College Swimming Previews: The Rising #6 Arizona State Men Put Nation On Notice

It’s that time of the year again. SwimSwam will be previewing the top 12 men’s and women’s teams (and then some) from the 2022 NCAA Championships. Follow along with the College Swimming Preview Channel. Want to read even more? Check out the latest edition of the SwimSwam magazine

#6 Arizona State Sun Devils

Key Losses: Carter Swift (1 NCAA relay)

Key Additions: Jack Wadsworth (Transfer — Back/IM), Daniel Matheson (Transfer — Distance Free/IM), honorable mention Owen McDonald (GA — Mid-Distance Free/Fly/Back/IM), ‘best of the rest’ Jonny Kulow (WY — Sprint Free), Cale Martter (GA — Breast/IM), Evan Nail (AZ — Breast/IM), Hubert Kos (Hungary — IM/Back/Fly)

Fifth Years: Max McCusker (Transfer — Sprint Free/Fly) , Grant House (Sprint Free/IM)

GRADING CRITERIA

Two years ago, we unveiled a new, more data-based grading criteria based on ‘projected returning points’, a stat of our own making that involved a lot of manual calculations involving departing seniors, redshirts, freshmen, etc. We liked the objectiveness of that stat, but given that there’s still a lot of uncertainty for this year, we’re adopting a hybrid approach this year. The “stars” will rely heavily on what swimmers actually did last year, but we’ll also give credit to returning swimmers or freshmen who have times that would have scored last year.

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. Use these grades as a jumping-off point for discussion, rather than a reason to be angry.

2021-22 LOOKBACK

After they redshirted the 2021 NCAA season due to COVID-19, the Bob Bowman-led Arizona State men came back like a freight train in the 2021-22 campaign.

First, the Sun Devils had a great Pac-12s meet, which included a third-place finish overall, a win in the 800 free relay, and individual titles earned by Leon Marchand and Grant House. In fact, 2022 marked the Sun Devils’ best Pac-12s showing since 1995, when they placed second.

Arizona State went on to put up great performances at NCAAs, where they ended up placing sixth overall with 238 points—their best finish since 1982. The freshman Marchand had a lights-out showing, winning the 200 IM in NCAA/US Open record fashion in addition to taking first in the 200 breast and second in the 400 IM. These swims earned him the honor of being named the male college swimmer of the year by both SwimSwam and the CSCAA. He scored 57 individual points that meet, which was the most of any swimmer.

Trailing Marchand in team scoring was House, who placed second in the 200 free, 14th in the 100 free, and 10th in the 200 IM, earning a total of 27 individual points. He saw major improvements in his primary events last season, dropping two seconds in the 200 free, one in the 100 free, and two in the 200 IM. Also scoring individually at NCAAs were Alex Colson, Jack Dolan, and Julian Hill.

ASU had strong individual performances at NCAAs, but their relays were even better. None of the team’s relays finished worse than eighth place, and in the 400 free relay, they finished second and were just 0.37 seconds slower than Texas, the national champions in the event.

Because he successfully brought back ASU from a one-year hiatus, developed Marchand into the best male college swimmer in the country, and led the team to arguably their best single-season performance in history, Bowman received SwimSwam’s NCAA Men’s Coach of the Year award following the conclusion of the 2021-22 season.

SPRINT FREE: ★★★

The Sun Devils will lose 19.47/41.98 freestyler Carter Swift, but they return most of their core sprinting power from last year.

Let’s start with Jack Dolan, the only Sun Devil who scored in the 50 or 100 free at NCAAs last year. He finished 14th in the 50 and holds best times of 18.97/42.26, leading the team in the 50 this year and sitting second in the 100 free. The top returning 100 freestyler title belongs to Grant House, who finished 14th in the individual 100 free at NCAAs with a time of 42.06 but went 41.48 leading off the 400 free relay, a time that would have made the championship final.

House is much stronger in the 200, however. There, he comes in as the top returning swimmer from last year after placing second to the now-graduated Drew Kibler at NCAAs. House’s best time of 1:30.23 in the event also makes him the sixth-fastest performer of all time.

