMer), Kacper Stokowski (junior backstroker) – Like every year, there are plenty of other Wolfpack swimmers who’d be “stars” on most other teams, we’ll focus on their top three returning scorers from last year, plus another two who will should make an impact. Dant and Knowles lead a deep Wolfpack distance group, with Dant the defending runner-up in both the 500 and the 1650. Korstanje returns from an Olympic hiatus poised to challenges for titles in the 50 free, 100 fly, and 100 free. Stokowski is the defending champ in the 100 back and took 4th in the 200 back last season. Hayes has been fairly quiet so far this season, but was the #1 recruit in the high school class of 2021, while Curtiss is one of the fastest sprinters ever coming out of high school.

Notre Dame – Josh Bottelberghe (senior breaststroker), Tyler Christianson (sophomoreIMer/breaststroker) Chris Guiliano (freshman sprinter) –  Bottelberghe made the A-final in both breastrokes for the second year in a row. Christianson made the B-final final in both IMs and the 200 breaststroke, winning the B-final of the 400 IM. Guiliano has already improved from 20.15/43.40 to 19.60/42.84 this season, and he’s seeded 7th in the 100 free.

Pitt – Cooper Van Der Laan (senior breastroker), Marcin Goraj (sophomore backstroker)   Van Der Laan took 3rd in both breaststroke events last year, and he currently tops the conference rankings in the 100 this season with a time (51.42) that’s faster than his podium performance last season (51.52). Goraj could be an A-finalist in both backstroke events. 

Virginia – Matt Brownstead (sophomore sprint freestyler), Sean Conway (junior IMer), Matt King (sophomore sprint freestyler),  Noah Nichols (sophomore breaststroker) – Conway led the team last year with 73 points over three A-final appearances. Brownstead is the defending champion in the 50 and the 100 free, and King should be in the mix for a title in both of those events after transferring from Alabama. Nichols the was the runner-up in the 100 breast last year as a freshman, and also made the A-final of the 200 breast.

Virginia TechCarles Coll Marti (sophomore freestyler/breastroker), Antani Ivanov (senior flyer), Blake Manoff (senior freestyler/flyer)Youssef Ramadan (sophomore freestyler/flyer), Samuel Törnqvist (5th year IMer/backstroker)  Ramadan may have been the breakout star of last year’s meet, and he appears primed for another great performance.  Ivanov was a three-event A-finalist last year, including a 2ndd-place finish in the 200 fly. Manoff was another three event A-finalist, including a runner-up effort in the 200 free. Last year Tornqvist earned 3rd in the 200 back, and he’s been ever faster already this season. Coll currently leads the conference in the 200 IM after finishing 2nd last year.

Showdowns

Sprint Freestyles

NC State really led the way in turning the ACC into a sprint-centric conference, and that trend has only accelerated the last few years as Florida State, Louisville, UVA, and Virginia Tech have all produced some great sprinters. But things could go to another level this year. Here’s a quick glance at the lifetime bests for some of the top names in the 50 and the 100 free:

50 Free:

100 Free:

As we said, Brownstead is the defending champion in both sprint freestyles, but Nyls Korstanje won both in 2020. Both races should be utterly exciting, and there’s really no way of predicting who is going to their hand on the wall first.

100 Fly

At first glance, it’s easy to look at Ramadan’s 44.32 from last year’s meet and declare him the presumptive favorite for this year. However, Korstanje’s season-best time of 44.76 is just 0.12s off of Ramadan’s season-best of 44.64. Also, Albiero also clocked a 44.32 last season, just missing out on an NCAA title in the event while taking 2nd to Cal’s Ryan Hoffer. Additionally, the new schedule means that Albiero won’t have the 100 back the same day as the 100 fly, which could help him as well. Finally, NC State freshman Aiden Hayes is the national high school record holder in the event after going 45.47 last spring. Yes, that’s over a second away from Albiero and Ramadan, but we’ve seen Wolfpack freshman make some big drops. This should be another exhilarating race.

400 Free Relay

Last year, the team title came down to this event, adding an extra layer of excitement, but it should be a thriller even apart from the scoring implications.

