Ranking the 2014 Men’s Recruiting Classes: #1-#4

To see more about our methodology for rankings and to read an overview, click here.

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The 5-8 classes were all pretty close, and really were all built pretty similarly. One really versatile guy (McHugh, Bentz, Okubo, and Ogren) surrounded by a good sprinter and a few other guys to fit in-between. That’s what made it so hard to rank them: that they’re so similar.

Stanford, though, with a good, deep class got the push up to #5. They especially hit their home-turf very well, getting some good signees from their own backyard at Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics. Stanford and Georgia did the best at recruiting their local areas among the entire class of 2014.

#4. Indiana (NCAA Finish: 10th)
Top Signees: Blake Pieroni, Ali Khalafalla (Egypt), Cody Taylor, Ryan Gordon, Teddy Kalp (Canada), James Connor (diving)
Rest of the Class: Brandon Colonis, Jack Wallar, Nick Wonder, Ethan Curl, Levi Brock, Chris Russo, Andrew Kvachkoff, Ioannis Kontinopoulos (Greece), Jonathan Panchak, Andrej Ivanovic (Croatia), Michael Shaben, Cody Coldren (diving), Timothy Martin, Sam Apa

Update: there’s speculation that NCAA Champion  diver Michael Hixon could transfer to Indiana. If so, this is probably the #1 or #2 class in the country, for those counting transfers. Hixon himself says that nothing has been decided yet, however.

With 20 signees, this class is very reminiscent of that monster group put in by Big Ten rivals Michigan a few years ago that carried them to an NCAA title. Although in a class this size, it’s very likely that there will be attrition, there’s enough depth to absorb that.

In the least, this class will make sure that nobody is talking about “Indiana’s lack of sprint depth” for at least four years. There will be plenty of swimmers to develop to take over breaststroke spots when Cody Miller graduates as well. Roughly half of this class is made up of sub-21 second sprint freestylers and sub-58 second breaststrokers, including a 55.5 Sam Apa and a 54.2 from Cody Taylor.

The two biggest stars of the group are Pieroni out of Chesterton in the northwestern part of the state: the same program that produced the Whitaker brothers, and Khalafalla, an Egyptian.

Pieroni has been 43.3 in the 100 free and 1:35.8 in the 200 free, plus a 1:46.7 in the 200 IM. If he wins the spot, he will be the lock-down relay anchor that the Hoosiers have been needing. Khalafalla, an Egyptian who’s been attending Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, has been 20.3 and 44.8 in the 50 and 100 yard freestyles.

James Connor is a big prize too. The Australian Olympic diver goes all three events and should be an NCAA scorer immediately – continuing the Hoosiers’ success on the boards.

Kalp’s best events are the middle-distance freestyles, with a 1:50.0 and 3:52.4 in long course (his better course right now). He can range pretty well down to the 100 and 50 also.

This Indiana team has had a run for a few years where they’ve hovered right around the top 10, but in sort of a fragile way. They had just enough guys to get into that top 10, and just the right pieces, but no extras. With a signing class that has this sort of depth, if even a few of those guys from the second-tier develop, the Hoosiers could start making that climb toward the top 5.

#3. Texas (NCAA Finish: 2nd)
Top Tier Additions: Jonathan Roberts, Joe Schooling, Brett Ringgold, Austin Temple
Rest of the class: Jared Butler

Though it be but small, it is mighty. Texas men have signed just 5 to National Letters of Intent in the class of 2014, but those 5 would stack up against any program’s top 5 in the country.

This is the class as confirmed by Texas’ sports information department, and we can expect probably a handful of walkons to join the group late.

After a 2013 class where the state’s best recruits escaped to foreign pastures, Eddie Reese got back to his recruiting core and took the state’s top two: Jonathan Roberts and Brett Ringgold, who are teammates with the North Texas Nadadores. Ringgold is one of a large group sub-20-second freestylers in the class, and could potentially be an NCAA scorer in any of the four 100 yard events down the road. Reese will be licking his chops at the IM potential there. Roberts leans toward the longer events, and has already been 4:16.90 in the 500 free, 14:57.90 in the 1650 free, and adds an NCAA-qualifying worthy 1:42.37 in the 200 back. That puts him in range of being a three-event nationals scorer as a freshman.

Together, it’s two swimmers who complement each other very well and who go a long way toward making this a complete class, even though it’s on the small side.

That doesn’t even mention the guy who is probably the best swimmer in the bunch: Joe Schooling from Bolles. The Singapore national is the American National High School Record holder in the 100 fly (45.52), is another sub-20 freestyle sprinter (19.89), and goes 1:45.2 in the 200 IM. What’s scary is that none of those are even his best event in long course. That’s the 200 fly, an event that he doesn’t focus on too hard in yards because it’s not on the high school schedule, and still he’s been 1:45.00 (and he’s 1:42-good as a freshman, at least).

