Finally! Our 2015 Men’s NCAA Recruiting Class rankings are here! At this point, the top four teams (which includes three squads from the mighty Pac 12) shouldn’t be a surprise; there wasn’t much debate over who should in the top four, or which order they came in.
If you’re looking for a refresher on the remaining of our rankings, check out our first two articles:
4. Stanford Cardinal
The Cardinal had a ton of question marks heading into last recruiting season, largely focused on where they would be points-wise without David Nolan and diver Kristian Ipsen. The losses of Drew Cosgarea and Thomas Stephens are hurdles, too. However, Nolan and Ipsen accounted for almost 100 individual points and factored into Stanford’s four most important relay swims. There’s no easy way to come back from those losses, but the Cardinal landed a very solid class of six swimmers, including three top 20 recruits, putting them in our #4 spot.
Ted Knapp and Scott Armstrong went hard after sprint freestylers, and came away from the fall recruiting cycle with three good ones. First is Cole Cogswell, who has thrived while training under Coley Stickels at sprint powerhouse Canyons Aquatic Club (home of Abbey Weitzeil, among others). At 20.1/43.8/1:36.8, Cogswell will be an important cog in the Cardinal freestyle relays alongside 19.5/42.8 sophomore Sam Perry.
The other two are #11 recruit Ryan Dudzinski (20.0/44.2) and #17 recruit Brad Zdroik (20.3/44.5/1:36.6). Dudzinski brings another layer to the mix in that he has arguably the most pure backstroke speed in this class. He recorded a 21.4 200 medley relay lead-off leg from this past season. That makes him the fastest returning sprint backstroker for the Cardinal, and at 46.7 in the 100, he’s already a Pac 12 A-finalist.
Breaststroker Matt Anderson may be the biggest pickup in the whole class for the Cardinal, who haven’t had a reliable, top-flight breaststroker outside of Nolan since 2012. Anderson (along with recent verbal commit Hank Poppe) should help Stanford’s breaststroke group on its mission to return to prominence. Back in the late 2000’s the Cardinal were typically sending 4-5 different breaststrokers to NCAA’s every season. Over the past two seasons, Anderson has posted massive drops to get down to 53.5 and 1:55.3 (the latter being the third-fastest prep 200 breaststroke ever), making him the fastest swimmer in both events on the Stanford roster this fall. He’ll be counted on right away, too; Stanford didn’t put a single swimmer in the top 8 in either breaststroke at Pac 12’s last season.
IMers Abrahm Devine (1:47.4/3:45.5) and Jack Walsh (1:47.3/3:52.1) round out the class. They’ll join a talented group that, along with Pan Am’s bronze medalist Max Williamson and Curtis Ogren (3:41 in the 400), is now one of Stanford’s deepest.
3. USC Trojans
Like their two Pac 12 rivals on this list, the Trojans bagged three top 20 recruits, addressed their three biggest needs, while also bolstering what might be their strongest event group.
Carsten Vissering, our #4 recruit and the top non-Seliskar breaststroker in this class, is the most important piece here for Dave Salo and his staff. The Trojans were highly competitive in both medley relays last season, including a 400 medley relay title at Pac 12’s. However, ultimately they were giving up at least a half-second to their peers over the breaststroke leg of the 200 medley, and double in the 400. At 24.8/52.4/1:55.4, Vissering is now the top sprinter on USC’s roster, and you could make the argument he’s actually better than those short course times indicate; his 1:00.86 LCM 100 breaststroke is the fastest prep time in history.
The addition of versatile #6 recruit Patrick Mulcare addresses the other two most substantial needs for USC: 200 backstroke and IM depth. The Trojans lost their top three 200 backstrokers, and are returning just one top 8 Pac 12 IM finisher from last year’s squad. Mulcare, a 1:42.2 200 backstroke and 1:46.5/3:48.5, can slot right into those events, or do damage in the 100/200 freestyles, where he’s been 44.5/1:36.5.
Alex Valente is a ready-made NCAA butterfly product (46.0/1:44.1, both top 6 at Pac 12’s last season) who, with a season or two under Dave Salo, has the tools to do serious damage at the Pac 12 and NCAA level. He’s a bit of a luxury addition; USC is already loaded in the 100 fly with two swimmers under 46.0 and two more under 46.5, and they’re also returning the Pac 12 champion in the 200 fly (Michael Domagala). However, the arrival of Valente makes it easier for Salo and his staff to push Santo Condorelli–USC’s #1 fly option last season–to the freestyle leg of the 400 medley.
2. Cal Golden Bears
Overall, the Bears didn’t have any dire needs coming off of their 2nd place NCAA finish, but they did have some weaknesses that needed to be addressed. Dave Durden did just that, loading up his third straight top three recruiting class, including the #1 overall recruit (Andrew Seliskar), the #3 overall recruit (Michael Thomas), a top three distance freestyler (Nick Norman), and a top five breaststroker (Carson Sand) of the top 20 recruits in our rankings from last fall.
