After a one-year hiatus to the uncertainty surrounding the 2020-2021 season, our college previews back! We’ll be previewing the 2021-2022 seasons for the top 12 men’s and women’s programs from the 2021 NCAA Division I Championships – stay tuned to our College Swimming Previews channel to catch all 24.
#12 Michigan Wolverines
Key Additions: HM Connor Hunt (CT – free), Gal Cohen Groumi (Israel – free/fly/IM), Nik Eberly (MI/Auburn transfer – free/fly), Brendan Fitzpatrick (Dubai/Canada – breast), Cameron Luarde (IN – back/IM)
Returning Fifth Years: Ross Todd
Two years ago, we unveiled a new, more data-based grading criteria based on ‘projected returning points’, a stat of our own making that involved a lot of manual calculations involving departing seniors, redshirts, freshmen, etc. We liked the objectiveness of that stat, but given that there’s still a lot of uncertainty for this year, we’re adopting a hybrid approach this year. The “stars” will rely heavily on what swimmers actually did last year, but we’ll also give credit to returning swimmers or freshmen who have times that would have scored last year.
Since we only profile the top 12 teams in this format, our grades are designed with that range in mind. In the grand scheme of college swimming and compared to all other college programs, top 12 NCAA programs would pretty much all grade well across the board. But in the interest of making these previews informative, our grading scale is tough – designed to show the tiers between the good stroke groups, the great ones, and the 2015 Texas fly group types.
- 5 star (★★★★★) – a rare, elite NCAA group projected to score 25+ points per event
- 4 star (★★★★) – a very, very good NCAA group projected to score 15-24 points per event
- 3 star (★★★) – a good NCAA group projected to score 5-14 points per event
- 2 star (★★) – a solid NCAA group projected to score 1-4 points per event
- 1 star (★) – an NCAA group that is projected to score no points per event, though that doesn’t mean it’s without potential scorers – they’ll just need to leapfrog some swimmers ahead of them to do it
We’ll grade each event discipline: sprint free (which we define to include all the relay-distance freestyle events, so 50, 100 and 200), distance free, IM, breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and diving. Use these grades as a jumping-off point for discussion, rather than a reason to be angry.
It was a rough season for everyone, but Michigan may have had it a bit worse than most of the schools who finished ahead of them at NCAAs. The Big Ten didn’t really start competing until January, with a truncated dual meet season, and then Michigan was kept out of the water for three weeks due to Covid concerns.
Still, the Wolverines rolled to their second-straight (and 42nd overall) Big Ten Conference championship, winning the team title by 44 points over Indiana. The relays were dominant, and sophomore River Wright became one of the breakout stars of the 2020-21 season.
They couldn’t quite keep that momentum rolling into the NCAA Championships, however. Projected to score 182 points and finish 9th (not taking diving into account), Michigan instead scored 106, tying with Arizona for a 12th-place finish. Only one swimmer, senior Gus Borges, made an ‘A’ final, and the relays couldn’t quite match their times from Big Tens, but there was still enough in the tank to come close to cracking the top 10.
Sprint Free: ★★
The bad news here is that Michigan loses Gus Borges, who led the team in NCAA scoring with 14 points and anchored the medley relays.
The good news is that they’re certainly not bereft of talent. Wright couldn’t match his 19.3/42.5 from Big Tens at NCAAs, but those times aren’t far off what it took to score at nationals.
Wright’s classmate Cam Peel actually improved from Big Tens to NCAAs and took 16th in the 50 free. Those two will form the core of the sprint free group in Borges’ absence, but there’s more.
Israel’s Gal Cohen Groumi has the potential to be a big relay asset for the Wolverines at the very minimum. He split 1:46.41 anchoring Israel’s 4×200 relay to a national record in the prelims at last month’s Olympic Games. His flat-start free times convert to 20.87/43.21/1:35.14.
Patrick Callan returns after earning a spot on the USA’s Olympic 4×200 free relay team. He’s more of a mid-distance guy – he made the ‘B’ final in the 500 and the 200 free at last season’s NCAAs, but he has the range to possibly be a relay piece on the 4×100 free, ala a Kieran Smith or Drew Kibler.