Coupled with Conger, the big signing for Texas last season, the Longhorns now have two guys who don’t even need to improve in college to be half of an NCAA-title-contending 400 medley relay. If they just match their high school bests, they’re as good as any pair in the country.

Austin Temple is one of the hidden gems nationwide in this class of 2014. He’s just now starting to become more well-known in national swimming circles, but he’s a 52.8 100 breaststroker. He was just a 57.0 heading into his junior year of high school. Temple is another immediate-impact signee, and one whose career arc is taking him in the right direction (1:01.9 in long course to boot).

Jared Butler, then, becomes icing on the cake. He’s a U.S. Open qualifier in the 200 IM in 1:47.53, and he’ll have some development needed to find 2nd and 3rd events, but he’s just a solid swimmer with good endurance and no glaring weaknesses.

#2. Michigan (NCAA Finish: 4th)
Top Tier Additions: Paul Powers, Evan White, PJ Ransford, Alex Katz, Aaron Whitaker, Tristan Sanders
Rest of the class: Ian Rainey, Bryce Kwiecien-Delaney, Mitchell Gartland, Ryan Sebastian, Xinghao Wang, JP Flangos (diving), Mitchell Gartland, Ryan Sebastian

First and foremost, Michigan added the sprint freestyler in Paul Powers that they had when they won the 2013 NCAA title, but lacked last year when they finished 4th. His 19.51 and 43.19 in the 50 and 100 freestyles rank among the fastest of all-time by high school swimmers, and he holds the Georgia State Record in both. His presence will give Mike Bottom lots of relay options, and relay options is what Mike Bottom has mastered like few others.

Other than that, Michigan didn’t have any really big needs for next season, just the need for individual scorers and long-term depth with the graduation of a really good class. Along those lines, they’ve brought in one of the brightest stars in Canadian swimming, and a multiple-event Canadian age group record holder, Evan White. In long course, he’s a 53.5/2:00.8 butterflier and a 1:59 IM’er.

Aaron Whitaker is a very different kind of swimmer than his brother Kyle, but if he shows up as well for the Wolverines as Kyle did, then he’ll be a fixture of the Wolverines’ nucleus for four years. The younger Whitaker, more of a sprinter, goes 47.0 in the 100 back and 46.3 in the 100 fly.

PJ Ransford, a member of the 2014 Youth Olympics team, and Alex Katz, a member of the 2013 Junior Worlds team, will bring reinforcements to a Michigan distance group that has graduated a lot of stars in the last couple of years and not done much recruiting beyond Anders Nielsen.

The Wolverines’ class took a little hit when they lost Scottish IM’er Mark Szaranek on a decommit and recommit to Florida, but still get high marks for a big class that fills the team’s needs. Filling needs is a big part of recruiting and the Wolverines get an A+ there, even though this class probably doesn’t compensate for the points that Michigan is graduating.

They’ve also recruited well in-state, and added State Champion 100 breaststroker Xinghao Wang very late to punctuate a big, very fast group. With Szaranek, this is the #1 class.

#1. Cal (NCAA Finish: 1st)
Top Tier Additions: Kyle Gornay, Nick Silverthorn, Connor Hoppe, Justin Lynch, Kyle Coan, Connor Green, Ryan Kao, Matt Whittle, Zach Stevens, Finn Scribbick (diving)
Rest of the class: none

Another incredible class for the defending NCAA Champion Cal men. The lineup is littered with National Age Group Record holders, National High School Record holders, and at least a couple of guys destined for the Olympics.

The Cal men have so little to replace, that it’s hard to see them not winning NCAA’s again next season (which would be their 4th title in 5 years) if they can get any contributions at all out of these freshmen. Gornay (43.8/1:34.9 freestyler, 47.0/1:44.5 backstroker, 46.8 flyer) is close to being ready for three-event scoring duties as a freshman. He and Justin Lynch, a 46.42 butterflier and breaker of Michael Phelps’ 15-16 100 meter fly National Record, can fight to replace Tony Cox and Marcin Tarczynski’s butterfly legs on the medleys: the one real returning weakness for Cal.

Cal has their one breaststroker, Chuck Katis, back, but that group will get so much deeper with this class. Matt Whittle is a 55.2/1:57 breaststroker, who didn’t even swim that event at his Sac Joaquin Section championship meet. Why, you ask? Because Connor Hoppe, also in this class, was lurking, and became the fastest breaststroker in public high school history (53.06). Zach Stevens could almost be overlooked, even with a 55.1 in the 100, so deep is this class.

