Ranking the 2016 Men’s NCAA Recruiting Classes: 1-4

This is a three-part article.  For part one (#9-12) click here.  For part two (#5-8) click here.

We’re finally here: our top four 2016 Men’s NCAA recruiting classes.  The list is four “traditional” powers, but each team is in a very different stage on the rebuilding vs. reloading spectrum.  To recap, here’s our #5-12 teams:

12. Harvard Crimson
11. Virginia Cavaliers

10. Arizona State Sun Devils
9. Tennessee Volunteers
8. Georgia Bulldogs
7. USC Trojans
6. UNC Tarheels
5. NC State Wolfpack

And now, our top four:

#4: Florida Gators

Top-tier additions:#1 Maxime Rooney, Taylor Delk, Nazareno Boscaino, Viktor Toth, Chandler Bray, Drew Clark
The rest: Alex Farrow (diving), Dylan Power (diving), Tyler Silver, Dakota Mahaffey, Marco Guarente

We all know the name Maxime Rooney, so we won’t spend a ton of words on him.  Here’s his stat line: 20.2/42.8/1:33.7/4:20.6 freestyles, 47.8/1:43.0 backstrokes, 46.6/1:44.2 butterflies.  He’s one of the most decorated and highly-touted swimmers, and–despite his own sub-par Trials and Grant Shoults‘ incredible spring–is still the #1 recruit in this class.  His presence immediately vaults Florida into the discussion for 400 and 800 free relay titles, as well.  Even if he was the Gators’ only recruit, we’d put their class inside the top 8 without hesitation.

What does the rest of the class bring?  Plenty of distance talent and a breaststroker (Chandler Bray) that can let Gregg Troy move Caeleb Dressel to the end of the Gator medley relays.  Bray cut nearly 1.5 seconds off his personal best this season to clock a 52.65 in the 100 breaststroke, downing the national high school record.  Dressel was 51.8 in finals of the 400 medley relay, so with a relay start, Bray is already in the neighborhood of Dressel’s split.  He has a lot more speed than endurance at this stage (just 1:59.9 in the 200), but with a year training in Gainesville, you can bet he’ll develop more of a back-half soon enough.

The Gators also added the distance duo of Nazareno Boscaino and Drew Clark to prepare for life without the now-graduated Arthur Frayler and rising senior Mitch D’Arrigo.  Both swimmers bring in very similar bests (4:22.0/15:05.9 for Boscaino, 4:21.8/15:07.8 for Clark) that are already competitive at SEC’s in both events, and near NCAA qualification in the mile.  Fellow freshman Taylor Delk is also competitive in the mile (15:16.4), but adds in a solid 200 back (1:46.1) and 400 IM (3:53.7) to the mix.

On the sprint end, there’s Daytona Beach-native Viktor Toth, a 20.6/44.6 sprinter that adds quality depth to a thin sprint freestyle group.  The Gators have done well in the short relays the past couple of seasons, but don’t have many swimmers on the roster who specialize in sprint freestyle.


#3: Stanford Cardinal

Top-tier additions: #3 Grant Shoults, #4 True Sweetser, #18 Benjamin Ho, #19 James Murphy, William Macmillan, Hank Poppe, Alwyn Tan, Cameron Thatcher (diving)
The rest: n/a

This is the class Stanford really needs.  Loads of freestyle talent (particularly in the mid-distance events), a top-flight breaststroker, and some serious fly support.  Overall, the Cardinal are bringing in five guys who have been under 1:37.5 in the 200 free, including three who have been 1:36.0 or better.

Grant Shoults is the biggest name, particularly given his performances over the past six months.  If we re-did these rankings today, Shoults would jump to #2, and really closed the gap between Maxime Rooney and “everyone else”.  At 1:33.3/4:12.9/8:48.0 (and 1:45.3 in the 200 fly), he’s the best mid-distance prep swimmer in history, and fits nicely alongside rising junior Liam Egan, as well as fellow freshmen True Sweetser and James Murphy for a potentially great 500 freestyle quartet.  Sweetser doesn’t have Shoults’ speed (1:36.9/4:16.3 in the 200/500), but is much better in the mile, where he’s already in the NCAA top 8 with a 14:48.4.  Murphy has the best speed of the bunch (44.3 in the 100), but still boasts impressive 1:35.8/4:21.5 in the 200/500.

For the shorter stuff, there’s local stud Benjamin Ho (20.4/44.7/1:37.3), William Macmillan (44.6/1:36.0), and Malaysian national record holder Alwyn Tan (23.2 LCM 50 free).  Tan is a pure sprint freestyler, but Ho (48.3/1:44.2 backstroke, 1:47.8 IM) and Macmillan (48.0/1:45.0 fly, 1:47.4 IM) are pretty dangerous in other events, as well

Hank Poppe is the final swimmer, but we shouldn’t undersell his importance.  The Cardinal haven’t had a particularly competitive breaststroker in the last 4 years, and the 6’7″ Poppe has dramatically improved over the last three seasons.  At 53.9 in the 100, Poppe will battle for relay spots next season.

