College Swimming Previews: Hoffer Arrives For #2 Cal Men

We’ll be previewing the top 12 men’s and women’s programs from the 2017 NCAA Championships – 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 some inside looks at the life of a college swimmer as told by college swimmers themselves, plus full-length profiles of a few of college swimming’s biggest names, including our cover athlete, Simone Manuel.

#2 CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS

Key Losses: Ryan Murphy (56 NCAA points, 4 NCAA relays), Long Gutierrez (3 NCAA points, 2 NCAA relays), Hunter Cobleigh (7 NCAA points)

Key Additions: Ryan Hoffer (free/back/fly), Sean Grieshop (free/IM), Bryce Mefford (IM/back), Daniel Carr (back/IM), Trenton Julian (free/IM/fly)

GRADING CRITERIA

We’ve tightened up our criteria from last year, where our first stab at a letter grading system got hit by a little bit of classic grade inflation. Again, bear in mind that all of these grades are projections more than 6 months out – and as none of us has a working crystal ball, these projections are very subjective and very likely to change over the course of the season. Disagreeing with specific grades is completely acceptable; furiously lashing out at a writer, commenter or specific athlete is not.

  • A = projected to score significant (10+) NCAA points per event
  • B = projected to score some (3-10) NCAA points per event
  • C = projected on the bubble to score likely only a few (1-2) or no NCAA points per event
  • D = projected to score no NCAA points

2016-2017 LOOKBACK

Cal once again battled with the Texas Longhorns for the national title, but emerged the runners-up with 349 points and their 8th-straight top 2 finish. Senior Ryan Murphy completed his sweep of the backstrokes for the 4th year in a row, earning Pac-12 Swimmer of the Year for his performance at NCAAs and Pac-12s. The freshman class played a huge role, highlighted by sprinter Pawel Sendyk (50 free) and butterflier Zheng Quah (200 fly) earning All-America honors individually at their first NCAA meet.

The Bears’ NCAA performance was also highlighted by an American Record in the 400 medley relay. Ryan Murphy, Connor Hoppe, Matt Josa, and Michael Jensen teamed up to finish 2nd behind only Texas, posting a 3:01.51 to break the Bears’ own American Record from 2015.

SPRINT FREE: A+

The Bears are loaded in the sprints with 3 returning individual scorers. Sophomores Michael Jensen and Pawel Sendyk look to build off their freshman year momentum after both scored in the 50. Sendyk placed 6th in the 50 free, while Jensen placed 15th. Jensen could also be a scorer in the 100 and 200 freestyles this season with slight improvements. His best times (42.6/1:33.7) from last season have him 2 tenths shy of scoring range in the 200 and a tenth shy in the 100. Similarly, Sendyk is just a few tenths shy of scoring in the 100 free with his 42.8 from last season’s NCAAs.

Senior Justin Lynch was also a 50 free scorer, placing 14th, and his personal best 42.38 in the 100 free puts him in a projected scoring position in the 100 free as well.

Incoming freshman Ryan Hoffer is a huge addition for the Bears. His best time of 18.71 in the 50 free is fast enough to have placed 3rd at NCAAs last season. He’s also fast enough to have scored in the championship final of the 100 free with his 41.23. Hoffer will play a big role in the Bears’ sprint relays this season.

In addition to Hoffer, freshmen Bryce Mefford, Nate Biondi, Trenton Julian, Sean Grieshop, and Jarod Hatch could also develop into relay roles. Hatch (1:36.4), Julian (1:36.2), Grieshop (1:36.5), and Mefford (1:34.6) could make good additions to the middle distance 800 free relay, while Biondi (20.2/44.3) will look to contribute as a sprint free specialist.

DISTANCE FREE: C

Newcomer Sean Grieshop is Cal’s best scoring prospect in the distance races. His 14:45.40 in the 1650 free from 2014 is already fast enough to score, and he’s got a lifetime best 4:15.3 in the 500 free from 2015, though both of those times are years old. Aside from Grieshop, Nick Norman looks like the only other man who could potentially score at NCAAs. He was well off his best at NCAAs last year, but his personal best 14:51.8 leaves him about 5.5 seconds out of scoring range.

Ryan Kao (4:16.1/15:13.1) is fast enough to qualify for NCAAs and score plenty of points at Pac-12s, but still has a ways to go to score at the national meet.

IM: A+

Cal has 2 potential finalists among their returners in Andrew Seliskar and Matt Josa. Seliskar will likely bring in big points again this year after placing 6th in the 200 IM and 2nd in the 400 IM last season, and with Kalisz out of the picture he’s a major title threat in the 400 IM. Josa swam to a 1:41.50, a time that would’ve placed 7th through prelims, before being disqualified in the 200 IM. With some work on his breaststroke pullouts (he was disqualified for multiple dolphin kicks), the Bears could get 2 men in the final.

Sean Grieshop comes in with a 3:44.3 in the 400 IM, putting him within a second of scoring range. We’ve seen him have some big performances in the long course pool as an Olympic Trials finalist and World Juniors champion, but he hasn’t had a big breakout in the yards pool yet. Grieshop could develop into an IM scorer in his first season with the Bears. Mike Thomas also has good scoring potential, though he swims the 200 IM. He didn’t match his best at NCAAs last season, placing 19th in prelims, but his personal best 1:43.3 is good enough to have scored in the B final.

