The University of Notre Dame men’s swimming and diving team announced 10 signees for the class of 2019 in the early signing period. The 10-man squad is the second largest class in the history of the program, after the class of 2015 (currently at 11 swimmers, 3 divers).
Tabahn Afrik (Holland, Mich./ Holland West Ottawa/ Michigan Lakeshore Aquatics), Connor Brown (Garden City, N.Y./ Garden City/ Long Island Aquatics), Benjamin Gorski (Falls Church, Va./ Bishop Ireton/ Arlington Aquatics), Matthew Grauslys (Manchester, N.H./ Manchester Memorial/ Executive Swim Club), Tate Jackson (Austin, Texas/ Vista Ridge/ Nitro/ Iowa Flyers), Jack Russell (Birmingham, Mich./ Seaholm/ Birmingham Blue Dolphins/ Birmingham-Bloomfield Atlantis), Steven Shek (Mount Laurel, N.J./ Lenape/ Jersey Wahoos), Daniel Speers (Bournemouth, Dorset, U.K./ The Millfield School/ Poole Swim Club), David Stewart (New Rochelle, N.Y./ New Rochelle/ Badger Swim Club) and Zachary Stump (Lake Charles, La. / Alfred M. Barbe/ Spartan Swim Club) each made their official commitments to Notre Dame by submitting National Letters of Intent during the fall early signing period.
There are potentially other student-athletes who will be part of the Notre Dame men’s swimming and diving program as well once their offers of admission have been accepted and received by the University.
“We are really excited about the guys that chose to come here,” Irish head coach Matt Tallman says. “They all came in on our two recruiting weekends and meshed very well, not just with each other but also with the guys currently on the team. These are exactly the type of guys we wanted to bring in to our program,” he adds.
In his first year as head coach, Tallman had a specific strategy in mind – replacing his 11 graduating seniors, many of whom have competed at NCAA Championships the past two seasons.
“We had a really large class to replace; we didn’t necessarily start with the mindset of replacing everyone quantity-wise,” Tallman says, “but we got really lucky in getting the number of guys that we did.”
Looking past the numbers game, many of Tallman’s graduating seniors bring depth and diversity to the 2014-15 squad. Knowing this, Tallman and first year assistant coach Tim Lane were very tactical in who they targeted during the recruiting session.
“Certainly part of our strategy was to recruit sprinters, because they play such a huge part in the relays, which are significant to our success,” Tallman states. “Thankfully, we were able to pull that off with three very high-end sprinters in Tabahn [Afrik], Tate [Jackson] and Dan [Speers].”
Tallman continues, “We also had to replace some of our breaststroke depth, which we managed with Ben [Gorski], Steven [Shek] and Jack [Russell], and then of course Jonathan Williamson was important to replace too, which we managed to do with Matt Grauslys.
“We replaced very important spots that we lose to graduation, but we were also able to fill some voids in the process too,” he admits.
Among the new signees, three are currently ranked in the top 100 through collegeswimming.com Afrik, the No. 12-ranked recruit through swimswam.com also stands at No. 18 in the collegeswimming.com polls and is perhaps the most nationally renowned of the newly-inked Irish class. Close behind in national recognition are a pair of swimmers that already boast Olympic trial cuts for 2016 – Jackson (No. 20 in the SwimSwam.com polls and No. 38 in the collegeswimming.com rankings), who maintains a cut time of 23.09 in the 50 free, and Grauslys (No. 64 according to collegeswimming.com) who has two Olympics cuts to his name with his 54.71 100 fly mark and 200 fly time of 2:00.89. Grauslys also is a 10-time New Hampshire Swim Association state record holder.
In addition to national rankings, many of the incoming class have also swum in Junior or Senior National meets, while several others hold state records. Afrik has continuously maintained the Michigan state records in the 50 and 100 free in addition to participating in the National Diversity Camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Another National Camp participant, Shek holds multiple school records and has earned silver medals on four occasions at the NCSA Junior meets. Shek also was a runner-up for all-South Jersey Swimmer of the Year honors.
