Key Additions: Austin Van Overdam (TX – IM/fly), Rasmus Skjaerpe (FL – back/free), Keegan Schuping (CA – sprint free), Chris Wieser (CA – free)
Key Losses: Giles Smith (15 NCAA points, 5 NCAA relays), Matt Barber (11 NCAA points, 1 NCAA relay), Mitchell Friedemann (3 NCAA points, 4 NCAA relays)
Recap Of Last Season
Last year, the Arizona Men’s swim team had some sizable disappointments at the NCAA Championships which included two disqualifications from both medley relays in which they could’ve scored major points.
Two of the swimmers who were slated to be on those relays are now gone with the likes of backstroker Mitchell Friedemann and flyer Giles Smith. They were paired 100 yard breaststroke champion Kevin Cordes and 50 yard freestyle champion Brad Tandy on the 200 yard medley relay, which made for a team that was undoubtedly one of the best in the nation. With the two seniors along with Cordes and Tandy, the Arizona team was in contention for a championship victory.
The disqualifications left the team with a major setback considering the lack of points, and immense frustration as it was understood that Arizona wouldn’t have a chance like that again for a while, as many of their top swimmers would be graduating and retiring from college swimming.
Even with the shocking outcome of the two relays, the Wildcats were able to step it up and gain enough individual points to finish seventh overall. Kevin Cordes helped with two NCAA titles, winning the 100 and 200 yard breaststrokes in American record timing.
Brad Tandy tied for gold in the 50 yard freestyle, and Matt Barber picked up some steady points in the middle distance freestyles. Giles Smith was able to come back and place fourth in the 100 fly with teammate Andrew Porter finishing ninth behind him.
Michael Meyer placed sixth in the 200 yard fly, so all and all the Wildcats stepped up to gain some serious individual points.
With those two relay wins, they would have most likely finished fifth or sixth, adding a total of 80 points to their 198.5. Assuming that they won both relays, they would have passed Georgia and Auburn,who finished fifth and sixth respectively, in total points.
Slated for a fifth or sixth place finish at NCAA’s, the Wildcats ended up finishing seventh, only 31.5 points behind Auburn and 60.5 behind Georgia.
Giant Group Of Recruits
With such a large portion of their 2013-2014 swimmers no longer returning, Arizona had to come on strong in recruitment, and they did just that picking up a grand total of 12 men for the 2014-2014 season.
Eleven of the 12 swimmers were high school recruits, the 12th, Christopher Webb, was a transfer from the University of Virginia. Webb isn’t exactly in a position to score points at the NCAA Championships. His best event is the 400 yard IM where he’s a 3:54.61. If he can drop a few seconds under the tutelage of head coach Rick DeMont he could possibly be in the range to pick up a point or two in the B final.
With the remaining eleven being recruits, it was very important for the staff at Arizona to pick carefully, as there is no denying that Arizona is in a rebuilding year, and will have to focus on some of these incoming freshman in due time.
Austin Van Overdam out of the state of Texas was an important pickup for the Arizona team. Van Overdam boasts impressive times in the IM’s and could be a factor in the 200 fly. He finished fourth this summer at Jr Nationals with a time of 4:20.90 in the long course pool. In short course yards, Overdam’s best time is a 3:50.20. He isn’t going to be a huge point scorer in his first year, but there’s no doubt that he has the potential to really branch out and make a name for himself.
In the 200 yard IM he swims a 1:48.86, again just a couple seconds out of the top 16 at NCAA’s.
Along with Overdam, Arizona recruited smartly and picked up a few more swimmers who show promise to greatly improve themselves throughout the duration of their collegiate careers. Keegan Schuping and Chris Wieser were two pickups straight out of Jesuit high school in California.
Schuping will bring promise to the Arizona relays in years to come. He has some impressive times in the 100 and 50 yard freestyles that will help reestablish the 200 and 400 free relays. Schuping’s personal best in the 100 yard freestyle is a 44.82, a time that with steady improvement can turn into something that will bring points to Arizona. His 20.26 in the 50 freestyle is also fairly promising. His Jesuit high school teammate Chris Wieser will also be a great asset to the relays. His best event is the 200 yard freestyle where he goes a 1:38.88.
With the loss of Barber in the middle distance freestyles, someone’s needed to step up and produce some times in the 200 yard freestyle that will not only render individual points, but be an important talent on the 4x200m freestyle relay. Wieser is approximately three seconds off being competitive in the individual event, but there’s no doubt that Rick DeMont has the ability to produce some top notch freestylers which will help his cause.