Ken Takahashi (400 IM) and Jack Xie (200 IM) return after competing in the IMs at last season’s NCAAs. Takahashi is just over a second shy of scoring range in the 400 IM with his 3:44.9, making him a good training partner for Grieshop. Also joining their training group will be Bryce Mefford (1:45.4) and Daniel Carr (1:45.9), who have each put up times in the 1:45-range in the 200 IM.

BUTTERFLY: A+

The Bears could bring in a ton of points in the butterflies. Zheng Quah is their top returner after placing 2nd in the 200 and 5th in the 100 last season. Andrew Seliskar was another big scorer, taking 6th in the 200 fly. Between those two, the Bears have 2 men with best times sub-1:40 in the 200 fly. They’ve also got Mike Thomas, who placed 9th last season, as a potential finalist in the event.

Matt Josa is also a returning finalist, having made it to the championship final of the 100 fly. However, he was DQed and didn’t score any points in the event. Justin Lynch has championship final in the 100 fly as well after narrowly missing it with a 9th place finish in prelims last season.

As a freshman, Jack Xie qualified to swim the butterflies at NCAAs last season, and could develop into a scorer if he continues to improve. He’s about a second shy of scoring range with his 1:43.0 in the 200 fly. This year, he’ll have freshman Trenton Julian as a training partner. Julian comes in with a personal best 1:45.8 in the 200 fly.

Ryan Hoffer has big scoring potential here, as his lifetime best 45.4 is already good enough to have landed him in the A final. Since he’s needed more in the 100 back and may need to take on the backstroke legs of the relays, however, he may opt to focus on backstroke instead.

BACKSTROKE: B-

Now that top scorer Ryan Murphy has graduated, the Bears have big shoes to fill in the backstrokes. Freshman Ryan Hoffer could be up to the challenge in the 100 back, as he’s already fast enough to score with his 45.5 and is 3 tenths shy of championship final range. In the 200 back, however, they may have a harder time making up for the loss. They have a pair of freshmen with potential in Daniel Carr (46.7/1:42.7) and Bryce Mefford (47.3/1:42.1), but they’ll have to drop into the 1:40-range to score.

Zheng Quah is a potential scorer here after placing 21st in the 100 back last season. He’s within tenths of scoring range with his personal best 46.2 from the 400 medley relay leadoff, but he does have a challenge with the 100 fly coming earlier in the session.

BREASTSTROKE: B-

Connor Hoppe should bring in a good amount of points in the 100 breast after placing 4th last season, but he’s their only returning breaststroke scorer. Carson Sand has potential in the 100 breast as well with a personal best 52.47 and was just shy of scoring with an 18th place finish at NCAAs. Without Hunter Cobleigh, though, the Bears’ only potential scorer in the 200 breast is Matt Whittle. He was 20th at NCAAs last season, but is projected to score in the B final with his lifetime best 1:53.8. Hoppe entered NCAAs with a best of 1:55.8 before getting DQed, but scoring range is 1:54-low.

Incoming freshman James Daugherty, a Florida state champion and Junior Nationals finalist, shows potential to score at the conference level. Like Hoppe, he’s had more success in the 100 than the 200, coming in with bests of 54.2 and 2:00.6.

Swimming fans have speculated that with the breaststroke events so wide open, Andrew Seliskar may make a change in his event lineup to swim the 200 breast instead of the 200 fly. Though he hasn’t focused on this event since arriving at Cal, he holds a personal best of 1:51.57 from 2015, which already puts him in the title conversation. Since Cal is already stacked in the butterflies, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him make the move. That would likely bump Cal up into the “A” range in breaststroke, since Hoppe is projected to score more than 10 points in the 100 and Seliskar would be projected to score more than 10 points in the 200.

2017-2018 OUTLOOK:

The Bears are in good shape this season with a strong freshman class. Despite losing Murphy, they should be able to put together some strong medley relays with Hoffer as their next backstroker. Cal is extremely deep in sprint free, fly, and IM, but will rely on guys like Grieshop, Mefford, and Carr to develop into scoring roles as freshmen to improve their numbers in the distance freestyles and backstrokes. Though Texas looks like an extremely tough team to beat, the Bears have the potential to challenge for the title and could wind up with their 9th consecutive top 2 finish.

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KOBEE-MAK
5 years ago

HS is BS. Hoffer starts with a clean slate. Expect nada.

Jeff
Reply to  KOBEE-MAK
5 years ago

Drive, motivation, coaching are all important, but talent, can’t deny it.

Listener
5 years ago

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaHYI68q-Fo

Ryan Hoffer makes the argument that underwaters can be faster than swimming freestyle.