Distance Free: ★★★
This is one discipline where we definitely expect Michigan to outscore what they’re projected to under our system.
Senior Patrick Callan returns after placing 13th in both the 200 and the 500 free, and he should be a fairly safe bet to at least make those consol finals again, especially after making the U.S. Olympic team this summer.
You don’t see too many college men make the U.S. Olympic team after scoring exactly zero points for his college team at NCAAs, but that was exactly the case for Jake Mitchell. He had a strong debut at Big Tens, winning the 500 free, taking 4th in the 200 free, and 2nd in the 1650 free, but he couldn’t match any of those times at NCAAs. At a minimum, he should be good for ‘B’ final points in both of the longer freestyle events.
Additionally, freshman Connor Hunt, a Class of 2021 Honorable Mention, comes in with lifetime bests of 4:23/15:09, and a sub-9:00 in the 1000. While he’s certainly not a lock to score at NCAAs as a freshman, he’s certainly the type of swimmer that the Michigan distance machine seems to do well with.
Backstroke has been a weakness for the Wolverines for a while now, but Wyatt Davis performed admirably at Big Tens, leading off in 21.0 and 45.6 on the medley relays, and finishing 4th in the 100 and 2nd in the 200 back individually. His season-best 1:40.68 in the 200 would’ve scored had he matched that at NCAAs.
Will Chan was on fire at Big Tens, splitting 22.6/50.6 on the medley relays and clocking 50.95 to take 2nd in the 100, along with a 1:53.9 for 5th in the 200 after going 1:53.2 in prelims. As was common with this team, he wasn’t quite able to hit those times again a month later, but he did pick up 4 points with a 13th place finish in the 100 at NCAAs, going 51.95.
They also bring back Mason Hunter, who qualified for both breaststrokes and went 51.93 in prelims at Big Tens. Freshmen Cameron Luarde and Brendan Fitzpatrick add some breaststroke depth, with the latter having gone 1:01 in long course.
Wright returns after his breakout Big Tens in which he split 44.8 on Michigan’s medley relay, then went 45.2 in prelims of the individual 100 fly before DQing in finals. He earned 15th in that event at NCAAs with a 45.88. If Cohen Groumi swims this event, that’ll give the Wolverines two potential scorers.
On the other hand, the 200 fly is a weakness for the team. Last year’s top performer, Spencer Carl, finished 6th at Big Tens with a 1:44.8 and didn’t qualify for NCAAs.
It doesn’t feel all that long ago that Michigan had guys like Dylan Bosch and Charlie Swanson regularly making NCAA ‘A’ finals in the IMs, but last year, the Wolverines didn’t score a single point in either event.
Michigan’s top IMer is Jared Daigle, who finished 4th in the 200 IM and 3rd in the 400 IM at Big 12s with a 1:43.9/3:43.2, but like many Michigan guys, couldn’t quite match those times at NCAAs. That 3:43 would have scored at NCAAs, so again, watch for Michigan to pile up some more points if they end up able and willing to approach the season differently.
Cohen Groumi could also contribute here, owning a sub-2:00 in the long course 200 IM, which converts to roughly a 1:44.
Michigan returns its only NCAA-qualifying diver from last year in the form of Ross Todd, who’s taking advantage of a 5th year of eligibility as a grad student. He does have scoring potential, having finished 17th last season on platform. British national Cameron Gammage also joins the team.
The relays are in solid shape, with Borges’ four swims being the only four slots Michigan needs to fill. Peel will presumably fill his spot on the medley relay anchors, while some combination of Eberly or Cohen Groumi will jump in on the 200 free relay.
With two returning Olympians and a pair of 1:33 legs from freshman Danny Berlitz and Davis last year, the 800 free relay feels like it’s bursting with potential, especially with Cohen Groumi entering the fold.
With only one key loss, a couple of Olympians returning, and a few intriguing pieces coming in, it feels like this team should be in even better shape than it was last season. If they choose to focus on Big Tens, as they seemed to last year, they may have trouble cracking the top 10 at NCAAs, especially as they’re not benefiting from 5th year-seniors as much as most of the teams above them in last year’s standings. But this also feels like a team that is overflowing with potential, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them move up 4 or 5 spots from last year’s finish, either.