College Swimming Previews: A Massive Rebuilding Project For #3 IU Men’s Relays

We’ll be previewing the top 12 men’s and women’s programs for the 2019-2020 season – stay tuned to our College Swimming Previews channel to catch all 24. Can’t get enough college swimming news? Check out the College Preview issue of SwimSwam Magazine for more in-depth college swimming coverage, including a bird’s-eye view of the flood of coaching changes and our ever-popular rankings of the top 50 individual swimmers in college swimming.

#3 INDIANA HOOSIERS

Key Losses: Zach Apple (47 NCAA points), Vini Lanza (52 NCAA points), Ian Finnerty (48 NCAA points)

Key Additions: Brendan Burns (PA – fly/back), Kai Bathurst (CA – Free/Fly),  Harry Flanders (CA – Fly/IM), Jacob Destrampe (IN – Sprint Free), Jake Marcum (TN – Free/Back), Max Scott (OH – Free), Will Gallant (CN – Distance)

GRADING CRITERIA

We’re unveiling a new, more data-based grading criteria in this year’s series. Our grades this year are based on ‘projected returning points’, a stat of our own making. We started with our already-compiled “no senior returning points” (see here and here), which is effectively a rescoring of 2019 NCAAs with seniors removed and underclassmen moved up to fill those gaps. In addition, we manually filtered out points from known redshirts and swimmers turning pro early, while manually adjusting points for outgoing and incoming transfers and adding in projected points for incoming freshmen with NCAA scoring times, as well as athletes returning from injury or redshirts who are very likely NCAA scorers.

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. Bear in mind that our grades and painstaking scoring formula attempts to take into account all factors, but is still unable to perfectly predict the future. Use these grades as a jumping-off point for discussion, rather than a reason to be angry.

2018-2019 LOOKBACK

The Hoosiers had a stellar senior class, which led them to a 3rd consecutive Big Ten team title, and back-to-back 3rd place team finishes at the NCAAs. They also were undefeated in dual meets, downing programs like Texas, Michigan, Louisville, and Florida to finish the season 8-0. They also broke IU school records in 8 events.

Seniors Zach Apple, Vini Lanza, Ian Finnerty, adnd James Connor combined for a whopping 161 individual points at NCAAs, which was nearly half of the Hoosier’s 385.5 point total. Apple finished in the top 5 in all 3 sprint free events, while Finnerty was the 100 breast champion, 200 breast runner-up, and an A-finalist in the 200 IM. Lanza won the 100 fly, was runner-up in the 200 fly, and was 4th in the 200 IM, while Connor finished 5th in 3 meter diving. Additionally, Apple swam on 4 relays, whith Lanza and Finnerty each swimming on 3. All but the Hoosiers’ 200 medley relay made the A final last season (200 medley was 9th).

IU also had one of the top freshman classes in terms of NCAA scoring last year. Freshmen Michael Brinegar, Zane Backes, and Mikey Calvillo racked up 38 individual points at NCAAs, 2nd only to the Texas freshmen. They each scored in one event, with Brinegar finishing 2nd in the mile, Backes 5th in the 100 breast, and Calvillo 10th in the mile. Fellow freshmen Brandon Hamblin and Jack Franzman each helped an IU relay to a top 8 finish, and Van Mathias was an individual qualifier for NCAAs.

SPRINT FREE: ★★★

Although the Hoosiers only had him for a single season, the loss of Zach Apple no doubt will hurt here. Apple played a pivotal role in replacing Blake Pieroni, who graduated in IU in 2018. 47 NCAA points between the 50, 100, and 200 free will be hard to replace, not to mention losing the fastest leg of all 3 of their free relays.

That being said, the Hoosiers have both maintained considerable depth in the sprint frees, as well as brought in a very sprint-heavy freshmen class. Mohamed Samy is the only returning swimmer who was a member of all 3 free relays at last year’s NCAAs. Samy has proven to be a reliable force in the 100 and 200 free, clocking bests of 41.9 and 1:32.2 last season, behind only Apple in both. He also provided a speedy 18.8 split on the 3rd leg of the 200 free relay, which broke the IU school record. Adding to the resumé, Samy made B final appearances in both the 100 and 200 free at NCAAs last year.

Also returning are NCAA team members Bruno Blaskovic, Jack Franzman, and Brandon Hamblin. Blaskovic was an individual NCAA qualifier, narrowly missing finals after finishing 19th in the 100 free, and 21st in the 50. He also provided an 18.7 split on the 200 free relay, and a 41.5 to anchor the 400 free relay. Franzman split a 42.2 on the 400 free relay at NCAAs, but had earned his spot on that relay with a 41.5 at Big Tens. Hamblin anchored the 200 free relay in 18.70, which was the fastest split of the IU squad.

