The Pitt Panthers will faced stepped-up competition next season as they move from the Big East to the ACC, and they’ve stepped up their recruiting this fall in preparation of their first season in the new conference next fall.
The speartips of the men’s “ACC class,” the first to spend all four years of eligibility in the new conference, are Zach Lierley and Gabriel Larson.
Lierley is one of the better recruits that Chuck Knoles has picked up in the last decade. He has at least Winter Juniors cuts in the 200 back (1:48.65), 200 breast (2:05.64), and 200 fly (1:52.38), which makes it no surprise that the IM’s are his best two races. There, he’s been a 1:52.68 in the 200 IM and a 3:51.43 in the 400 IM.
Exactly which three events he’ll swim for the Panthers will remain to be seen (probably 200 back, 200 IM, 400 IM), but one thing that’s clear is that he will immediately make this team better. His 400 IM is already just .13 seconds away from Pitt’s school record: the oldest one on the books having stood at 3:51.30 from 1995.
Side note of history: the old 400 IM Record was held by Matt Brady – the best swimmer in school history. He was a four-time Olympic Trials qualifier, and holds the Big East Record by winning 6 Conference titles in one season – as only a freshman to boot.
Most of his best times come from his sophomore season, but last year he got really good in long course – putting up a 2:02 in the 200 back and a 4:24 in the 400 IM.
Lierley should finish in the top 8 at the ACC Championships in his first year, and Pitt’s first year, to attend. That will make a good statement for this program. He and his older brother Jon Lierley, who is a sophomore this season with a 1:46 200 butterfly in a fantastic freshman season. These two swimmers from Mt. Pleasanton, South Carolina, 10 miles across the Cooper River from Charleston, will lead the Pitt men into new territory.
Joining him on the men’s team is Gabriel Larson, a breaststroker from much closer to home at the Penn Hills Dolphins (located in Pittsburgh). He has been a 57.39 in the 100 breast in yards, and adds to that a very good 200 free in 1:41.19.