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In what will go down as the most surprising selection of this fall’s recruiting season, SwimMAC Carolina’s Matthew Josa has chosen to swim for Division II Queens University next fall, eschewing what was surely offers from much bigger schools.
Josa has yards best of 20.68 and 46.51 in the 50 and 100 yard freestyles, as well as bests of 48.10/1:45.12 in the 100 and 200 backstroke. A 48.5 in the 100 fly and a 1:47.8 in the 200 IM show off his versatility in short course.
He demonstrates just as much potential in long course, having been 23.6/51.7 in the long course 50 and 100 freestyles, plus a 56.50 in the 100 long course backstroke.
Queens, as a Division II program, has fewer athletic scholarships to offer, but what they did bring to the table might be even more significant: the opportunity for Josa to remain in Charlotte and continue to focus on what has become a budding national and international-level career.
The Queens program is a relatively new one: it only began competition in the 2010-2011 season. In just two seasons, however, they have already become one of the best Division II programs in the country. Last season, their men finished 11th at the NCAA Championships and their women were 21st after just two recruiting seasons. This fall, they are expected to both push into the top 10 (and perhaps even higher). They are also getting a new pool inside a brand new Athletics Center, so the facilities will be there shortly.
Queens has produced some very good sprinters in their short history. Austin Sumrall was a 21.00 as a freshman last season, and now-graduated John Long was the 4th-best 50 freestyler in Division II last season with a 19.99. They have another good freshman, Michael Trice, who was a 20.4 coming out of high school.
Still, as good as the Queens program has done in just two seasons, they are not a Division I program. Josa will not see the same level and depth of competition and training partners as he would’ve gotten if he ended up at somewhere like Cal, or Michigan, or USC, or Texas. Still, this program would seem to fit on many different levels.
Queens has a very close relationship with SwimMAC – David Marsh initially served in a consulting role of sorts for the program, and maintains a close working relationship with Queens head coach Jeff Dugdale (a former SwimMAC assistant). That should allow for him to continue working with familiar coaches on developing his international career – which he has set as his primary goal.
Further, Josa is coming from home-schooling, and so tiny class sizes at Queens will make an easier transition to rigorous college coursework – with only 1,956 students on its 95-acre campus, its classes are largely fewer than 25 students each.
It’s sort of surprising that we don’t see this strategy play out more often – swimmers who like their club coaches hooking on with a local college team to be able to experience both the team feeling that comes from college swimming while continuing to work with the coaches that have made them so successful. The danger here is getting into the types of battles that high school and USA Swimming coaches face over participation levels in the different programs. That’s not a dynamic that serves anybody well at the college level.