On to the the newcomers, IU brought in a plethora of talent to help fill gaps lost to graduation. At the top of this list is Brendan Burns, and although it’s unlikely Burns swims any free event individually, it’s extremely likely we’ll see him on at least 2 of the 3 free relays. Burns enters the NCAA as a 20.09 50, 43.60 100, and 1:34.15 200 free. Of those events, we’re most likely to see Burns utilized in the 400 and 800 free relays. His 50 time is promising, but Indiana has 6 sub-20 swimmers returning from last year, and Burns will likely be used on both medley relays. Kai Bathurst (Christian in the SWIMS database) is another top recruit that IU reeled in. Bathurst brings 45.01 and 1:36.05 100 and 200 free to the table.

Jacob Destrampe is an in-state pickup who brings free times of 20.2, 44.2, and 1:37.1 to the table. Jake Marcum and Max Scott are another pair of sprinters, who come in with 45.8/1:38.1 and 20.4/45.6 free times respectively.

DISTANCE FREE: ★★★

IU is in the fortunate position of having both their NCAA-scoring milers return this year. Michael Brinegar is the reigning runner-up in the 1650, while Mikey Calvillo was 10th. Brinergar was also 4:16 in the 500 last year, while Calvillo was 4:17. It took a 4:14 to make it back to finals last year,  so the pair of Hoosiers aren’t far off from scoring here as well.

Calvillo had a meteoric rise in his freshman campaign, taking 6 seconds off his 500 free personal best, and a whopping 25 seconds off his mile best. While there’s no way to know what the loss of Mike Westphal as the IU distance coach will do to the distance prgoram, both Calvillo and Brinegar are set up well to be highly competitive at NCAAs this year.

The distance group gains one newcomer, freshman Will Gallant, who brings a 15:16 mile to the group, and a 4:26 500 to boot. Rising junior Spencer Lehman posted a 15:06 mile for the 2nd season in a row last year, which was good for 7th at Big Tens. With new distance coaching this year, Lehman may well finally break through the 15:00 barrier. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for the Hoosiers to have 4 sub-15:00 milers, and even potentially 4 milers competing at NCAAs this season.

BACKSTROKE: ★★★

Gabriel Fantoni returns for his junior season, where he will again lead the IU backstroke squad. As a sophomore, Fantoni was 10th in the 100 back at NCAAs, and although he missed out on finals of the 200 back, his season best 1:39.5 would have easily scored. Fantoni will likely remain at the go-to backstroke leg for the Hoosier medley relays as well.

Behind Fantoni are rising junior Jacob Steele, and rising senior Mohamed Samy. Steele was 46.13 in the 100 back and 1:41.5 in the 200 last season, which was not far off qualifiying for the NCAAs. Samy is unlikely to swim the backstroke at NCAAs, since he seems pretty locked into the 200 IM, 100 free, and 200 free, however, he did posts back times of 46.5 and 1:41.9 last season.

The Hoosiers picked up a promising pair of backstrokers in this freshman class. Brendan Burns is a 46.2 100 and 1:42.1 200 backstroker as he enters the NCAA. It looks most likely based on his times that Burns will compete in both butterfly events and the 200 IM at championship meets, but IU does have him listed as a fly/back swimmer on the roster. Jake Marcum enters with a promising 1:42.8 200 back, and a 48.2 100 back along with it. This gives IU some really nice depth in the backstroke events this season, which is another reason it seems unlikely we’ll see Burns in backstroke at the end of the season.

BREASTSTROKE: ★★★

Despite losing the fastest SCY 100 breaststroker in history in Ian Finnerty, the IU breast core is still looking quite strong. For starters, Zane Backes is back after a stellar freshman campaign, which culminating in him finishing 5th in the 100 breast at NCAAs. While Backes 51.35 was pretty far off Finnerty’s 49-point in the 100, he is the 3rd fastest returner from last season. Backes was 1:53.78 in the 200 breast last year, which he could also score in if he has even a fraction of the improvement he did last year.

Behind Backes are rising juniors Gary Kostbade, Matthew Jerden, and Brock Brown. Kostbade was 52.5/1:54.1, and his season best in the 100 breast would have gotten 19th in prelims at NCAAs last year. Jerden was 52.6/1:55.2 respectively last year, while Brown was 53.4/1:58.6.

The Hoosiers might not have any new breaststrokers coming in, but given both their speed and depth that already exists, they will still have a highly competitive breast squad, both for dual meets and championship meets.

BUTTERFLY: ★★

The loss of NCAA 100 fly champion Vini Lanza is a giant one, but IU will not be left without competitive flyers. Sprinters Bruno Blaskovic and Gabriel Fantoni both competed in the 100 fly at NCAAs last season. Blaskovic was 45.3 at his best last season, while Fantoni was 45.7. Rising sophomore Van Mathias broke the 46-second barrier last year, clocking a 45.9, and had the 2nd fastest 200 fly on the team with a 1:42.3. Corey Gambardella, a junior this year, was 1:42.6 last season.