We’ve labored on and on about how good Andrew Seliskar is… but let’s marvel at his short course bests one more time:
- 50 free – 19.89
- 100 free – 43.19
- 200 free – 1:34.94
- 500 free – 4:16.17
- 100 back – 46.89
- 200 back – 1:41.37
- 100 breast – 51.78
- 200 breast – 1:51.57
- 100 fly – 46.13
- 200 fly – 1:41.55
- 200 IM – 1:42.84
- 400 IM – 3:37.52
The times in bold above would have made the A-final at NCAA’s last season. If Cal’s class consisted of just Seliskar, it probably would probably have been ranked 4th or 5th on our list. Seliskar could help any team right away in all four strokes, but given the layout of Cal’s roster, he will likely end up as the breaststroker on one or both medley relays, along with potential appearances on the 400 and 800 freestyle relays. Individually, things remain a bit more up in the air, but if we had to pick now, we’d guess he ends up in the 200 IM, 400 IM, and 200 breaststroke.
The Bears also landed their next long-term backstroker in Michael Thomas, our #3 overall recruit. Thomas won’t have to take on an immediate relay role (Ryan Murphy and Jacob Pebley are still on the roster), but at 22.5/46.2/1:42.4, he’s already an NCAA qualifier and Pac 12 A-finalist. He’s almost as deadly in the butterfly (47.4/1:44.3) and IM events (1:44.5/3:46.9), as well.
The Bears’ have been quietly rebuilding their deep breaststroke group over the last couple years, and have added an important piece in native Californian Carson Sand. While Seliskar may be the #1 relay option this coming season, Sand (53.5/1:58.1) gives Cal another layer of depth alongside Connor Hoppe, Zach Stevens, and Hunter Cobleigh.
If Cal does have a weakness heading into this year, it’s in their mid-to-long distance freestyle group. Long Gutierrez is improving rapidly, and Trent Williams is still around, but the Bears didn’t score a point in the 500 or 1650 at NCAA’s last season. That may change this year, as associate head coach Yuri Suguiyama now has the talented Nick Norman to work with. Norman is the #2 distance freestyle recruit in this class, and seems to get better as the distance increases, with lifetime bests of 1:37.3/4:17.0/8:54.3/14:50.8. That 1650 time would have scored at NCAA’s last March.
1. Texas Longhorns
The rich get richer. We originally had the Bears just neck and neck with the Longhorns, but the recent pickup of sprinter Tate Jackson pushed the defending NCAA champions to the top of the recruiting rankings. Jackson is one of three top-20 recruits the ‘Horns wrangled last fall which, combined with big improvements from John Shebat and Ryan Harty in the past twelve months, should continue to keep Texas in the NCAA title hunt for years to come.
The brightest star of the class is Nova Virginia’s Townley Haas, one of the five best freestylers to ever come out of high school (up there with Jack Conger, Clay Youngquist, and Joe Hudepohl). Widely viewed as a potential heir apparent to the U.S. mid-distance freestyle throne, Haas has 50-to-1650 bests of 20.4/43.8/1:35.2/4:14.2/8:53.3/14:49.5 in short course yards, and long course bests of 22.9/49.6/1:47.6/3:48.7/8:01.0. Texas had a real need here, too; the 200 free is Texas’ weakest event coming out of the 2014-15 season with the graduation of Clay Youngquist.
Next up is Ryan Harty, the #9 recruit in our class last fall who, if we were to re-rank everyone, would probably jump all the way up to #3. Harty overtook Michael Thomas as the top backstroker in this class after cutting nearly 1.5 seconds in the 100 and a full second in the 200 to dip down to 46.3/1:40.9. He’s also an incredible IMer, with similarly jaw-dropping times of 1:44.4/3:44.8.
With Kip Darmody now out the door, Texas is in need of a new #1 backstroker for their medleys. While Harty will certainly be in the mix to take over relay duties, John Shebat has a fighting chance as well. Shebat–the third Nation’s Capital swimmer heading to a top-three recruiting class–has turned into one of the country’s top recruits in the past year, dropping from 22.7/48.9/1:45.4 to 21.7/46.7/1:42.3 over his senior campaign. His non-freestyle improvements have been just as impressive; from 20.8/45.9 to 20.1/44.8 in the sprint freestyles, and from 1:51.4 to 1:46.4.
In addition to the previously-mentioned Jackson (19.9/43.6 in the 50/100 free), fellow freestyler Jeff Newkirk is also heading to Austin. Newkirk doesn’t have the top-end speed to jump on a sprint freestyle relay, but at 44.7/1:37.0/4:24.1, he has the range to be a difference-maker from the 100 up to the 500.
The ‘Horns are now without four-year All-Americans Kip Darmody and Clay Youngquist, but 90%+ of their core is back. Throw in this class, and as along as Eddie Reese and Kris Kubik still have their mojo, the Longhorns are all set.