Other National qualifiers include Russell, Stewart and Brown, all of whom have swam in the their state Championship meets (Russell in Michigan, Stewart and Brown in New York). Russell qualified for the NCSA Junior meet at the young age of 13, and has been named to the Michigan all-state list on multiple occasions. Stewart won the Metropolitan Junior Olympic High Point Competition his freshman season in New Rochelle, while Brown repeatedly earned all-division, all-county and all-state accolades during his prep career with Garden City.
When asked why they chose Notre Dame, the response was nearly unanimous amongst the signees, citing academics and a swim team on the rise. “Notre Dame is a place where I can continue to grow as a swimmer and as a student at a very high level,” Jack Russell says.
“From the moment I stepped on this historic campus, I knew that Notre Dame was the school for me. I hope to do great things with the Fighting Irish,” David Stewart elaborates.
From across the Atlantic, Dan Speers says, “I chose Notre Dame because I wanted to be part of an up-and-coming program that had a clear goal and was already in the process of making significant steps towards achieving their goals. Notre Dame is that team, and the work that Coach [Matt] Tallman and Coach [Tim] Lane are doing is very encouraging. I can’t wait to be part of the next stage of the Fighting Irish’s journey.”
Ben Gorski reiterated on what Speers said, saying, “I chose Notre Dame because the academics and resources are unparalleled. The knowledge and enthusiasm the coaching staff brings to the sport of swimming incredible, and the guys on the team are simply great. Notre Dame won’t stop until they win an NCAA championship in swimming, and I want to be a part of that.”
Says Tabahn Afrik, “I desired to be part of Notre Dame’s student body, for the opportunity to interact with intellectually diverse individuals that care about like-minded goals for the future. I believe in the future of Notre Dame’s swimming program and their coaching staff. I realized after visiting Notre Dame that the community on campus holds the same values I hold after coming from a close-knit hometown. The transition feels perfectly natural.”
Matt Grauslys perhaps said it best, with, “I chose Notre Dame because they made me feel like a part of the Irish family already. I knew both the team and the other recruits were people I wanted to surround myself with for the next four years, because we all share the same goals. This team is definitely on the rise, and I knew that was something I want to be a part of.”
Below is a brief summary of the newest additions to the Notre Dame men’s swimming and diving program:
Tabahn Afrik, 6-2, 195lbs. Freestyle (Holland, Mich./Holland West Ottawa/Michigan Lakeshore Aquatics)
– 50 Free, 20.55 (SCY, 2014 FL AP NCSA Spring Championship); 23.57 (LCM, 2014 Summer Junior Nationals).
– 100 Free, 43.90 (SCY, 2014 MI OB MHSAA Boys D1 Swim & Dive); 50.97 (LCM, 2014 Summer Junior Nationals).
– 200 Free, 1:37.80 (SCY, 2014 FL AP NCSA Spring Championship).
Awards/Honors/Rankings: Highest-ranked recruit to sign with the Irish … qualified as a Junior National Finalist in 100 and 200 free, placing in top 10 and top five during various years in individual events … holds the Michigan state record in the 15-16 age group in 50, 100 and 200 free (LCM) … voted team MVP freshman through junior seasons … earned all-state and all-American accolades during sophomore season in 50 and 100 free … selected to participate in National Diversity Camp at Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Prep & Personal: During freshman campaign, prep team finished 24th at Div. 1 state finals … individually qualified for state meet and set school records in 50 and 100 free … during sophomore season, team improved to seventh at state finals … during junior season team improved significantly, winning conference championships and finishing third at Div. 1 state championships … individually, earned all-conference accolades and was named to all-state and all-American honor rolls in 100 and 200 free … his 20.27 50 free time and 43.90 100 free mark stand as Michigan state records … on track to graduate from Holland West Ottawa in June of 2015 … attends same high school as former Notre Dame women’s diver Natalie Stitt … oldest child of Taiyoh and Robyn Afrik, both of whom ran track (father also played soccer) at Valparaiso.
Outside the Pool: Got his start in swimming due to familial fear of drowning; father decided to break the cycle and enrolled him and his siblings in swimming classes, where a local coach noticed his talent and encouraged family to pursue a swimming career.
Tallman on Afrik: “Tabahn is the highest ranked recruit we have on paper, which just adds to that mix sprinters we have coming in and who we brought in this year with Justin [Plaschka] and Joseph [Krause]. We can never have enough sprinters, and that core group of guys is going to help take us farther along the way.”