Kyle Coan is another great freestyler (20.1/44.1/1:35.6), Connor Green is a 48.6/1:44.4 backstroker, and Ryan Kao: he can fill in just about anywhere he’s needed. All of these guys are great at other events too, but that’s how good this class is: Green’s 1:47 IM, for example, is almost diminished, as is Whittle’s 48-second 100 fly.

And to top things off, they’ve added diver Finn Scribbick to the class. He’s probably not going to come in and start winning NCAA titles as a freshman like we saw from Michael Hixon at Texas this past season, but Scribbick is a Junior Pan Ams qualifier, and one of the top divers in the class. he might work out a few points at NCAA’s as a freshman, which is something that has been sorely missing from Cal’s lineup for a while.

 

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aquajosh
6 years ago

This got me thinking back to when Florida had the 11th ranked class two years ago even after they got Dressel. Four of the six recruits mentioned in the preview have gone to NCAAs and three of them have scored in individual events (Dressel, Szaranek, Lawless). I wonder what Thatswimkid is doing these days:
“Agree with most of the article with the exception of a few Florida comments. Dressel may be the superstar of the class, but he is only able to swim 3 events, just like all the others. I only see him as an A final caliber swimmer in two events, 50 free and 100 fly. His 100 free is still undeveloped and Troy is not known… Read more »

calswim65
8 years ago

My gramma always preached to me: Never count your chickens before they hatch. Lots of work for everyone to get integrated into college life without their parents around to help out on a daily basis. That being said, the future looks VERY bright for the Cal Bears. Big cheers here.

Goooooooooooooooo Bears…

PAC12BACKER
8 years ago

Wow, I’m a little surprised but hats off to IU for landing such a great class. With Hixon coming in, I agree they move up a couple notches to at least #2. I also notice a peculiar trend the last few classes, where Cal has been picking off most of the So Cal talent away from USC. The Trojans haven’t landed a top So Cal recruit since Vlad and Chase Bloch I believe. Why?

Theroadlesstraveled
Reply to  PAC12BACKER
8 years ago

That’s because USC cost is over $60k a year and they are stingy with $$.

Benny
Reply to  Theroadlesstraveled
8 years ago

USC was over the limit last year w. scholly $, so they couldn’t admit Dylan Carter until 2nd semester. Out of state scholarship to Cal is about the same, so your excuse is not correct

Newbs
Reply to  PAC12BACKER
8 years ago

Probably because one wins national titles?

EastCoastCalFan
Reply to  PAC12BACKER
8 years ago

The reason U$C hasn’t outrecruited Cal for a long time is that the athletic head honchos only care about the revenue sports. Most of the financial resources, legal and under the table, go to football. The two basketballs fight over the leftovers, and the rest depend on the will and tenacity of the coaches. How else can you explain the slippage of the once-vaunted swimming and baseball programs into second-tier status?

The non-revenue sports have a much easier sell for Cal to prospective student-athletes who don’t have a pro career to bank on. The cache of a Cal degree is light years beyond one from $C, unless you are thinking about a career in filmmaking. Even there, recently minted stars… Read more »

TexasSwim
8 years ago

You left out a pretty big name here for the incoming freshman for Texas, Will Licon is also apart of this monstrous class and is probably the best backstroker in this group. Between those six guys, Deep Eddie pretty much covered all of the events right there. Texas is one to watch out for in the future!

calswimfan
Reply to  TexasSwim
8 years ago

Now we know who didn’t follow Texas swimming last season.

longseeker
8 years ago

Cal loses big NCAA points in graduating Bagshaw, Cox and Tarczynski. Flemming was a great relay sprinter his first 3 years before tailing off a bit this past season. Cox’ first year at Cal as a Junior (transfer from Auburn) was fairly good, but he really came though this year and was versatile.

The incoming Frosh will really have to live up to their potential and will be severely tested in the PAC 12 meet and beyond. We should not expect Ryan Murphy’s Freshman performances from the incoming class, but who knows?

As for our new Diver: Even if he scores well in the dual meets and PAC12 conference meet, I will be happy as I got tired of seeing… Read more »

Mike Kuzma
8 years ago

Cal has a few guys in there with solid freestyle swim in them, but watch out for the Kyles to step up for the Bears next year. Coan is by no means under the radar but he has the ability to be really special in Cal’s program.

Good sport
8 years ago

Whatever. Next year it’s all Texas!! Go Horns!!!

Ponypride
8 years ago

Don’t forget Clark Smith at Texas who could be a 4:14 500 free and 1:43 200 flier.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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