NCAA finalist and SEC champion Hugo Gonzalez has left Virginia Tech ahead of his first season after transferring from Auburn, head coach Sergio Lopez confirmed to SwimSwam Friday.
Gonzalez is back home in Spain, and it is unclear at this time if he intends to return to school in the United States in the future.
“Hugo after a couple of weeks of being here in school and before we started training decided to go back home,” Lopez said. “It is sad to see him go but as his coach and mentor I have to help him as much as I can in anything.”
Lopez, who is also from Spain, was one of the main reasons Gonzalez came to the U.S. in the first place. In July, Lopez told SwimSwam about their history: “At the 2016 Olympic Games, I was already at Auburn, but I didn’t know that he wanted to come to America, so I never contacted him. I didn’t want to get the coaching staff in Spain upset. So when I got back from the Olympics, his father called me and asked me about Auburn and said that Hugo would like to come and swim with me. So I went to visit him in Spain and we talked, and when I left he decided to follow me just because of the relationship that we had.”
When Lopez was hired as head coach at Virginia Tech in April, Gonzalez announced he would follow. A number of Auburn post-grads additionally either already have or are scheduled to make the move.
Gonzalez was named SEC Freshman of the Year in 2018, and won the conference title in the 400 IM (3:35.76), took second in the 200 IM (1:40.67, behind only American record-setter Caeleb Dressel), and third in the 200 back (1:40.82).
He didn’t swim best times at NCAAs, but did still score points in the 200 IM. His times from the conference round would have placed him second in the NCAA 400 IM final and fifth in the 200 IM. Had Gonzalez swum his SEC times at the ACC Championships, he would have won the title in the 200 IM by almost two seconds and the 400 IM by almost five.
Gonzalez was also a 2016 Olympian for Spain, and will likely have shot at a 2020 Olympic bid should he continue at his freshman-year level of performance. He’s a former multi-time World Junior Championships gold medalist.