2016 Rio gold medalist and NC State grad Ryan Held is joining the Indiana University professional group, he confirmed Friday.
Held, 23, finished up his degree at NC State in December and will begin practicing with Indiana Saturday, IU head coach Ray Looze said. He’ll join fellow Olympic gold medal freestyler Blake Pieroni, as well as world champion Zach Apple (a senior at IU) and Worlds medalist Zane Grothe among the men’s freestyle group in Bloomington. Indiana is also home to Olympic champion, world record holder, and IU senior Lilly King, as well as bronze medalist Cody Miller.
“Nothing against NC State. I love the coaches, love the program – they’re the team that built me. I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am right now without NC State,” Held told SwimSwam. “I’m still going to cheer hard and loud for NC State. I’m going to swim with the diamond on. I just wanted a new mental start, just a change of scenery. I’m great friends with Cody and Blake, so it just seemed like a good fit for me.”
Held, a Springfield, Ill. native, joined NC State as a freshman in 2014 and was a part of the Wolfpack’s 400 and 800 freestyle relays that placed second at NCAAs in 2015. Then in 2016, he helped the team to its first-ever relay national title as a member of the 400 free relay; they added silvers in the 200 and 800 free relays.
Held’s first international test was a big one: though he narrowly missed qualifying for an individual 100 free spot on the 2016 US Olympic Team, taking third at trials, he made the eventual gold medal 400 free relay team.
Back in the NCAA in 2017, Held led off NC State’s gold medal, American-record 800 free relay, nabbing an early lead in 1:31.37. Held won his first individual medal as the second-place finisher behind Caeleb Dressel in the 50 free, and took third in the 100 free. In his final season, he again led his team to a US Open record in the 800 free relay and an American record in the 400. Individually, he again finished second behind Dressel in the 50 and 100 free, and took fifth in the 100 fly.
Prior to his arrival, in 2014, NC State finished 13th at NCAAs. In 2015 the Wolfpack finished 8th, then took 4th in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Though he just missed a spot on the 2017 FINA World Championships team, Held won both a relay and individual gold at the 2017 World University Games.
Last summer at the 2018 Phillips 66 National Championships, Held placed eighth in the 100 freestyle, just outside of qualifying for any major international long course meets for the summer of 2018/2019. However, he did end up on the roster for the 2018 Short Course Worlds team, where he led off the men’s 4×100 free relay in the prelims, breaking an American record in the 100 free. His swim earned him a spot in six relay finals, including the 4×100 free (gold), mixed 4×50 free (gold), 4×50 free (gold), 4×200 free (4th), 4×50 medley (silver), and 4×100 medley (gold).