2024 NCAA Champion Zalan Sarkany Verbally Commits To Transfer To NC State

Reigning NCAA champion Zalan Sarkany is transferring to NC State for the 2024-25 season, Hungarian media reported Wednesday, ending his two-year run at Arizona State.

Sarkany told SwimSwam that he has made a verbal commitment to transfer but it has not been finalized.

Sarkany’s move to NC State makes him one of two Sun Devil swimmers who didn’t either stay in Tempe under new head coach Herbie Behm, or follow former head coach Bob Bowman to Texas, with Bowman moving on from the NCAA champions at ASU to Texas on April 1.

Sarkany, 20, is coming off a standout sophomore year with the Sun Devils that included winning the men’s NCAA title in the 1650 freestyle and scoring in the 500 free (12th) as the ASU men won their first national title in program history.

According to Hungarian media outlet Magyar Nemzet, Sarkany said Bowman’s move to Texas was a surprise, and he didn’t feel compelled to follow him after doing a good chunk of his training under ASU distance coach Logan Hirka.

Some of ASU’s top swimmers did follow Bowman, including Frenchman Leon Marchand and Hungarian Hubert Kos, while a large number of them opted to stay with Behm in Tempe, including Ilya Kharun and Jonny Kulow.

In addition to Sarkany, the other ASU swimmer to move to a new school that wasn’t Texas was Owen McDonald, who transferred to Indiana (which Sarkany considered).

Once the Sun Devils’ championship squad was broken up, Sarkany knew he wanted to go to a school where distance was more of a focal point in training.

“I experienced a lot of things in Arizona, and I can definitely say that I didn’t feel the efficiency during the long-term training sessions that I did at home with László Szokolai,” Sarkany told Magyar Nemzet. “I definitely wanted to go to a university where long distances are the focus. The best options seemed to be Indiana University and North Carolina State.”

Sarkany said he spoke to NC State distance coach Mark Bernardino and figured the fit was right for him to join the Wolfpack.

“He outlined a very convincing training plan for me, similar to the preparation at home,” Sarkany said of Bernardino.

Sarkany also noted that fellow Hungarian distance freestyler David Betlehem, who he’s currently training with and has been friends with since they were young, will join NC State next season, which is more of a bonus than a primary reason why he’s heading to Raleigh.

“I’m not saying that it influenced my decision, but I’m sure that I’m looking forward to continuing the joint work in America as well,” he said. “David and I have been friends since childhood, and I achieved my best results when we were pulling each other in the water.”

NC State has been building an impressive stable of distance swimmers over the last few years, including Will Gallant and Ross Dant going 1-2 in the 1650 free at the 2023 NCAAs. This past season, Owen Lloyd touched first in the mile at the ACC Championships before he was controversially disqualified, making Dant the official winner, but Lloyd bounced back with a solid 5th-place finish at NCAAs.

Dant has now exhausted his eligibility. Gallant redshirted this season but is expected to return in 2024-25, while Lloyd still has one season of eligibility remaining.

Sarkany joined ASU during the second semester of the 2022-23 NCAA season, making an instant impact on the school record books and winning the 1650 free at the 2023 Pac-12 Championships. He followed up by becoming a First Team All-American in the mile at NCAAs, placing 8th.

This past season, he spent the Fall training in Hungary again, and upon joining the Sun Devils, he was absolutely on fire, obliterating the school record in the 1000 free (8:37.82) in January and then setting best times in the 500 free (4:09.19) and 1650 free (14:23.01) at Pac-12s, winning both titles.

Despite claiming the NCAA title in the 1650 three weeks later, Sarkany was notably slower in all three events he raced relative to Pac-12s, perhaps indicating his training stateside didn’t gel with him as well as the work he did in Europe.

Sarkany leaves ASU as the school record holder in the 1000 free and 1650 free, having taken the 1000 record down by nearly 20 seconds from where it was when he arrived (8:57.64), while he brought the 1650 record down by more than 27 seconds (14:50.70).

The rising junior will have two seasons of eligibility at NC State.

Sarkany is currently training with the Szoklai team in Veszprem, Hungary, in the lead up to the European Aquatics Championships (June 10-23) and ultimately the Olympics. He has already qualified for Paris in the 1500 free, putting up a massive best time of 14:53.19 in December, but aims to push for the Olympic qualifying times in the 400 free (3:46.78), 800 free (7:51.65) and 400 IM (4:12.50) at Euros.

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ACC fan
15 days ago

Great move

Last edited 15 days ago by ACC fan
Summer in Paris
18 days ago

Dramatic rise and fall of Arizona State

Reply to  Summer in Paris
18 days ago

ASU will not win next year, but their fall may not be as abrupt and far as you suggest.

They lost 6 to graduation, two to Texas, one to Indiana and one to NCState. But they return 10 guys with either OTCs or NCAA Invited times and 6 others very near those benchmarks.

And their recruiting class is sterling. You might say NCState-ish in talent, only they have tended over the years to get more bank for their recruited bucks.