Connor Brown, 6-5, 190lbs. Distance freestyle, IM (Garden City, N.Y./Garden City/Long Island Aquatics)
– 500 Free, 4:31.22 (SCY, 2014 MR Senior Mets SCY Winter Championships).
– 1,000 Free, 9:20.54 (SCY, 2014 FL AP NCSA Spring Championship).
– 1,650 Free, 15:39.44 (SCY, 2014 FL AP NCSA Spring Championship).
– 400 IM, 3:58.90 (SCY, 2014 FL AP NCSA Spring Championship).
Awards/Honors/Rankings: Named to all-state, all-Long Island, all-division and all-county lists on multiple occasions within the state of New York … twice won 500 free at county championship meet … at division championship meet, has won the 50, 100, 200 and 500 free races as well as setting school records with the 200 and 400 free relays.
Prep & Personal: Distance freestyler and IM-er who stands to make an immediate impact with the Irish … once swam against Olympians Michael Phelps, Conor Dwyer and Yannick Agnel … prep team placed second at county championship meet and won Division championships in freshman campaign … went on to post undefeated, 9-0 records and repeat as division and county champions in sophomore and junior years … named team captain heading into senior season … on track to graduate from Garden City in June of 2015 … hails from same area of New York as current Notre Dame freshman Justin Plaschka … attended same high school and was taught how to swim by former Irish captain Rob Seery … oldest child of Richard and Laura Brown … father, Richard, swam at Fordham and St. John’s during collegiate career … has two brothers and one sister.
Outside the Pool: Is an Eagle Scout within the Boy Scouts of America … maintains membership within the Future Business Leaders of America organization … has worked extensively with Swim Across America, both as a high school representative and as an intern … once organized a group of high school students and raised over $20,000 for cancer research in events tied to Swim Across America … has also participated in scientific research, receiving various awards for work on sub-glacial life in Antarctica.
Tallman on Brown: “Connor’s from New York, from the Long Island Aquatic Club. He’s a great distance guy, has a lot of room left to grow and we plan to see huge improvements in him throughout his senior year. He’s able to come in and follow in the footsteps of some of our current New York distance guys – we graduate Kevin Hughes, and we brought in Richard Mannix this year, both of whom are milers; we have high hopes of Connor maintaining our New York distance connection.”
Benjamin Gorski, 6-2, 170lbs. breaststroke (Falls Church, Va./Bishop Ireton/Arlington Aquatics)
– 50 Breast, 25.48 (SCY, 2014 FL AP NCSA Spring Championship); 29.59 (LCM, 2014 IN NCSA Summer Swimming championship).
– 100 Breast, 56.17 (SCY, 2014 FL AP NCSA Spring Championship); 1:05.75 (LCM, 2014 IN NCSA Summer Swimming Championship).
– 200 Breast, 2:06.12 (SCY, 2014 FL AP NCSA Spring Championship).
Awards/Honors/Rankings: NCSA Junior National Champion in 50 LCM breast (29.59) … won the Coaches Award with club team from 2012 through 2014 … awarded the club’s Bronze Medal award in 2014 … club team won Tri-City Cup Championship three consecutive years … individually has won 200 free, 100 breast and 200 IM at Tri-Cup meet.
Prep & Personal: Breaststroke specialist that will add depth to the Irish roster … swam with both prep team at Bishop Ireton and club team Arlington Aquatics … on track to graduate from Bishop Ireton in June of 2015 … middle child of Joseph and Corinne Gorski … has two older brothers and one younger sister.
Outside the Pool: Is an avid hunter and fisher.
Tallman on Gorski: “Ben has a lot of energy, and has very high goals for his senior year. He’s one of the guys that we hope comes in and fills some of the voids we will have in breaststroke by graduating Zach [Stephens] Cameron [Miller] and Patrick [Olson]. We plan on keeping our breaststroke strength going, and he’ll be a key player in doing so.”
Matthew Grauslys, 6-1, 160lbs. Butterfly (Manchester, N.H./Manchester Memorial/Executive Swim Club)
– 100 Fly, 48.59 (SCY, 2013 NE GS Senior Championship); 54.71 (LCM, 2014 Summer Junior Nationals).
