2023 Men’s NCAAs: How Did Our Top 20 Recruits Perform As Freshmen?

We’ve already done a deep dive into our recruiting archives, looking at how the top 20 recruits from the high school class of 2019 did after four NCAA seasons. Now it’s time to look back at a more recent recruit ranking: the current year’s freshmen:

Relevant links:

Naturally, this analysis has a far smaller sample size than the lookback of how the class of 2019 fared over their entire career, so it’s much more difficult to read too much into these numbers. Still, it’s useful to look at which first-year NCAA swimmers had the best performances relative to their recruiting ranks.

As always, our notes on this data:

  • The data included is only individual scoring at NCAAs. That’s not an exact measure of an athlete’s contribution to a program: many of these swimmers (and others not listed) were relay scorers at NCAAs, scored significant points at conference meets and provided great leadership and culture-building for their programs. This data isn’t a perfect analysis of the best recruits – it’s merely a quick look at the data we can compile.
  • A college swimming career includes four years of eligibility, and sometimes more. Revisiting scoring after one year is an incomplete analysis of a swimmer’s career – this is not the final word on any of these prospects, and we will revisit this data over the next three seasons to get a more complete evaluation.

The ranks listed below are from our re-rank last summer – they are not current ranks of NCAA athletes. We also do not rank international athletes as recruits, as it’s hard to predict if and when they’ll come to the U.S., and which class with which to include them.

General Observations: International swimmers and backstrokers were the top performers from this class in 2022-23.


HM=Honorable mention

1 Baylor Nelson Texas A&M 19 19
2 Quintin McCarty NC State
3 Michael Cotter NC State
4 Liam Custer Stanford no invite
5 Carl Bloebaum Virginia Tech
6 Matthew Chai Cal no invite
7 Nick Simons Tennessee 4 4
8 Zhier Fan Stanford no invite
9 Josh Zuchowski Stanford 0
10 Landon Gentry Virginia Tech 0
11 Lance Norris NC State no invite
12 Charlie Crosby Texas no invite
13 Sebastien Sergile Virginia 0 (relay-only)
14 Levi Sandidge Kentucky 13 13
15 Gio Linscheer Florida 1 1
16 Connor Foote Texas A&M 2 2
17 Tommy Janton Notre Dame 10 10
18 Sam Powe Georgia no invite
19 Conor McKenna Princeton no invite
20 Dawson Joyce Florida no invite
HM Kohen Rankin Army no invite
HM Logan Zucker Michigan no invite
HM Alec Enyeart Texas 4 4
HM Owen McDonald Arizona State 27 27
HM J.T. Ewing NC State
HM Tate Bacon Notre Dame no invite

The Hits:

  • Top-ranked recruit Baylor Nelson had a phenomenal freshman year at Texas A&M, sweeping the men’s medley events at the SEC Championships before putting up 19 NCAA points with a seventh-place finish in the 200 IM and a ninth-place showing in the 400 IM. Nelson swam about as good as you could ask a first-year swimmer at his first NCAA meet—it speaks to the depth of the competition that 1:40/3:38 IM swims net you less than 20 points.
  • The top scorer amongst the group came out of the Honorable Mentions, as Owen McDonald thrived in his first year at Arizona State. McDonald enter the season as a 47.2/1:42.6 backstroker, and ended up clocking 44.85 in the 100 back to place sixth at NCAAs. In the 200, he took third at Pac-12s in a best time of 1:39.01 (behind Destin Lasco and Hugo Gonzalez, who went 1-2 at NCAAs) before placing fifth at NCAAs in 1:39.34, scoring a total of 27 individual points for the Sun Devils.
  • Kentucky’s Levi Sandidge dropped 18 seconds to win the SEC title in the 1650 free, lowering the 17-18 NAG record in a time of 14:31.47, and followed up by placing sixth at NCAAs for 13 points (his SEC time would’ve been third).
  • Tommy Janton swam back-to-back personal best times in the 100 back at NCAAs to earn a second swim, first going 45.54 in the heats before winning a swim-off for 16th in 45.12. In the final, the Notre Dame freshman moved up to 14th (45.43), and the following day placed 10th in the 200 back in another PB of 1:39.45. Similar to McDonald, Janton experienced massive drops in time in his first year with the Irish, having come in with bests of 46.7/1:42.0 in the backstrokes.
  • Tennessee’s Nick Simons was the only recruit in the top 10 outside of Nelson to score, as he first hit a best time of 1:40.05 in the 200 back at SECs before taking 15th at NCAAs. He finished in the same position in the 100 back in a PB of 45.45.
  • While some of the top distance swimmers in this class struggled to hit their best times as freshmen, Texas’ Alec Enyeart set a new PB of 14:43.39 in the 1650 free at the Minnesota Invite in December. Although he was shy of that mark at NCAAs (14:47.13), he did put some points on the board with a 13th-place finish.

