Key Additions: Luke Papendick (Virginia transfer, Backstroke), Kyle Dudzinski (Virginia transfer, Backstroke), Javi Barrena (ESP – Back/Fly), Mokhtar Al-Yamani (JPN – Freestyle)
Other Additions: Jordan Ross (GA – Free/Back), Stephen Holmquist (CT – Distance Free)
The Michigan Wolverines had a very successful 2014-2015 that saw them capture their 5th consecutive Big Ten title and then have a strong 3rd place finish at NCAAs behind only the powerhouse Texas Longhorns and the defending champion California Golden Bears.
Leading the team through NCAAs were their relays, which had impressive depth. With results ranging from 4th to 9th, they collected 128 points on relays, showing consistency throughout. They also swept all 5 relays at the Big Ten Championships.
Dylan Bosch and Bruno Ortiz led the way individually, collecting 43 and 39 points each respectively. Freestyler Anders Nielsen earned 32, including a 2nd place finish in the 200 free, and breaststroker Richard Funk contributed 25 of his own. Michigan’s top 4 point scorers were all international swimmers (Bosch-RSA, Ortiz-ESP, Nielsen-DEN, Funk-CAN). Bosch and Ortiz also led the way at Big Ten’s, with Bosch winning the 200 and 400 IM and 200 fly, and Ortiz the 100 free and 100 breast.
Ortiz and Funk Leave Big Hole In Their Wake
With Bruno Ortiz and Richard Funk having used up their eligibility, Michigan loses their top two breaststrokers which will be hard to replace. Ortiz was an animal, capable of swimming anything fast and was always reliable for a blistering relay leg. We saw that at NCAAs, where he went 3 for 3 in individual A finals and swam on 4 relays, posting very impressive splits on all of them. Richard Funk was used as the breaststroker on the medley relays as Ortiz did free, but Ortiz was equally capable on breaststroke as he finished 7th in the individual 100.
None of their incoming rookies are breaststrokers, so Chris Klein will likely have to step up in the absence of Ortiz and Funk. Klein qualified for NCAAs, finishing 35th and 24th in the 100 and 200 breaststroke. His most impressive swim of the season was his 6th place finish at Big Ten’s in the 100 breast (52.93), in a race where Ortiz and Funk went 1-2. Another swimmer with breaststroke potential is Canadian Evan White who is coming off an impressive rookie year that included winning Big Ten Co-Freshmen of the year along with Indiana’s Blake Pieroni. White swam mostly butterfly and IM last season, but has impressive relay personal best splits in the 100 breast from SCM (1:00.39) and LCM (1:03.50). He also has solid 200m breast PB’s (2:10.7 SCM, 2:15.4 LCM).
Impressive Freshmen Class Will Look To Avoid Sophomore Slump
The Wolverines impressive rookie class last year was probably even better than expected, and with a few key swimmers graduating at the end of last season they can’t afford to take a step back this year. Paul Powers was strong in his freshman year, including a Big Ten title in the 50 free to go along with an appearance in the A final at NCAAs. He will be a key member of the sprint relays for years to come. Distance freestyler PJ Ransford had a breakout performance at NCAAs, finishing 2nd in the 1650 after being seeded only 8th. He took 12 seconds off his lifetime best. He should challenge for the 1650 title again this season. Their three other NCAA qualifying freshmen were all able to score individually, with Evan White, Aaron Whitaker and Tristan Sanders all coming through big for the team. White finished 11th in the 200 fly, and came close to scoring in the 200 IM (17th) and 100 fly (25th) as well. White has a great mentor in Dylan Bosch, who swims similar events to White and is entering his final year. Whitaker swam backstroke on both medley relays and finished 15th in the 200 back, while Sanders was 9th in the 200 back. These 5 will look to build off their successful freshman years with even better sophomore seasons.