– 200 Fly, 1:47.09 (SCY, 2013 Speedo Winter Junior Nationals); 2:00.89 (LCM, 2014 Summer Junior Nationals).
Awards/Honors/Rankings: Individually qualified for 100 and 200 fly at 2016 Olympic Trials Qualifier … is a 10-time New Hampshire Swim Association state record holder … won Ray Carey Award in 2014, an award given to the first-place finisher in the 200 fly at the New England Senior Championships … placed fifth in 200 fly at 2013 Winter Junior Nationals … placed seventh at 2014 Summer Junior Nationals … earned Triple SSS Award with club team, club’s highest award.
Prep & Personal: Ranked eighth in his class at Manchester Memorial … on track to graduate in June of 2015 … club team is four time NHSA state champions … team finished fifth at New England Senior Championships … youngest child of Charles Grauslys and Vilija Barilkaite, both of whom emigrated from Lithuania.
Outside the Pool: Twice named USA Swimming Scholastic All-American … played in high school orchestra as section leader and first chair … volunteered with New Hampshire’s Special Olympics organization … won R.I.T. Xerox Award for communication and earned 2014 Outstanding Orchestra Student Award.
Tallman on Grauslys: “Matt has a lot of energy; just a ton of energy. He’s a talker, and I think we’re as excited to have him as he’s excited to be coming here. He comes in with two Olympic Trials cuts in the 100 and 200 fly and will play a significant role in the search to replace Jonathan Willliamson.”
Tate Jackson, 6-4, 180lbs. freestyle/butterfly (Austin, Texas/ Vista Ridge/Nitro and Iowa Flyers)
-50 Free, 20.09 (SCY, 2013 Speedo Winter Junior Nationals); 23.09 (LCM, 2014 Summer Nationals).
– 100 Free, 44.48 (SCY, 2013 Speedo Winter Junior Nationals; 50.72 (LCM, 2014 Summer Junior Nationals).
100 Fly, 49.35 (SCM, 2014 GU AGS Speedo Sectionals); 56.34 (LCM, 2014 Summer Junior Nationals).
Awards/Honors/Rankings: Ranks 11th in the 50 free and ninth in the 100 free per USA Swimming.
Prep & Personal: in freshman campaign, team won Iowa state championship … placed fourth in 50 free in Iowa state meet … on target to graduate from Vista Ridge High in Austin, Texas, in June of 2015 … born in Paris, France, to parents Eric and Joni Jackson … older brother Trent is a current member of the Notre Dame men’s swimming team … has one younger brother, Trey.
Tallman on Jackson: “Tate is the younger brother of Trent who’s on our team currently, so we’ve known about him for a little while. He’s very talented, comes from a great club program in Nitro. Tate is extremely talented, coming in with Olympic Trial cuts – that’s not an easy task, let alone getting those cuts before his senior season has even started. We’re excited, and he’ll be a huge asset to our relay teams down the line.”
Jack Russell, 6-0, 170lbs. Breaststroke/IM (Birmingham, Mich./Seaholm/Birmingham Blue Dolphins/Birmingham-Bloomfield Atlantis)
– 100 Breast, 56.32 (SCY, 2014 MI OB Boys D2 Swim & Dive).
– 200 Breast, 2:06.40 (SCY, 2014 FL AP NCSA Spring Championship).
– 200 IM, 1:52.10 (SCY, 2014 MI OB Boys D2 Swim & Dive).
Awards/Honors/Rankings: Crowned U-12 High Point Champion … qualified for national meet at age 13 … placed sixth at NCSA in 400 medley relay, swimming the breaststroke portion of the race … named to all-state and all-league lists on three separate occasions both as a sophomore and as a junior … won state championship as a junior with prep team … holds state record as a member of 200 medley relay.