The Misses:

  • Three of our top five didn’t compete in the second semester, as NC State’s Quintin McCarty was sidelined with injury and Wolfpack teammate Michael Cotter had his last meet of the season come at the Wolfpack Invite. Virginia Tech’s Carl Bloebaum also didn’t race in 2023 for the Hokies and has since entered the transfer portal.
  • Stanford’s Liam Custer was unable to approach his pre-college time in the 1650 free, his primary event, and didn’t earn an NCAA invite. The same went for Cal’s Matthew Chai.
  • Custer’s Cardinal teammate Zhier Fan notched a lifetime best in the 100 breast (51.97) at Pac-12s, placing fifth, which left him seven one-hundredths shy of the NCAA cut line.
  • #11 Lance Norris was a victim of a deep NC State team and didn’t make the ACC roster, though he did swim a lifetime best in the 500 free and neared his PB in the 1650 at the Bulldog Last Chance meet.


And of course, we’ll include everyone’s favorite part: which unranked recruits earned NCAA invites and scored points this season – both domestic up-and-comers and international pickups.


BOTR Jonny Kulow Arizona State 6 6


  • Given how difficult it is to score as a ranked recruit, ASU’s Jonny Kulow had an extraordinary season with the Sun Devils as he put up six points while producing some blistering relays after falling in the “Best of the Rest” category last summer. Kulow swam three 41-point 100 frees, including a 41.66 in the consolation final to place 11th, and neared a second scoring swim when he finished 17th in the 50 free (19.05). The Wyoming native also blasted relays splits of 18.31 and 40.78 in the sprint free events, having come into the season with flat-start bests of 20.0/43.6.


Josh Liendo Florida 54 54
Hubert Kos Arizona State 37 37
Gui Caribe Tennessee 20 20
Aleksas Savickas Florida 18 18
Ruard Van Renen SIU 13 13
Zalan Sarkany Arizona State 11 11
Dominik Mark Torok Wisconsin 4 4
Louis Dramm UNC 3 3
Martin Espernberger Tennessee 1 1


  • This year’s freshman class was dominated by international swimmers, led by Florida’s Josh Liendo, who only announced his commitment a few weeks before the season began. Liendo went on to have one of the best freshman seasons we’ve ever seen, though that shouldn’t come as a surprise as he came in as an individual World Championship medalist (and is one year older than the domestic freshman). Liendo won the 100 free in a time of 40.28, becoming the second-fastest performer in history, and also placed second in both the 50 free and 100 fly. The Canadian native produced crucial lead-off legs to lead Florida to new U.S. Open Records in the 200 free (18.22) and 400 free (40.66) relays, and in the 400 medley, he had the fastest fly split in history (42.91) as they set a third NCAA and U.S. Open Record.
  • Another swimmer that entered the NCAA with an impressive international resume, Hungarian Hubert Kos placed third in the 200 back and fourth in the 400 IM in his freshman year with Arizona State. In the 200 IM, the event in which he is the reigning European champion, Kos placed 11th overall, earning a total of 37 points for the Sun Devils.
  • Kos’ teammate Zalan Sarkany also had an instant impact for ASU, winning the Pac-12 title in the 1650 free before placing eighth at NCAAs.
  • Brazilian Gui Caribe formed a formidable 1-2 punch for Tennessee in the sprint free events alongside Jordan Crooks, swimming respective best times of 18.79 and 41.43 in the 50 and 100 free at SECs before placing eighth in the 50 and ninth in the 100 at NCAAs. Caribe also had relay splits as fast as 18.44 and 40.77.
  • In addition to Liendo, Florida had another high-impact international freshman come in the form of Aleksas Savickas, who won the SEC title in the 200 breast and placed second in the 100 breast. At NCAAs, the Liuthanian placed fifth in the 200 and 13th in the 100 while splitting sub-23 on Florida’s third-place 200 medley relay.
  • Southern Illinois’ Ruard van Renen was a surprising mid-major scorer for the Salukis, as the South African native placed ninth in the 100 back and 13th in the 200 back. He has since entered the transfer portal.