While you can’t tell for sure until they start classes, it looks like they have 12 newcomers, with 6 already at the Invited/OTC benchmarks and the others including a Fukuoka ’23 participant, a World Jrs finalist and a… Read more »

Reply to  mds
18 days ago

And as far as Sarkany having a strong distance training group, the new roster shows 8 guys with Invited/OTC levels in 400/500, 800/1000 or 1500/1650, including a member of the current USA Swimming National team in the 800 and 1500, the current USA Swimming 5000 Open Water Champion and the 2023 LC Jr. Nat. Champ at 1500.

Though Zalan would likely dominate, he wouldn’t exactly have been alone.

Tea rex
19 days ago

That’s gonna be a gnarly distance lane. Some insiders have to report what kind of things these guys do in practice.

I’d love to see NC State bring the ruckus at NCAAs, but outside of their milers it’s seemed hard to get everyone to click. Some injuries, some missed tapers, some questionable event focus – the talent is there, and there’s some success, but they’ve never had enough consistency to get top 3.

Reply to  Tea rex
18 days ago

NC state has had one scoring swim in the 100/200 free in the last 2 years. This is a program that had Ress/Held/Molacek/Stewart all overlapping recently btw.

And then you have relays and events switching every year (no Curtiss on 2 FRR in 2023, Stokowski who’s been 20.0 50 back getting thrown into fly, Miller swapping between 2 free/1 fly and 1 free/2 fly, guys like Ross Dant falling off a cliff, Tapp regressing, etc, etc, etc)

It’s just a repetition of puzzling errors that unless resolved, will keep NCS out of competing with the top 3 teams

Reply to  Andrew
17 days ago

For someone who hates State Andrew sure likes to comment on their program.

19 days ago

No one transferred to CAL.

Reply to  Alexy's_my_baby
18 days ago

To me that means all their seniors are coming back and they had no scholarship money. Or I could be wrong and they just didn’t want to go to cal

19 days ago

If you think about it, NC State really doesn’t lose much and should really gain a lot. Yes, losing the points from Stokowski will obviously hurt. However, they don’t lose much outside of that apart from Dant (2 points) and Bowers (13 points) last year. They immediately gain about 25-35 points from Sarkany, probably around the Same from Betlehem and Gallant coming back too. People like Jerry Fox, Quintin McCarty, Kyle Ponsler, Daniel Diehl, etc taking a small step into A few A finals or B finals will make the team battle way more interesting than people think. This is NC States best shot maybe ever to win the team title.

James Beam
Reply to  PackFan
19 days ago

Think it is stretch to say they can win….zero divers…
NC State

Faulty Touch Pad
Reply to  PackFan
19 days ago

Don’t forget the Slim Reaper coming in the fall as well. Pack are gonna be dangerous

Reply to  PackFan
19 days ago

They lose 53 individual points from graduating guys. Worth noting Dant has scored way more in past years too. I think Sarkany is good for 35 or so (being generous) which puts them at 300 points scored.

Fox, McCarty, Ponsler and Diehl scored 11 points combined last year, so i wouldn’t be too optimistic. Even if they get 50 points from freshman next year which would be an incredible result (they got 4 points from freshman this year and most of their highly recruited freshman didn’t even make NCAAs), that would put them at 350.

Cal, IU, FL all scored comfortably more than that at 2024 NCs. IU loses Burns but gains McDonald (46 points), Matt King (17… Read more »

Reply to  Andrew
19 days ago

Not sure where you would get the 350 number. They scored 318 last year. Subtracted 53 gives you 265. Sarkany at 35 gives you 300. Betlehem we will say is right at 25-35 ( he has a shot to A final in 3 events given his versatility in 200’s scm.) that gives you 325-335. Gallant probably good for around 20ish points (a final in 1650 and b final in 500) . That gives you 355. Saying you’re not optimistic that any role players will step up is a bit pessimistic. Jerry Fox was 17th/19th and has dropped time every time he hits water. It’s really not out of reach for him to even make a high b final in the… Read more »

Last edited 19 days ago by PackFan
Reply to  PackFan
19 days ago

Still zero chance of competing with FL/Cal/IU for a national title

Reply to  PackFan
18 days ago

I agree that 350 is maybe a little pessimistic, but you can’t just assume that all of NCS role players will suddenly become huge point scorers and that will be the difference- all the teams that are fighting with them (Cal, IU, FL) have the same level guys who you can say will do the same thing.

Yes, those guys may improve, but the NCAA gets faster every year. Who is Jerry Fox beating of Guiliano, Liendo, Alexy, Crooks, Seeliger, Kulow, King, Ramadan, Hobson, McDuff? And that’s just off the top of my head. The NCAA is too fast to just assume dudes are gonna suddenly become A finalists lol

19 days ago

how many months did he actually train at ASU campus. probably 5 or 6 total. He was a hired gun.

19 days ago

Damn really?

Didn’t expect that

19 days ago

NCAA’s this coming year is going to be so much fun.

Also interesting to note that Sarkany wasn’t training with Bowman. That part was obvious but interesting to see it confirmed.

Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
17 days ago

as has been the case with swimmers in many schools, head coach seems to be always the one who celebrates with them in pictures but they are usually coached some assistant.

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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