Beyond House and Dolan, there are a lot of swimmers in this group who are on the cusp of scoring, but just aren’t quite there yet. One of them is senior Cody Bybee, who set best times of 19.17/42.36 at the 2022 Pac-12s. He then went on to finish 20th and 30th in the 50 and 100 free at NCAAs, respectively, although his Pac-12 time in the 50 would have placed 17th in the NCAA prelims, one spot shy of a second swim. He is going to be a crucial part of ASU’s relays, having split as fast as 18.44/41.86 in the past.

Florida State transfer Max McCusker holds best times of 19.28/42.57, and could see himself earning a relay spot if he improves under a new program, especially with the departure of Swift.

Junior Julian Hill and sophomore Patrick Sammon specialize more on the longer side of the sprint spectrum, being the team’s two fastest 200 freestylers aside from House and two out of the four legs from ASU’s 800 free relay. Hill and Sammon clocked times of 1:33.03 and 1:33.08 at Pac-12s respectively, although Hill was well off that time at NCAAs and Sammon withdrew from the event at the same meet. ASU’s fastest NCAA finisher in the 200 was actually junior Andrew Gray, who swam a time of 1:33.14 and was just over half a second away from scoring.

Hill and Sammon are also formidable 100 freestylers, holding 2021-22 season-bests of 42.88 and 43.36 respectively to final at Pac-12s, although they are still far away from making an impact on the NCAA level.

The Sun Devils add a few sprint freestylers onto their squad this year, with one of them being freshman Owen McDonald, who holds best times of 43.75/1:35.37. Also coming in is USC transfer Daniel Matheson, who is more of a 500/1650 freestyler but has been as fast as 1:35.90 in the 200 free. Freshman Jonny Kulow is another strong sprint addition, having a 20.07 50 free and a 43.69 100 free.

Sophomore Leon Marchand has been as fast as 18.41/41.31/1:29.96 on relays before, but don’t expect the king of IMs to take on individual freestyle events as a side quest this year.

DISTANCE FREE: ★★

Julian Hill was ASU’s only distance freestyle scorer at NCAAs last year, finishing 16th in the 500 free with a time of 4:15.78. However, his best time of 4:13.18 (which is the fastest time on the team) from Pac-12 would have moved him up to 13th at NCAAs. But it was actually Andrew Gray who was the team’s highest finisher in the 500 at Pac-12s, placing fourth with a best time of 4:14.51 (Hill swam his time out of the ‘B’ final).

In the 1650, the team is led by senior Gordon Mason, who finished third at Pac-12s in a time of 14:50.70. He later went on to go 15:07.13 at NCAAs and finish 28th overall, but his Pac-12s mark would have been 14th and earned him 3 points.  Another swimmer who has been under the 15-minute barrier is Daniel Matheson, who holds a personal best of 14:51.59-also a time that he set at Pac-12s and would have been good enough to place top 16 at NCAAs. However, like Mason, he was well off of his conference time at NCAAs and finished 26th overall.

Matheson has also been as fast as 4:14.87 in the 500 free, which is still a bit far from NCAA scoring, but it will make him the third-fastest swimmer on the team in the event behind Hill and Gray.

BACKSTROKE: ★★

On medley relays last year, Jack Dolan took care of backstroke duties, and it looks to be the same again this year. He was the team’s only 100 back scorer at Pac-12s, as well as their only NCAA qualifier in the event, having placed 27th with a time of 45.75 (although his Pac-12s time of 45.35 would have earned him a spot in the NCAA ‘B’ final).

A promising addition to the team is transfer Jack Wadsworth, who is the defending DIII national champion and the DIII record holder in the 100 back. His best time of 46.45 is a bit off the 45.87 it took to earn an NCAA invite in the event, but he’s already the only ASU swimmer (aside from Dolan and Leon Marchand, who has a PB of 46.14 but will likely not be swimming the event at any championship meet) under the 47-second barrier.