Nick Harris Texas 19 19
Carson Paul LSU 9 9
Joshua Thai Cal 3 3
Nicholas Stone Tennessee 2 2


  • Nick Harris provided 19 critical points for Texas to help them hold onto third in the team race, placing seventh on 1-meter and 10th on 3-meter. He also won the Big 12 title in the 3-meter event.
  • LSU’s Carson Paul only competed on platform, but had an exceptional performance in the consols, finishing ninth with a score of 427.05—a total that would’ve been third in the championship final.


Analysis as of: Spring 2023 Spring 2022 Spring 2021 Spring 2020 Spring 2019 Spring 2018 Spring 2017
Class of 2022 After Freshman Year
Class of 2021 After Sophomore Year
Class of 2020 After Junior Year After Sophomore Year
Class of 2019 After Senior Year After Junior Year After Sophomore Year
Class of 2018 After Senior Year After Junior Year After Sophomore Year
After Freshman Year
Class of 2017 After Senior Year After Junior Year After Sophomore Year
After Freshman Year
Class of 2016 After Senior Year
After Junior Year
Class of 2015
After Senior Year
Class of 2014
After Senior Year
Class of 2013
After Senior Year

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8 months ago

I know it is kinda picky, but Baylor Nelson was 10th in the 400 IM(3:38.11), not 9th. In a great consol heat race with Baylor, the 9th place honors went to David Schlicht of ASU (3:38.03).

get row
1 year ago

The hits should be what the rankings got right, and the misses should be guys you underrated, much better way at looking at it

1 year ago

Asu is where people develop

1 year ago

Wuffies with a complete whiff there

Reply to  Yup
1 year ago

that UVA men’s team is like the titanic. got enough life rafts for those jumping ship? don’t worry, Eddie Reese will keep recruiting for you.

Reply to  Yup
1 year ago

Injury sucks doesn’t it

PNW Swammer
1 year ago

Those of us from the NWAGs and Western Zones love to see Johnny Kulow and Nick Simons continue to represent!

Lap counter
1 year ago

From just this one year (which isn’t a fair analysis), you get more scoring power from your scholarship dollar with a international athlete than a domestic. Just a generalization!

Reply to  Lap counter
1 year ago

I mean of the only two international recruits that outscore fall domestic recruits, one already had an individual medal at worlds and the other had a gold medal at Euro champs. If any of the domestic recruits had that level of success prior to joining the NCAA, I can imagine they’d probably be up there in terms of points too.

Reply to  Lap counter
1 year ago

age probably plays a pretty big role, since there’s often still a lot of physical development going around in these late teen years for guys. Compared to the top 20 on this list (which is likely already older than average given that they’re the top recruits), which had an average age of around 19.25 at their first NCAAs, Kos was around 20.0 and Liendo was around 20.5. The oldest recruit in the top 20 was Hoffer who was around 10.5 months younger than Liendo and 3.5 younger than Kos while the youngest recruit was Murphy, who was almost exactly a year younger than Hoffer (so 1 year 10.5 months younger than Liendo, 1 year 3.5 months younger than Kos)

tea rex
1 year ago

Pretty rough overall – seems like an unusual number of freshman who didn’t complete the season, or were off their bests. Then there were a few who were victims of the crushing depth that comes with 5th years.
If you were disappointed with your freshman results – pay attention to what worked and didn’t, figure out what you can improve, and keep working the turns!

Grant Drukker
Reply to  tea rex
1 year ago

It’s more so just that it is really hard to score as a freshman in general. As much as we always think the incoming freshman for X team is going to be a game changer, usually they end up not impacting individual scoring that much.

K Brew Addict
1 year ago

Wow, look at Tennessee with FOUR freshmen scorers! Let’s go!!!

Reply to  K Brew Addict
1 year ago

Four individual scoring Tennessee freshman is admirable; they scored 4, 20, 1 and 2. Hopefully they will continue to improve through their careers.

ASU’s four scoring freshmen had 37 (Kos — 2 A / 1 B final), 27 (MacDonald — 2 A finals), 11 (Sarkany — A final) and 6 (Kulow — B final) points; BOTR Kulow was the only one on relays, where he contributed legs on four different Top Five relays.

Also of interest was MacDonald’s 3rd event, the 200 IM.

His pre-ASU best was 1:46.18; at his first Pac-12 meet, entered with his new PB of 1:45.43 from the last dual meet, he blasted out in 21.82/46.87(25.05), on his way to a new PB… Read more »

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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