5 Big Things From 2014 M. NCAA’s #1: Freshmen Class – Who Was Really the ‘Top Recruit’?

The 2013-2014 NCAA season is complete, and now that a week has passed since the men’s championship meet, it’s time to do some reflection on the season.

We’ll begin with a reflection on the freshman class, and specifically revisit our “top 10 recruits” that we made all the way back in July of 2012 – when SwimSwam was still just a baby site. Read that post here.

A reminder that these top 10 classes focus on American recruits, so this rehash will as well (though we’ll still acknowledge some imports later).

Our top 10 at the time:

1. Jack Conger
2. Ryan Murphy
3. Steven Stumph
4. Renny Richmond
5. Reed Malone
HM: Kyle Darmody
HM: Matthew Josa
HM: Erik Risolvato
HM: Clark Smith
HM: Evan Pinion

This was a very strange class. Matthew Josa wound up in Division II at Queens University, where he had arguably the best season in Division II swimming history by a freshman or otherwise. Erik Risolvato, that we could tell, didn’t swim anywhere after committing to Arizona and then deciding to try Indian River for some JuCo time.

Evan Pinion wound up missing the whole season with an injury (though from the Tennessee coaching staff, it sounds like his recovery is going well).

But there were a clear top four swimmers in this class, and a 5th that swam very well as well, making it about a 50/50 shot. Ryan Murphy, with a pair of NCAA Division I national championships individually has to be considered the top performer in the class (we’d actually call him the top swimmer in the country this season, but that’s a different conversation). Jack Conger swam pretty well, though he didn’t swim a lot of best times as a freshman.

The aforementioned Josa had just a monster season for Queens, and one littered with times that would have held up in Division I, and perhaps the most unexpectedly-impressive in the class was Kyle Darmody, who was arguably Auburn’s MVP this season.

Reed Malone didn’t make quite the splash as the four above, but he did score individually at NCAA’s, drop a lot of time, and was on USC’s NCAA-title winning 800 free relay, so he earns positive marks as well.

Then there’s the two who didn’t swim, Risolvato and Pinion, leaving three who didn’t live up to expectations: Texas’ Clark Smith still seems to be settling in to what events he’ll focus on in college, and failed to go best times in any of his three championship events: the 100 fly, the 200 fly, or the 500 free. Steven Stumph kept largely the same events, but added in his best events as well: the 200 breast and the 400 IM.

Arizona’s Renny Richmond sort of straddled the line. He had a very nice freshman season, and participated as a prelims medley relay swimmer at NCAA’s. He dropped time almost across-the-board, so didn’t miss quite as badly as the other two above, but probably wouldn’t be ranked among the top 10 freshmen if we made this list after-the-fact. In hindsight, he may have been overranked back in 2012, but he appears on line to be a future player in the 100 fly and the sprint freestyles.

Who did we miss? Who could have taken the spots of the 5 guys who didn’t live up to top 10 billing? There were 6 other American freshmen who scored individually at NCAA’s that we caught:

  • Taylor Dale, Georgia
  • Michael Duderstadt, Auburn
  • Jack Blyzinskyj, Florida
  • Will Glass, Texas
  • Will Licon, Texas
  • Long Gutierrez, Cal

Florida’s Blyzinskyj was the really big surprise there – he was a 49.0 in the 100 back coming out of high school, and managed to score in that event at NCAA’s as a freshman. The Georgia freshman Dale had a couple of DFS’ at NCAA’s to focus on relays, but he wound up scoring in the 100 back too – and split 45.98 leading off a medley relay.

Texas had a very, very deep class, so even though Smith didn’t make it to the big show, several of his classmates did – Conger (who was also in our top 10), Glass, and Licon. Michael Duderstadt should have been more obvious to go into the top 10, as he was a stud in high school, and Cal’s Gutierrez did really feel like a great “project” for Dave Durden.

All-in-all, no huge whiffs, but definitely a good group of surprises there.