#12 Recruiting Class Could Be Low Quantity High Quality
With Michigan’s recruiting class falling at #12 on our rankings, it appears as though some of their competitors will be making up ground on them this season. However, Michigan has brought in some swimmers who have previous college experience, and some who have potential to become factors at the NCAA level. After previously being suspended, both Luke Papendick and Kyle Dudzinksi come in after transferring from Virginia. Both excel in backstroke, with Dudzinski (46.0, 1:43.1) stronger in the 100, and Papendick (46.8, 1:41.0) stronger in the 200. Both should be able to score at NCAAs in their stronger event, and both will challenge Aaron Whitaker as the backstroker on the medley relays. Javi Barrena of Spain has been training at the Bolles School since 2012, and comes in with impressive fly personal bests at 48.6 and 1:47.6. Coming from St. Mary’s International School in Tokyo is Mokhtar Al-Yamani, who has limited experience in yards but has some quick best times in short and long course metres. His LCM PB’s are 23.96, 52.20 and 1:53.10 in the freestyle events, with times of 22.75, 50.10, and 1:49.45 in SCM. He will be given the opportunity to contribute immediately on the freestyle relays after the departures of Bruno Ortiz and Justin Glanda. He also goes 3:53.06 in the 400 free, 24.65 in the 50 fly and 56.09 in the 100 fly short course. Al-Yamani has lots of potential and it will be interesting to see how he adapts in college.
Nielsen And Bosch Look To Go Out With A Bang
After both performing admirably in their junior years, both Dylan Bosch and Anders Nielsen will look to close out their senior year at Michigan with a bang. Bosch swam well at NCAAs finishing with three top-6 finishes and Nielsen had two top-4 finishes. After winning the 200 butterfly at the 2014 championships, Bosch failed to defend his title finishing 3rd behind Texas phenoms Joseph Schooling and Jack Conger. His NCAA record set in 2014 still remains, however. Nielsen had a breakthrough meet, finishing 2nd in the 200 free and 4th in the 500 free after having his best 2014 finish at 8th in the 500. Bosch will be looking to regain the 200 fly title in his senior year, while Nielsen will be looking to move up the rankings in the 200 and 500. Both will be key in Michigan’s relays again this year as well.
Other Key Swimmers
- Another one of Michigan’s NCAA qualifiers was Peter Brumm, now entering his senior year. Brumm finished 33rd in the 100 fly at NCAAs (46.96), but wasn’t far off earning a second swim (46.32). He was 5th in the same event at Big Ten’s, and if he can drop his PB down a few tenths, could contend for a finals berth individually in his final season.
- Heading into his junior year, Jack Mangan will be an important piece for Michigan’s 800 free relay. This was his only event at last years NCAAs, but he pulled off a fast 1:33.76 split to help secure Michigan’s 4th place finish ahead of Indiana. If Mangan can produce that type of performance individually, he has scoring potential in the 200 free at NCAAs.
- Vincent Tafuto is also heading into his junior year, and will be a key member on the 200 free relay once again. Tafuto split 19.25 and 19.54 at NCAAs in the relay, and went 19.62 on his way to a 4th place finish at Big Ten’s in the 50 free.
- Jeremy Raisky also made an appearance at NCAAs last year, swimming fly in the 200 medley relay. He will most likely be the man on that relay again this year, and is a reliable Big Ten contributor.
The Wolverines didn’t lose many people this year, but the ones they did lose were key members of their NCAA team. Bruno Ortiz scored 39 points on his own and was a dominant force on Michigan’s relays. Without him they would’ve almost certainly scored significantly less relay points than they did. Richard Funk was also a big contributor, scoring 25 points and swimming on both medley relays. Their other loss is Justin Glanda, who didn’t contribute any individual points but was a mainstay on the freestyle relays.
Even with the losses that Michigan has endured, they won’t have a problem winning their 6th straight Big Ten title. However, at NCAAs they may have a tough battle to hold onto their 3rd place finish from last year. USC has a very strong recruiting class, but also are losing some key members to redshirts, so their status is somewhat up in the air. #5 Florida is also losing some key members, so it will likely come down to Michigan and USC for the 3rd spot. For now, I’ll say advantage Michigan.