The 200 back is a little bit weaker for the Sun Devils, as they didn’t have anyone swimming the event at Pac-12s or NCAAs. Marchand led the team last year with a 1:43.14, but as stated in the 100 back, he probably won’t be swimming the 200 anywhere besides a few dual meets here and there. Wadsworth comes in with a best time of 1:44.44 in the event, which is nearly two seconds faster than last year’s #2 ranked 200 backstroker (Bobby Pierce, who went a 1:46.21 at the NC State invite), but would barely sneak into the Pac-12 B-final.

However, ASU has two new additions that could boost their 200 back game. The first addition is Hubert Kos, who will be arriving from Hungary in January. His long course best time of 1:57.64 converts to a 1:38.42 in yards, which would have been fast enough to finish second overall at NCAAs. If he can adjust well from meters to yards come time for NCAAs, the points he could bring to the team would be alone enough to bring ASU backstroke to three stars.

The second addition is Owen McDonald, who comes in with times of 47.21 and 1:42.63, with his 200 time being both faster than everyone at ASU besides Kos’ converted time and less than a second off what it took to ‘A’ final at 2022 Pac-12s.

BREASTROKE: ★★★½

Just like backstroke with Hubert Kos, Leon Marchand is able to bring ASU breaststroke to three stars solely because of his 200 breast capabilities. He’s the defending national champion in the event, and his best time of 1:48.20 is less than three-tenths off the NCAA record. Even if he doesn’t get back-to-back titles this year, he’s going to earn ASU double-digit 200 breast points just by choosing to swim the race.

The 100 breast is a little weaker for ASU, but they’ve still got junior John Heaphy, the team’s only NCAA qualifier in the event and the breaststroke leg on the medley relays. He finished 24th at NCAAs in a time of 52.21, although the 51.85 that earned him fourth at Pac-12s would have been good enough for 15th at NCAA prelims. Behind Heaphy is junior David Schlicht, who clocked a 53.45 at the ASU vs. Arizona dual meet and could have made Pac-12 B-finals, but opted to swim the 200 breast/200 IM/400 IM instead.

Schlicht is the second-fastest 200 breaststroker on the team, having swum the event and NCAAs and finishing 27th in a time of 1:53.79. He’s been as fast as 1:52.33 in the event before, a time that he set back in 2019. If he can regain the speed he had three years ago, he could add a few more 200 breast points to the team. And while he’s not as strong in the 200 than he is at the 100, Heaphy could provide depth on a conference level in the event, having finished 11th at Pac-12s with a 1:55.34.

The Sun Devils have two incoming freshmen who are formidable breaststrokers: Cale Martter and Evan Nail. Marrter holds best times of 54.74/1:58.66 while Nail has been as fast as 56.25/1:59.17, so if they can drop a few seconds this season, they can provide extra support to the team.

BUTTERFLY: ★★★½

With personal bests of 45.02 and 1:40.28, junior Alex Colson led the team in fly last year. He was the runner-up in both the 100 and 200 fly at Pac-12s, and went on to make the ‘A’ final of the 200 fly at NCAAs, finishing seventh. He was a bit off in the 100 fly at NCAAs and finished 22nd, although his best time would have been 14th in the prelims and gotten himself into the ‘B’ finals.

In fact, the Sun Devils were very close to having two finalists in the 200 fly at NCAAs, as Andrew Gray finished 17th in the prelims of the event. His Pac-12s time of 1:41.70, which gave him a fifth-place finish, would have been enough to sneak into B-finals at NCAAs. Both Colson and Gray saw huge improvements in the 200 fly last year, with Colson’s best time going from 1:42.33 to 1:40.70 and Gray’s going from 1:49.9 to 1:41.70 (prior to the 2021-22 season, he hadn’t swum the event since 2018).

Senior Cody Bybee, who was third in the 100 fly at Pac-12s, contributes to the team’s depth on a conference level. He was the team’s other sub-46 flyer last year, clocking a 45.32 at Pac-12s. There will be another 45-point 100 flyer arriving though, as transfer Max McCusker comes in with a personal best of 45.74.