Brendan Burns and Harry Flanders are incoming freshman that could make a big impact in the fly group. Burns is a big freshman threat, coming in with a personal best of 46.1 in the 100, and 1:42.2 in the 100. With just a little improvement in his freshman campaign, Burns could score in both butterfly events. Flanders comes in at 47.4 and 1:46.7.

IM: ★★

Losing two NCAA A finalists in the 200 IM (Vini Lanza & Ian Finnerty) is significant, but not impossible to overcome for this IU team. Van Mathias, Mohamed Samy, and Thomas Vanderbrook were all 1:44.0 or faster last year. Additionally, there were 7 seniors that finaled at last year’s NCAAs, and will not be returning. Brendan Burns brings in a 1:44.8 IM, while Harry Flanders brings in a 1:48.

Spencer Lehman leads the way in the 400 IM group, having swum a 3:44 last season. Mikey Calvillo is behind him at 3:46, and  Matthew Jerden was also sub-3:50.

DIVING: ★★★

Hoosier diving is about as reliable as Hoosier breaststroke. Despite losing James Connor, IU still has Andrew Capobianco (20 points) and Mory Gould to fall back on. Capobianco is the defending NCAA 3 meter champion. He was off in both the 1 meter and platform diving last year, where he also had the ability to score. Gould narrowly missed scoring in 1 meter, finishing 20th in prelims.

RELAYS

There’s no denying that IU lost a big percentage of its relay legs from last year. In fact, they only return half their relay legs (10 of 20). All 10 of those lost legs come from Zach Apple, Ian Finnerty, and Vini Lanza. In terms of legs to replace, the 800 free relay has the most, only returning Mohamed Samy. While the 3 new Hoosiers probably won’t be able to completely replace a 1:30.3 lead-off from Apple, and 1:32s from both Finnerty and Lanza, they do have a lot of depth that should minimize the damage. Last year, Jack Franzman and Thomas Vanderbrook were both 1:34 flat-start, with Jakub Karl and Griffin Eiber each swimming 1:35. Additionally Brendan Burns brings in a 1:34.1 and Kai Bathurst a 1:36.0.

The other area that the Hoosiers lost a lot of ground in are the medley relays. Losing the NCAA champions in the 100 breast and 100 fly, as well as one of the fastest 100 freestylers in the NCAA last season leaves a very big dent. Fortunately, IU does have just the group, if one exists, to address each of those needs. Zane Backes is one of the fastest returning breaststrokers in the NCAA, and should be able to provide a highly competitive breast split, although maybe not what IU had grown used to with Finnerty. Brendan Burns doesn’t need to drop much time at all to be able to provide a competitive fly split at the NCAA level. Jack Franzman split 41.5 in a 100 free last season, which would replace Apple nicely.

Luckily for IU, the 200 free and 400 free relays remain almost untouched. Unluckily, the only swimmer they lost off those relays was Zach Apple. That being said, with the sprint depth they have on their roster, it shouldn’t be a problem to fit someone else in while remaining competitive.

2019-2020 OUTLOOK

Losing 161 points is a huge blow, there’s no way around it. However, the Hoosiers are still poised for a good showing at NCAAs. Firstly, almost all of the teams right behind IU last year (NC State, Louisville, Florida, Alabama, Harvard) suffered massive losses as well. Second, IU brought in a good freshmen class to stem some of the losses. And third – maybe most importantly – Indiana seems to have the pieces to at least adequately rebuild their relays, despite losing half their 2019 relay legs.

The Finnerty-for-Backes and Lanza-for-Burns swaps are timely, in that things should be much, much worse for the Hoosiers based on the level of outgoing talent. Relays are huge point earners at NCAAs, and while the Hoosiers might not be quite at the calliber they have been the last few years, they should still be very competitive in all 5 come March.

Diving isn’t going to score as much, and IU probably doesn’t have as good a chance of pushing Cal or Texas for the title as they have the past few years, but they’re also in very good shape to stay within the top five.

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Swimswum

Michael Brinegar is taking an Olympic redshirt

Fam

I believe Capobianco is as well.

Superfan

Is he going back to Mission to train?

Inquiring minds

Question of the day

Observor

Yes; that’s my understanding.

Landrew

I think IU is one of the most intriguing teams in the top echelon for the men, they clearly have lots of great talent but will need guys like Blaskovic and Fantoni to really be at there best at NCAAs. I think a lot of how they do at NCAAs will depend on how much of a focus they will put on Big Tens. Also it will be interesting to see how they do without Westphal

Real Hot Takes

Hot take:
The entire IU swim team will redshirt this year to focus on making vlogs alongside Cody Miller

Just trying to get in the Vlog

Can not confirm nor deny but stardom has to start somewhere

Togger

WHY did all my team GIVE UP SWIMMING?

Probably HELLO FRESH.

samulih

as you live in capitalist society it is not mandatory to watch something, altho your president might change that and it is not also not mandatory to try to achieve something, just sit alone in your room and shoot missives against imaginary foes…..

Landrew

I don’t get it

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