With Wieser looking as though he’ll be responsible for filling some holes on the freestyle relays, there’s still the issue of a backstroker. With Friedmann gone there’s a spot for a top-notch backstroker that needs to be filled, and Rasmus Skjaerpe could be the man to do it.
Skjaerpe was one of the top recruits hailing from Florida. Skjaerpe will be a work in progress, but he was a 48.59 at the Florida State Championships in November of 2013 in the 100 yard backstroke, a mark that’s a few seconds short of scoring at the NCAA Championships. Throw in a 45.52 personal best in the 100 yard freestyle and he will be very important in the relays in years to come. His 200 yard IM is right up there as well with a 1:48.64.
Returning Point Scorers
The Arizona Wildcats have some very impressive stars on their roster, highlighted by 11-time All-American Kevin Cordes. Barring any major setbacks, Kevin Cordes will most likely bring two huge wins to the team in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes.
In those events, Cordes is the current American record holder. Nobody has swum faster times in the 100 or 200 yard breaststrokes ever; his personal bests remaining at 50.04 and 1:48.66 from last year’s NCAA Championships. Cordes is the 2013 and 2014 NCAA swimmer of the year and with safe starts he should help the Arizona medley relay teams find success as well.
It’s Cordes’ senior year, and you can bet after a collegiate career like he’s had he’s going to want to end it with a bang. He’s truly established himself as one of if not the best breaststroke in the United States and if he can improve on his time from last year’s NCAA’s there’s a chance he could be the first swimmer under 50 seconds in the 100 yard breaststroke.
Brad Tandy will also be heading into his senior year this year and with it he’ll be the defending 50 yard freestyle co-champion. Kristian Gkolomeev was the swimmer who tied with Tandy last year as a freshman, and he’ll be returning to challenge Tandy and a few other swimmers who could take the title away from both of them. The South African Tandy definitely has speed and with the gold medal from last year, he should be coming back hungry to repeat as NCAA champion.
Michael Meyer scored in both the 400 yard IM and the 200 yard fly at last year’s NCAA Championships. His best performance was a sixth place finish in the 200 fly at 1:43.05. Three of the five swimmers who finished ahead of him were in their senior year last year, so there’s definitely room for Meyer, who’s a junior, to move up the ranks and grab a few more points.
Andrew Porter will also be heading into his junior year, and he’ll be a crucial piece in the Wildcats’ game as he’ll be taking over from Giles Smith as the flyer on the team. Last season, Porter was ninth in the 100 yard fly with a 45.50 finish in the B final that would have gotten him sixth in the championship final. That 45.50 is his current personal best, and if he swims a time faster or similar he should be extremely competitive, he’ll just need to make sure he gets into that A-final to get a few more points for the team.
In the diving portion, Rafael Quintero will rack up some points. Last season he finished sixth in the one meter event, 10th in the three meter event, and second overall on the platform. Scoring in three events will help Arizona’s cause.
What’s In Store For Arizona’s 2014-2015 Season?
Arizona finished seventh overall at the NCAA’s last season, and with the two major DQ’s that they faced in relays that they could’ve won, their finish was a whole lot lower than what was expected. The swimmers also didn’t exactly have consistent coaching as Rick DeMont took over partway through the season.
Now, the team will start the season with Rick DeMont as the head coach, and with some practice on take-offs and safe starts, Arizona should be able to improve on their point totals.
They are missing a backstroker however, which will render them a little slower than last year in the medley relays, however they’ve got very steady breast, fly, and freestyle legs with the likes of Cordes, Porter, and Tandy.
Arizona could definitely creep up on Auburn who finished a total 31.5 points ahead of them last season and even get closer to 5th place Georgia. They’ll need to capitalize on improvement from the swimmers who already had placings last year and make sure that some of the freshman to show up on the scoreboard.
A lot of their season will be determined on the likes of the freshman swimmers. Most of them are close to being in the range of scoring, but not quite there. If Arizona wants to improve their placing the coaching staff will need to put a big focus on this group and improve the overall depth of the team.
Granted, the Wildcats will be looking at around a sixth place finish this season. They should be able to pass Auburn if none of their relays aren’t DQ’ed, and depending on the success of the freshman they should be in striking range of Georgia.
Whether it be sixth or fifth, this season will be very important in identifying where they Wildcats will stand over the next few years.