Considering that he earned silver in the long course 200 fly at Worlds, we could see Leon Marchand make a move from the 200 breast to the 200 fly this year. Marchand swam the event at the NC State Invitational, where he set his current best time of 1:40.86. Based on his time drops from mid-season to NCAAs in other events, it’s fairly reasonable to assume that he could be in the 1:37-38 range in the 200 fly. However, from a points standpoint, swimming the 200 breast makes more sense for him because ASU already has Colson and Gray in the 200 fly but nobody close to NCAA ‘A’ final range in the 200 breast.

Another super versatile swimmer that could strengthen ASU’s fly abilities is Hubert Kos, who holds long course personal bests of 51.33/1:57.21 that convert to 44.55/1:41.58 in yards. His 100 fly time would have finished sixth at NCAAs last year and made him the team’s top swimmer in the event by half a second, whereas his 200 fly would have been 15th. However, like Marchand, he’s also a super versatile swimmer, so his impact for the team in butterfly could be dependent on what events he chooses to swim at championship meets.

If Marchand and Kos both swim the 200 fly in the postseason, the 200 fly could become the team’s strongest event overall. However, even without them, Colson, Gray, Bybee, and McCusker are a strong enough fly trio that can score both on the conference and national level.

IM: ★★★★

With so many big stars in one place, the ASU men have arguably the top IM group in the country.

Leon Marchand‘s dominance in the IMs is self-explanatory. He’s the defending national champion and the NCAA and US Open record holder in the 200 IM, and his best time of 1:37.69 makes him the only man under 1:38. In the 400 IM, he’s the fourth-fastest performer in history, and holds a personal best of 3:34.08. After sweeping the medley events at the World Championships, including swimming the second-fastest time in history in the 400 IM, Marchand goes into the 2022-23 season as the heavy favorite to do the same at NCAAs.

Yes, Marchand was second to Hugo Gonzalez by over a second in the 400 IM last year, but considering that he went 4:04.28 in the long course this summer and almost broke the world record, it’s hard not to see him get that NCAA title in 2023—especially if Gonzalez doesn’t come back for a fifth year.

ASU’s strength in IMs extends beyond Marchand though, as Grant House and Hubert Kos are two of the best IMers in the NCAA. After an off prelims swim, House finished tenth in the B-finals at NCAAs last year with a personal best time of 1:40.53 (which would have been seventh in the ‘A’ final), and can probably be penned in for a top 8 finish this season. Kos is the 2022 200 IM European Champion and his best long course time of 1:56.99 converts to 1:39.74, which would have placed fifth in the ‘A’ final at NCAAs.

There’s a chance that ASU could have three different ‘A’ finalists in the 200 IM at NCAAs next year, which is scary to think about. In addition, since House finished second to Marchand at Pac-12s last year, add in Kos and this IM trio could be sweeping the 200 IM podium at conferences in 2023.

Kos is a great 400 IMer as well, with his long course PB of 4:13.50 converting to 3:37.14 in yards, which is another NCAA ‘A’-final worthy time. Then there’s David Schlicht, who just missed out on a finals swim and finished 17th in NCAA prelims, but went 3:40.60 at the NC State Invite which probably could have mustered up some NCAA points. Schlit is also an NCAA qualifier in the 200 IM, placing 26th in prelims with a time of 1:43.60.

ASU also has a few freshmen IMers coming in who could contribute to the overall depth. Owen McDonald (1:46.18/3:47.00), Cale Martter (1:48.50/3:51.58), and Evan Nail (1:48.12/3:51.65) could all develop this year and make Sun Devil IM even better. Also keep an eye on Pac-12 scorers Alex Colson and Jarod Arroyo, who went 1:43.96 and 3:45.54 in the 200 and 400 IM respectively during Pac-12 ‘B’ finals. Transfer Daniel Matheson is a great 400 IMer too, finishing 11th at Pac-12s in a time of 3:44.71.

DIVING: ★

Thomas Wesche and Zachary Lundgren scored in all three diving events at Pac-12s, but neither of them qualified for NCAAs. However, last year, the team was operating without a coach, as former coach Mark Bradshaw left the program in May 2020 and a replacement was not hired until 2021.