There was also, of course, the Florida freshman Mitch D’Arrigo, who is sort-of a domestic recruit; he lived in Gainesville for a couple of years before going to college, but is Italian born-and-bred. He leads a typical impressive group of internationals that includes swimmers like Anton McKee and Kristian Gkolomeev of Alabama; Luke Percey of Tennessee; Joe Patching of Auburn; and Fabien Schwingensogl of Western Kentucky.

It’s always hard to include internationals in rankings, which is why we generally avoid attempting. It’s never obvious who is coming, or when they’re coming, so the exercise there is really more about figuring out who is going to make the leap.

At any rate, below we’ve put together a chart of the recruits that we called the top 10 in the class, and some metrics on their performance. A few notes:

  • Some of these metrics can be affected by “environment” as much as performance. For example, Texas guys will always have bigger numbers for conference meets, simply because their conference meet is so noncompetitive and small.
  • Relays are affected as well. Malone and Murphy both got onto NCAA-winning relays, so hard to argue with those guys. Renny Richmond might have been on NCAA relays had he swum for Missouri, for example, or UNLV.
  • Ranks are based on where we had them in July, 2012.
  • The formula we used for improvement percentages is (Best FR. – Best HS)/Best HS.
  • We chose “top events” loosely based on those events that earned them the highest placings at years-end. When it wasn’t a big difference, we made a judgement call.
  • There’s at least a dozen more ways to measure the success of a freshman athletic year, and would love to hear the ways by which you measure that maybe we didn’t list.
  • For conference scoring, we standardized by the 20-17-16/9-7-6 scoring system, aka the A/B Final scoring system. None of the SEC freshmen (they score three finals) were cheated out of points this way, so shouldn’t be much griping. Just makes for a better comparison.

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8 years ago

I don’t know why Licon was such a surprise to everyone. He won Jr. Natls several times and in both long course and short course. The only surprise was that the 400 I.M. turned out to be his best event as he set a Texas team record. Murphy and Licon were visiting Notre Dame at the same time during their recruiting trips. How funny would it have been to watch Notre Dame leading the 400 Medley through the first two legs at NCAAs only to finish last in the heat.

9 years ago

Can’t spell Longyuan guTIErrEz without E-L-I-T-E

9 years ago

Great article for swim nerds like us, and pretty cool reading through the comments on the 2012 article.

Coach T was definitely on there talking up Murphy, as well as “some dude” named Dressel.

I couldn’t find anything significant from any of the swimmers that commenters were lobbying for to be on the list (Condorelli, etc..) But funny to see Tandy’s name brought up even though he was at a juco at the time.

Seems like a lot of people initially thought Murphy would stay out east, and more than a few people were hoping him and Conger would end up together.

9 years ago

Evan Pinion redshirted this year after an injury. He has 4 more years of eligibility.

9 years ago

murphy, hands down, best freshman in the country, and imho, mvp of ncaa’s. also, glass and lincon swam very well for texas, greatly exceeding expectations.

9 years ago

I know this article is about recruiting classes, but divers are recruited and scores points too. I like to give a shout out to freshman Michael Hixon of Texas who scored 52 points as a freshman – more than any other freshman at NCAA I. He won the 1-3 meter and 7th in platform. 😉

Reply to  WHOKNOWS
9 years ago

SWIMswam… 🙂

9 years ago

I feel the need to respond to this article only because I feel this metric is really Texas centric. How is Ryan Murphy not the top freshman? 5 total victories at NCAAs! This should simply be a contest over who scored the most points at NCAAs. Murphy takes it with 51 points. Simple

9 years ago

as someone stated above…really cool embedded spreadsheet. Can’t wait to see the women’s side tomorrow!

I can’t believe swimswam was considered a “baby site” in only July 2012. I began reading it during the olympics (remember those epic comment sections?)…tried to follow along when I couldn’t find an illegal live-stream of the olympics because I was too impatient for tape delay. Even when I could find a link, it was great to see everyone’s reactions during finals and prelims!

Thanks Swimswam! This website is amazing and has really provided the swim community with a platform to read/learn/discuss everything and anything about swimming.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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