Prep & Personal: On track to graduate from Birmingham Seaholm in June of 2015 … swam with both Birmingham Blue Dolphins and Birmingham-Bloomfield Atlantis swim clubs … awarded two letters for water polo and four letters for swimming … took fifth at state championship meet in 100 breast as a freshman … placed 14th in 200 IM and third as a member of 200 medley relay team … finished third in 100 breast as a sophomore, breaking the school record … placed eighth in the 200 IM at state meet … went on to win 200 IM as a junior at state championship … hails from same area of Michigan as current Notre Dame swimmer Joseph Krause … oldest child of Scott and Danielle Russell … cousin, Paige, also attends Notre Dame … has one younger sister.
Outside the Pool: Named an AP Scholar and has earned Academic All-State accolades on three occasions … participated as a leader of school Field Day committee … teaches kids how to swim at local YMCA … a member of National Honor Society.
Tallman on Russell: “Jack is a breaststroker out of Michigan. Like the other breaststrokers in his class, we know someone will rise to the top, and similar to how we’ve always had depth at that particular stroke, he will continue to play a part in maintaining that depth.”
Steven Shek, 6-1, 192lbs. Breaststroke/butterfly/IM (Mount Laurel, N.J./Lenape/ Jersey Wahoos)
– 100 Breast, 56.16 (SCY, 2014 FL AP NCSA Spring Championship); 1:06.16 (LCM, 2014 IN NCSA Summer Swimming Championship).
– 200 Breast, 2:03.11 (SCY, 2014 FL AP NCSA Spring Championship).
– 200 IM, 1:51.55 (SCY, 2014 FL AP NCSA Spring Championship).
– 200 Fly, 1:50.56 (SCY, 2014 FL AP NCSA Spring Championship).
– 400 IM, 3:59.90 (SCY, 2014 FL AP NCSA Spring Championship).
Awards/Honors/Rankings: Swam at Junior and Summer Finals … placed fifth overall at March NCSA Junior Nationals … four-time silver medalist at national meets … selected to swim at NCSA v. Itoman meet … attended the Eastern Diversity Select Camp and the National Diversity Select Camp, held at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado … during sophomore season set school record in 800 free relay and 100 fly, winning first team all-South Jersey accolades in 100 breast … as a junior, named second team all-state in 200 free and was a finalist for all-South Jersey Swimmer of the Year award … earned all-South Jersey accolades junior season in 200 free.
Prep & Personal: As a freshman, placed ninth in both the 200 IM and 100 breast at New Jersey state meet … as a sophomore, finished ninth in 100 breast and 13th in 100 fly at state meet … took second at New Jersey state meet in junior campaign in 200 free and 100 breast … currently holds school records in 200 free, 100 breast, 100 free, 400 free relay and 400 medley relay … on track to graduate from Lenape High School in June of 2015 … oldest child of ChiuMing Shek and Rae Han … has one sister.
Outside the Pool: Twice has been named all-Scholastic all-American … has visited Tianjin, China, on seven occasions, with each trip lasting for three months … attended the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.
Tallman on Shek: “Steven is very versatile – he actually comes from the club team that I grew up swimming with, as well as Patrick Olson and Joseph Petrone and some other alums of our program. He will be able to fill a lane in many different events at a high level.”
Daniel Speers, 6-5, 165lbs. Sprint freestyle (Bournemouth, Dorset, U.K./The Millfield School/Poole Swim Club)
– 50 free, 23.27 (LCM, British Swimming Youth Championships).
– 100 free, 51.78 (LCM, British Swimming Youth Championships).
Awards/Honors/Rankings: British Junior National Champion in 50m free, ages 17-18 … won national championship as a member of 400 free relay … finished second in 50m free in 15-16 year old age group and 12th in 100m free … raced to second place in 200m breaststroke in 13-14 age group.
Prep & Personal: Competed as a member of the England Talent Programme from 2010-14 … won 100m free in 2012 UK school games … during junior year was part of prep team which broke the national high school records both in the 200m free and 200m medley relays, en route to winning the national title … came in second in 50m free at UK games junior year … on track to graduate from the Millfield School in June of 2015 … middle child of Alistair and Carmel Speers … has two brothers.
Outside the Pool: Earned silver certificate in Cambridge Chemistry Challenge … is a member of school’s academic society … family dog, Rudy, is named for Irish football player Daniel Ruettiger.