With former ASU volunteer assistant Marc Briggs starting his role as diving head coach in the fall of 2022, this year is a chance for the team to rebuild its diving . Two freshman divers coming in for the fall of 2022-23: USA Diving Zones qualifier Caleb Liban and Texas State Championship qualifier Lane Stallworth.

RELAYS: ★★★★

The ASU men are very strong on relays, having scored 136 out of their 236 NCAA points in the discipline last year. In addition, they also finished top two in every single relay at Pac-12s and won the 800 free relay for the first time in 31 years. Expect them to get ever stronger this year, as they only lose one relay swimmer (Carter Swift, who split 41.75 on the 400 free relay at 2022 NCAAs) and bring in a whole lot more.

Jack Dolan, Grant House, Leon Marchand, and Cody Bybee all return for the 200 free relay, and Dolan could probably take Swift’s spot on the 400 free relay (which consisted of a House-Marchand-Swift-Bybee lineup at 2022 NCAAs). In fact, Dolan’s 41.46 split from Pac-12s equals Swift’s fastest split from last year and was faster than Swift’s NCAAs split, so this swap would only help ASU. Transfer Max McCusker split 18.74/42.08 on the free relays at ACCs last year, so he’ll be there as a strong option if ASU needs it, especially on that 200 free relay.

ASU team finished sixth in the 200 FR and second in the 400 FR at NCAAs, and were just 0.37 seconds away from a national title in the latter race. With 2022 national champions Texas losing important sprinters like Cameron Auchinachie and Drew Kibler, this year could be ASU’s chance to take the throne—although they could be challenged by other underclassmen-heavy relay squads like Cal and Virginia.

In the 800 free relay, Marchand’s 1:29.96 anchor moved ASU up three spots in the final 200 yards of the race at NCAAs, and the team of House, Patrick Sammon, Julian Hill, and Marchand ended up taking fifth. All four swimmers return this year, and a team with a 1:29-split and the defending NCAA runner-up in the 200 free should be considered a contender.

The team also gets a huge boost in the medley relays . Last year at NCAAs, they used Dolan on back, John Heaphy on breast and Bybee on fly for both medley relays, and then had House anchoring the 200 and Marchand anchoring the 400. The 200 medley relay ended up finishing sixth, while the 400 medley relay finished eighth.

The back, breast, and free legs of the medleys will likely stay the same this year, but there’s a chance that Hubert Kos could replace Bybee on fly, at least in the 400 medley. Bybee has split as fast as 44.57 on the 400 medley relay last year, but Kos’s converted flat start best time is faster at 44.55. If Kos can adjust to yards quickly, we could potentially see a 43-point relay split from him. Also in the ASU fly gauntlet is Alex Colson, whose season-best time of 45.02 was faster than Bybee’s but was left off the 400 medley relay at both Pac-12s and NCAAs.

Bybee’s 19.60 split from Pac-12s last year will be good enough to keep him on the 200 medley relay, as Colson and Kos both lean more towards the 200-yard length than the 50-yard length. That being said, Kos has never swum yards before, and if he’s able to go a 44.55 100 fly, he can probably swim a strong 50 too and make a case for himself on the 200 medley as well.

Regardless of what lineups ASU ends up using at championship meets, all five of the team’s relays are in good shape to bring the team a considerable amount of points this upcoming season.

Total Stars: 25/40

2022-23 Outlook

In every single event discipline that we’ve covered in this article, there’s been a pattern: ASU loses almost no one, and gains a lot. Because of this, we predict them to do even better than they did last year.

Leon Marchand just had a monster summer, nearly breaking a super-suited Michael Phelps world record and winning two World Championship golds. He comes into the college season with a ton of momentum, and there’s a good chance that he could sweep his NCAA events in 2023. House saw major improvements last year, and is a favorite to win the 200 free title with stars like Drew Kibler, Kieran Smith, and Matt Sates leaving the NCAA. In addition, he also has A-final worthy times in both the 100 free and 200 IM. Then, if the versatile Hubert Kos can adjust well from Hungary to Tempe in the spring semester, he could provide 30-40 NCAA points and be a threat in backstroke, butterfly, and IM.

