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Key Losses: Clark Thomas (NCAA scoring diver), Daniel Graviss (SEC scoring IMer/flyer), Matthew Margritier (SEC scorer, 2 NCAA relays), Dillon Love (SEC scorer, 1 NCAA relay), Michal Rokita (SEC scoring breaststroker)
Key Additions: Daniel Hein (IL – back/fly), Nick Alexander (MO – IM/back), Micah Slaton (TX – fly/back)
It was a season of firsts for Missouri: German breaststroker Fabian Schwingenscholgl (who transferred in from the suspended Western Kentucky program) exploded for the school’s first-ever NCAA swimming title with a 51.29 in the 100 breast, and the Tigers made their first-ever appearance in the NCAA’s top 10 with an 8th-place showing.
Schwingenschlogl and Michael Chadwick were the big contributors, with Chadwick taking 4th in the 50 free, 6th in the 100 free and coming up with difference-making splits on all 5 relays. The decision to focus Chadwick on the relay races paid off in a big way, with Mizzou banking 90 of its 184 NCAA points in the relay events.
Sprint Free: A-
Chadwick is worth a ton here, returning 28 individual NCAA points with room to move up. Two of three swimmers ahead of Chadwick in the 50 free don’t return (Simonas Bilis of NC State is graduated and Alabama’s Kristian Gkolomeev isn’t listed on the team’s roster), and the same two disappear ahead of Chadwick in the 100, leaving him as the fourth-best returner. Still, the sprints can be volatile, and it doesn’t take much to move rapidly up or down, so an increased points haul from Chadwick isn’t necessarily a given.
And depth is pretty suspect. Matthew Margritier was the team’s second-best sprinter last year, and he’s gone to graduation. Mikel Schreuders (43.8/1:34.3) is great through the mid-sprints, but not a factor in the 50. Christian Aragona (19.9/44.7) is pretty much the opposite.
With Chadwick around, the Tigers should still score plenty of NCAA points individually, but they’ll need some depth to step up for their sprint free relays to maintain their NCAA scoring pace.
Distance Free: D
Like several of the SEC’s more sprint-based programs (Auburn, Alabama), Missouri’s distance corps is still a liability at this point. Missouri scored just 1 swimmer and 16 points at SECs between the 500 free and the mile, and that was with the conference scoring all the way down to 24th. And at NCAAs, the team only scored in two individual races longer than 100 yards: the 200 back and 200 breast.
Nick Davis (4:21.4/15:23.8) returns as the lone SEC scorer, and should have a good chance to score at the conference level once again.
The IMs, too, are a weak point, especially with the graduation of Daniel Graviss, who took 10th in the SEC in the 400 IM last year and was the team’s only full-time IMer in the post-season.
Luckily, one of Mizzou’s top recruits is Nick Alexander, who could very well be SEC scoring-level in both IM races with even marginal improvement to his high school times (1:47.2/3:50).
The 200 IM offers a nice crossover with some of Missouri’s stronger event groups. Schwingenschlogl and Eddie Mapel are part of one of the nation’s best breaststroke groups, and should both score at the conference level in the 200 IM. And backstroker Alex Walton had a nice freshman year in the 200 IM as well.
Still, don’t expect any NCAA points here, and only enough conference scoring to keep pace with the SEC’s middle tier of schools.
Senior Andrew Sansoucie is an outstanding sprint flyer and a gigantic asset to Mizzou’s medley relays. That alone makes him a bigger asset to the butterfly group than most guys who don’t contest the 200 fly.
Beyond that, Mizzou’s recruiting class is loaded with good flyers. Top prospect Daniel Hein comes out of Illinois after a stellar YMCA career, and carries lifetime-bests (47.5/1:46.3) that make him an immediate upgrade for the Tigers. He’s also a great backstroker, though, and may only get one butterfly entry in the postseason slate.
Alexander is also solid (48.5/1:47.8), plus Texas pickup Micah Slaton (48.4/1:47.3) adds depth to a group that has some serious future upside.
Senior Carter Griffin is one of the conference’s best, and has nice range between the 100 and 200 backs, though the 200 is really his bread and butter. The backstrokes have become brutal races on the national level, with 10 men under 1:40 in the 200 last year, but Griffin managed to score at NCAAs and should put up big conference points.
Backstroke is also where the freshman Hein really shines. He’s been 1:43.7 in the 200 back and figures in as an excellent heir apparent to Griffin’s backstroke spot after this year. For now, the two set up a great 1-2 punch, and Hein might even have more short speed (47.0 in the 100) to lift the medley relays. That’s especially useful in the 200 medley, where the graduated Dillon Love held down the spot last year.
Depth is also solid, with Alex Walton and Grant Kelton returning as SEC scorers.
Breaststroke is really the key piece for the Tigers right now, though. Schwingenschlogl is set to return for his senior year and sits on the cusp of becoming just the 5th man in history to break 51 seconds in the 100. He was also 3rd nationally in the 200 breast, and unlike a number of other big-time breaststrokers, did his best swimming at NCAAs.
Then-sophomore Jordy Groters also scored nationally in the 100, and shouldn’t be overlooked in his junior year. Senior Eddie Mapel (52.8/1:55.8) makes it a three-deep event for Mizzou, and freshmen Jordan O’Brien (53.7/1:58.8) and Nick Staver (54.4/1:58.1) impressed as rookies.
While the distance and IM races are pretty thin, Missouri is set up well to minimize its weaknesses. They’re strong enough at the top in every stroke to put together big-time nationally-scoring relays, with Schwingenschlogl and Chadwick lifting the relay teams to the next level. Chadwick is one of the best relay weapons in the college realm, and should keep the free relays relevant even without Margritier.
Coach Greg Rhodenbaugh will have to make another tough decision on Chadwick’s focus at NCAAs – the relay-centric lineup paid off big last year, but Chadwick is also a great 200 freestyler individually.
If the young back/fly types really come through, Mizzou could be a juggernaut in the non-free strokes. The conference’s top tier isn’t easy to crack, but a top-4 SEC finish and a return to the NCAA’s top 10 isn’t out of the question for the Tigers in 2017.