Paul
Reply to  Listener
5 years ago

you can see the gap widen during the 2nd and 3rd walls as border stays underwater while everyone else swims on the surface. incredible, but it also won’t be mearly as apparent at the NCAA level

Pvdh
Reply to  Listener
5 years ago

I doubt he can go faster underwater than Dressel, Held, Haas, etc go over the water

Swammer
5 years ago

Cal’s chances of taking the sprint freestyle relays are decent, but I have a feeling Texas will show domination in the medleys with a combination of Shebat, Schooling, and Haas (400)/ Ringgold (200). Despite losing Licon, I seriously doubt whoever they put at breaststroke will hold this squad back from a repeat in the 200 MR and a four-peat in the 400 MR, although I would say their chances in the 400 are more certain than the 200.

Go Bearcats
Reply to  Swammer
5 years ago

Hoffer, Seliskar or Hoppe, Josa, Jensen versus Shebat, _____, Schooling, Haas. Looks like a pretty good race, but can anyone help me fill out who will swim breastroke for Texas?

jelly
Reply to  Go Bearcats
5 years ago

Ryan Harty or Austin Temple seems pretty good for them

Uberfan
Reply to  jelly
5 years ago

Why does everyone think Harty is some amazing breastroker his best is a 55.02

Go Bearcats
Reply to  Uberfan
5 years ago

Harty has relatively average breastroke splits in his IM events. Not that this doesn’t mean he can’t swim a solid individual breastroke, but it could be an indication that it isn’t naturally a very strong stroke for him.

Go Bearcats
Reply to  jelly
5 years ago

If Temple can swim how he did in 2015, Texas could definitely blow Cal out

R&R
Reply to  Go Bearcats
5 years ago

On paper this is not a pretty good race – it is a Texas blowout. I think Cal can close the gap some though.

j pine
Reply to  R&R
5 years ago

With a pretty good backstroke leg from Shebat, Texas should have the lead after the first leg, and even if Hoppe overtakes whoever Texas puts on the breast, Schooling should have no problem closing the gap, and Townley Haas has split a pretty good 100 before. Think Texas has the upper hand here.

Ebmarah
Reply to  Go Bearcats
5 years ago

Jared Butler

He Gets It Done Again
5 years ago

Breaststrokers also have Nick Silverthorn, who was SwimSwam’s #4 recruit in class of 2014 (two spots behind Dressel)

marklewis
5 years ago

I wonder how the Cal coaching staff approaches a swimmer like Sean Grieshop. He’s swum some great times, but he’s in a bit of a slump.

What do they do to get a swimmer (especially one who has already trained very hard) back to their best or even better?

GBO
Reply to  marklewis
5 years ago

Grieshop had a lot of unfortunate changes going into his senior year. Maybe not the best combination for a high school senior with time taken off for recruiting trips and inconsistent practices. Still making the national team for USA Swimming should not be considered a slump. In regards to best times, for the lack of training at his club team, he was close to them in season over the fall. I believe Dave and Yuri will get him fired up and to swim his fastest.

E Gamble
Reply to  marklewis
5 years ago

Ryan Hoffer could use some help with that as well. I would love to see him better than his 2015 form.

dmswim
Reply to  marklewis
5 years ago

I think a change of environment and racing consistently during a duel meet season generally helps get swimmers back on track. I think a lot of swimmers do well with doing heavy yardage in high school and then more speed and strength training in college. They end up sort of doing a 4 year taper from the base they built in high school. Not that Rebecca Soni was plateauing before going to USC, but she went from a very high volume program (Scarlet Aquatic Club), to USC which does much shorter strength-focused training. By the end of her career, she wasn’t even doing doubles in the pool. This was a long way to say that I hope the excitement of… Read more »

Caleb
Reply to  dmswim
5 years ago

Another way to put that is that swimming massive volume is a bad idea and they would swim even faster if they did more focused, race-pace training in HS.

Swimmer
Reply to  dmswim
5 years ago

She also went 1.05 in the first 100 of the 200 breast and couldn’t hold

marklewis
5 years ago

It looks like sprint free has an abundance of talent this year among the top schools. Several A+ grades have been given. The top 4 teams are all stacked with sprinters.

On the flip side, breaststroke saw a lot of talent graduate and is therefore “wide open.”

SwimSam
5 years ago

Seliskar should definitely try and tackle the 200 breast. With Prenot in the pro group, he’d definitely have someone to train with if Prenot has gotten back to the grind. Wouldn’t be surprised if Seli broke 1:50 if the breast becomes a real focus

crooked donald
Reply to  SwimSam
5 years ago

Agree he could do that, but not sure of his LCM potential in it (look at Licon). He should be focusing on events that are going to punch his ticket to Tokyo. He doesn’t even have senior-level international experience yet.

Cmon
Reply to  crooked donald
5 years ago

After this NCAA season he will have about 27 months until the next Olympic trials. I think it would be okay for him to swim some breast at NCAA’s

E Gamble
5 years ago

I hope this move to Cal helps him improve on his 2015 times and figure out LCM. ?

E Gamble
Reply to  E Gamble
5 years ago

Ryan. Hoffer

About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona (2013-2015) and the University of Florida (2011-2013). While her college swimming career left a bit to be desired, her Snapchat chin selfies and hot takes on Twitter do not disappoint. She's also a high school graduate of The …

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