The team has an extremely strong freshman and transfer class as well, which includes NCAA qualifier Max McCusker, DIII record holder Jack Wadsworth, and the hyper-versatile Owen McDonald.

In addition, relays will once again play a huge part of ASU’s success, as the team isn’t missing any crucial legs and could even be improved with the additions of swimmers like Kos.

Just the contribution of ASU’s top stars plus their relays would be strong enough to keep them at their sixth-place spot for 2023. However, what they need to get into that next tier of top five, or potentially top four, teams is to have most of their swimmers peaking at the right time. There were too many ASU swimmers last year who put up NCAA-scoring times at Pac-12s, but went on to be well off their conference times at NCAAs and miss finals. The top collegiate teams are the ones who can drop from their seed times, and ASU needs to be able to do the same with all of their swimmers in order to move up the team rankings.

There’s also the “pro group dilemma”: with the additions of high-profile pro swimmers like Regan Smith, Chase Kalisz, Jay Litherland, and Simone Manuel moving to train at Tempe, will Bowman and his assistants be able successfully handle both the college and pro team at the same time?

That being said, with how well the team did after a year without competition and a strong group of freshmen and transfers coming in, we predict ASU to at least move up from sixth to fifth place. There’s an outside chance that they can move into the top four, but it’s going to take massive breakout performances from everyone on the team, not just the biggest stars.

MEN’S PREVIEW INDEX

TEAM SPRINT FREE DISTANCE FREE BACKSTROKE BREASTSTROKE BUTTERFLY IM DIVING RELAYS TOTAL STARS
1
2
3
4
5
#6 Arizona State Sun Devils ★★★ ★★ ★★★ ★★★½ ★★★½ ★★★★★ ★★★★ 25/40
#7 Stanford Cardinal ★★ ★★★ ★★★ ★★ ★★★ ★★★ ★★★★ 21/40
#8 Georgia Bulldogs ★★★ ★★★★ ★★ ★★★ ★★★ ★★★ 20/40
#9 Ohio State Buckeyes ★★★ ★★★ ★★ ★★ ★★ ★★★★ ★★★ 20/40
#10 Virginia Cavaliers ★★★★ ★★★ ★★ ★★★★ 17/40
#11 Virginia Tech Hokies ★★★ ★★ ★★★ ★★★ ★★★ ★★ 18/40
#12 Louisville Cardinals ★★★ ★★ ★★★  13/40

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DKDevil
23 days ago

I think Hubert Kos is another game changer – a Leon Marchand Light, if you will. You can plug him into so many different places. Only losing Swift, who can be backfilled, and adding IMers and 200 backstrokers and potential scorers in the distance free, should really increase their chances of moving up a notch at NCAAs. 5th? 4th? Seems like all their relays will be faster.

maximum mchuge
24 days ago

Isn’t Andy Dobrzanski also coming in with a 54 mid breast?

DKDevil
Reply to  maximum mchuge
23 days ago

Yes.

AJK
24 days ago

Men’s Pac-12s will be the most interesting conference meet this year, especially given how fast it was last year. Could be a three team race for the first time in a while

Jim boy
24 days ago

Yawn. This is a year too early. Prove it this year.

This Guy
24 days ago

Marchand would legitimately have a shot at winning the 200 in all 4 strokes

Meathead
24 days ago

Surprised they aren’t deeper in fly

In Your Corner
24 days ago

Pro group “dilemma” sounds more like a pro group “advantage” to me. It will strengthen the program.

Alex Wilson
24 days ago

I hope SwimSwam covers the Sep 23 intersquad meet as it was at this meet last year where it first became clear to me that Leon Marchand was a force to be reckoned with. This years meet should be an indicator also. I will be at the meet again this year.

DKDevil
Reply to  Alex Wilson
23 days ago

That was impressive to see him win every 100-stroke race that day. His underwaters are ridiculous!

About Yanyan Li

Yanyan Li

Although Yanyan wasn't the greatest competitive swimmer, she learned more about the sport of swimming through scoring countless dual meets, being a timer, and keeping track of her teammates' best times for three years as a team manager. She eventually ventured into the realm of writing and joined SwimSwam in …

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