Tallman on Speers: “Dan came here and was just extremely excited from the first second he stepped on campus; he was one of the first guys – if not the first– to give us the verbal commitment in this process. He’s been a British Junior National Champion in the 50 free and he’s just one part of what we needed to bring in with this year’s class.”
David Stewart, 5-9, 171lbs. Freestyle/butterfly (New Rochelle, N.Y./New Rochelle/Badger Swim Club)
– 100 Fly, 49.36 (SCY, 2014 NI-OB – NYS Federation Swimming).
– 200 Fly, 1:52.59 (SCY, 2013 Speedo Winter Junior Nationals).
– 100 Free, 46.47 (SCY, 2013 Speedo Winter Junior Nationals Time Trials); 53.17 (LCM, 2014 Quebec Cup).
– 200 Free, 1:41.45 (SCY, 2014 MR OB Section 1 Boys Championships).
Awards/Honors/Rankings: Won Metropolitan Junior Olympic High Point Competition in 13-14 age group as a freshman … ranked in top 20 in the nation as a sophomore in 100 fly … named Journal News Swimmer of the Year as both a sophomore and a junior … qualified for Winter Nationals in junior season in 100 fly.
Prep & Personal: Swam with New Rochelle YMCA Sailfish club from 2005-10, before switching to Badger Swim Club in 2010 … Badger Swim Club has produced five Olympians and won New York Senior Metropolitan Championships for the last 20-plus years … earned third place as a sophomore at New York State Championships in 100 fly … biggest athletic thrill to date was breaking the 50-second mark in 100 fly when he posted a 49.36 time as a junior and set a New York Section 1 record in the process … on track to graduate from New Rochelle High School in June of 2015 … youngest child of Daryl and Harvelle Stewart … has one brother.
Tallman on Stewart: “David will help in adding quality depth at the fly events with the loss of Jonathan Williamson. Hopefully he can come in and help fill some roles that we need. We expect to see great things from him in his senior year.”
Zachary Stump, 5-9, 165lbs. Breaststroke (Lake Charles, La./Alfred M. Barbe/Spartan Swim Club)
– 100 Breast, 56.66 (SCY, 2013 LA LHSAA Div. 1 High School Championship); 1:06.12 (LCM, 2014 Summer Junior Nationals).
– 200 Breast, 2:03.09 (SCY, 2014 LA Short Course State Championship); 2:24.03 (LCM, 2014 GU PEAK Invite).
Awards/Honors/Rankings: Qualified for Summer and Junior Nationals in 100 and 200 breast … earned Damon McCoy Award for most outstanding male swimmer at 2013 Louisiana Short Course State Meet … title holder in 100 and 200 breast at 2014 Short Course Louisiana State Championship, after having won same events and 400 IM at Short Course meet in 2013 … won 200 and 400 IM at Long Course Louisiana State Championships in 2013 … set Louisiana state record in 100m breaststroke, 15-16 age group in 2013 … earned multiple all-district and all-league honors … three-time winner of the Male Swimmer of the Meet – Calcasieu Parish Championships award.
Prep & Personal: On track to graduate from Alfred M. Barbe in June of 2015 … took fourth place in 100 breast with 59.76 time at Division 1/5A High School Championships as a freshman … as a sophomore, won 100 breast and earned consideration for All-American honors with 57.70 time, setting school and league record … earned All-America accolades as a junior with 56.66 time in 100 breast, re-setting school and league record … born in Lake Charles, Louisiana to parents Don and Renee Stump … has one brother and one sister … father, Don, played football at McNeese state while uncle, Craig, played football at Texas A&M … hails from same area of Louisiana as former Notre Dame swimmers Susan, Eric, Greg and Tim Bohdan and Colin Babcock as well as soccer player Joseph Lapira.
Outside the Pool: Member of the National Honor Society and the Mu Alpha Theta Mathematics honor society … Eagle Scout within the Boy Scouts of America organization … received the AP Scholar with Distinction Award.
Tallman on Shek: “Zach is from Louisiana, and came highly recommended from our former captain Colin Babcock and his family. He’s the highest ranked recruit in the state of Louisiana and will be part of the breaststroke depth we’re bringing in this year. He’s a great young man, someone who we expect to excel at Notre Dame.”
College Swimming News is courtesy of Notre Dame / Lizzie Mikes.