NC State won last year, and now gets to add Korstanje and possibly one or more freshmen to this relay. Louisville only finished 0.18s behind, and one or more of their international recruits could make an impact. Virginia Tech and Virginia both have already been faster in this event this season than they were at last year’s ACCs, and either team could finish close enough to NC State and Louisville to keep things interesting.

Selections

Usually, I get to cheat and make final selections after the men’s diving portion has wrapped up. But this year, with diving happening concurrently with swimming, I’ve got to stare a little harder into tea leaves. But, here’s a chart of current Swimulator projections with a three-year average of diving points, by team.

Swimulator Points Average Diving Points Total
NC State 1323 99 1422
Louisville 981 116 1097
Virginia Tech 902 108 1010
Virginia 782 66 848
Florida State 710.5 127 837.5
Georgia Tech 709.5 71 780.5
Notre Dame 581.5 37 618.5
Pitt 377.5 21 398.5
UNC 375 139 514
Duke 309 116 425
Boston College 191 0 191
Miami 0 183 83

While NC State has a decided advantage in the Swimulator rankings, Louisville has plenty of room to move up. Neither team has lost much from last season, so it’ll really come to which team can get more out of their new additions and/or swimmers who are returning after a hiatus. It feels like you’ve got to give NC State the edge right now, but it also seems like it wouldn’t too much going wrong for NC State (say, a relay DQ) for the Cardinals to swoop down and secure their second-straight title.

The Hokies have a sizable gap over the Cavaliers when it comes to 3rd, and they also have a diving advantage. 

Things get a bit murkier after the top four. It seems like we’re never quite sure just what Florida State will do at ACCs, but it’d be a mistake to wholly discount them. UNC has a strong diving core that should help buoy them in the standings even with a lot of heavy hitters on the swimming side. Georgia Tech has the big names, but we haven’t seen the rest of the team get those B and C finals that you really need to move up. Notre Dame takes a big hit without Hoagland, but they have some intriguing younger swimmers who could help them out.

Lacking Vera, Pitt may sink back below Duke this season. As much as it stinks to see Boston College finish below the diving-only Miami, the Eagles are going to need to develop some more swimmers — or the Hurricanes will need to take a step back in diving scoring — before that feels likely to happen.

Picks:

  1. NC State
  2. Louisville
  3. Virginia Tech
  4. Virginia
  5. Florida State
  6. Georgia Tech
  7. UNC
  8. Notre Dame
  9. Duke
  10. Pitt
  11. Miami
  12. Boston College 

In This Story

13
Leave a Reply

Subscribe
Notify of

13 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
WahooWillie
7 months ago

A lane between in relays…. Whatever…. Hey coaches, how about voting to have men and women swim ACCs together?

Admin
Reply to  WahooWillie
7 months ago

………………….they do.

Chuggy Wuggy
7 months ago

Mark my words Sam Hoover aka thebigcheese will be the most influential freshman on NC State, he’s about to go crazy this week.

T Hammy
7 months ago

NC State gonna be out for blood this year. Don’t be surprised if this isn’t even close. They’re deep and ready to roll.

Chuggy Wuggy
Reply to  T Hammy
7 months ago

Indeed T-Hammy I wouldn’t be suprised if this is the year with their biggest win margin ever.

Snarky
Reply to  T Hammy
7 months ago

No mention of Noah Henderson? He’s going to put up some swims this week!

Swimfan
7 months ago

Gonna be fun to watch how uva spins a 4th place finish on that pattern they talk about on Instagram

PancakeLover
Reply to  Swimfan
7 months ago

Man, UVA lives rent free in your head.

Swimm
Reply to  Swimfan
7 months ago

They’re going to be acting like they won the meet lol they got so hype after races they lost against NCS a few weeks ago

Big Mac #1
7 months ago

Nc state gonna take the dub

snarky
7 months ago

The Pack is DEEEEEEEEEEP.

Breezeway
7 months ago

Go Pack! 🔥 🐺 🐺 🐺 🐺 🔥

This guy
7 months ago

Going to be the most exciting conference meet in the country

About Robert Gibbs