#2: Michigan Wolverines

Top-tier additions:#9 James Jones, #12 Jeremy Babinet, #14 Charlie Swanson, #15 Thomas Cope, Felix Auboeck, Alexander Martin, Jacob Montague
The rest: Miles Smachlo, Rob Zofchak

We waffled back and forth between where to put Michigan (an argument could be made for putting Stanford second); this class is incredibly deep and balanced.  To start, the Wolverines addressed their massive breaststroke need with four freshmen, including Jeremy Babinet, our #12 recruit, and Thomas Cope, our #15 recruit.  Rising senior Chris Klein split a solid 52.4 last March, but Babinet and Cope are the future.  Babinet, a Bay Area native who the Wolverines stole from Cal and Stanford, is the top overall breaststroker in this class at 53.7/1:55.9.  Cope isn’t quite at the same level (54.4/1:59.2 in the breaststrokes), but brings more versatility to the table (44.9/1:37.2 freestyles, 1:47.2/3:50.0 IMs).

#14 Charlie Swanson and Michigan high school state record holder Jacob Montague are the last two.  Swanson’s bests are “only” 55.3/1:59.4, but he’s a great IM talent (1:47.5/3:47.6), as well.  Montague had a huge senior year, clocking personal bests of 53.8/1:58.7 in the breaststrokes and 1:46.7 in the 200 IM.

The Wolverines overcame was looking like a shaky freestyle situation (there’s not much returning talent beyond Paul Powers, Jack Mangan, and distance specialist PJ Ransford) by landing two critical freestyle recruits in #8 James Jones and Austrian Felix Auboeck.  Jones is a 19.9/44.0 NCAP sprint product who will form a solid sprint tandem with Paul Powers, while Auboeck may be the fastest incoming international swimmer across all classes.  Auboeck doesn’t have much short course experience, but he’s well under the FINA ‘A’ standard in multiple events, with absurdly-fast LCM best times of 50.6/1:47.6/3:46.9/15:01.2.  No college recruit has come close to that 400 time, and few have approached his 15:01 in the 1500.  Even without much short course experience, he’s a top-five threat right away in both of those events, and provide a big boost on the 400/800 free relays.

Alexander Martin is the last name.  With lifetime bests of 22.7/48.5/1:46.0 in the backstrokes, 22.9/48.2 butterflies, and a 1:48.5 IM, he’ll add some youth to Michigan’s  butterfly/backstroke group.

#1: California Golden Bears

Top-tier additions:  Matthew Josa (transfer – Queens), #2 Michael Jensen, #5 Jack Xie, #10 Andrea Vergani, #11 Ethan Young, #17 Albert Gwo, Andy Song An, Pawel Sendyk, ‘Aukai Lileikis, Karl Arvidsson, Shane Forker

Holy moly, this group.  Even before Matthew Josa announced he was transferring to Cal last week, the Bears far and away had the top class in the country.  The class by the numbers:

  • 5 – the number of swimmers who are 20.0/44.0 or faster in both the 50 and 100 freestyle (not including Pawel Sendyk, who’s been 23.1/50.2 in long course meters)
    • Matthew Josa – 19.9/42.7
    • Michael Jensen – 19.8/42.7
    • ‘Aukai Lileikis – 19.9/43.6
    • Albert Gwo – 19.9/44.0
    • Andrea Vergani – 20.0/43.9
  • 5 – the number of swimmers who are under 48 seconds in the 100 back or 100 fly
    • Josa – 44.9/1:43.0 flyer
    • Jensen – 47.3 100 fly
    • Jack Xie – 46.7/1:45.8 flyer
    • Ethan Young – 21.6/46.7/1:43.0 backstroker
    • Andy Song An – 47.6/1:45.8 backstroker
  • 2 – breaststrokers at 55.0/2:00.0 or better (Xie at 54.9/1:59.4, Karl Arvidsson at 55.0/1:59.9)
  • 3 – 200 freestylers under 1:35 (Jensen at 1:33.9, Lileikis at 1:34.8, Josa at 1:34.2)

There’s at least another half-dozen other mind-blowing facts, but this gives you an idea.  This class was great before adding Josa, and now, with two years of a guy who has already broken 45 seconds in the 100 fly and 1:42 in the 200 IM, it’s all-time great.  There’s eleven names here, and even the “weaker” ones would be among the best in just about every other class; Arvidsson is a 55.0/1:59.9 breaststroker, and Shane Forker is a 4:24.5/9:11.2/15:21 freestyler.

Simply put, these guys really help even out the clear edge that the Texas Longhorns have had the past two seasons.  It may not happen next year (Texas is returning nearly every critical piece), but the Bears are in line to bring the title back to Berkeley soon enough.


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2 years ago

It this Cal class the greatest of all time?

Eddie Rowe
6 years ago

Why are transfers considered part of a recruiting class?

And you didn’t say nearly enough about Will MacMillan 😉

6 years ago

I wouldn’t make to much of this ranking, remember this cal underachieving class:

Reply to  Pacswimric
6 years ago

Short of Murphy, that cal class has completely underachieved. Durden spending all his time on his post grads.

6 years ago

Cal still needs divers

(G)olden Bear
Reply to  Gator
6 years ago

NCAA needs to make diving a separate championship. Or add in water polo, too. And crew.

Reply to  Gator
6 years ago

Need distance swimmers as well as divers!

ct swim fan
6 years ago

Cal must have a bunch of kids that are not getting much if any money for swimming. That’s a lot of recruits for one year.

Reply to  ct swim fan
6 years ago

It’s a great investment on their end, train with Durden and compete at the highest level & admissions help towards a Berkeley degree.

Reply to  ct swim fan
6 years ago

They have a huge advantage when it comes to in state talent. And it’s a legit ass academic institution so a lot of in state kids probably get academic money in addition to in state tuition.

Tea rex
6 years ago

Does Stanford get Tom Kremer back for a senior year?

CA Sunshine
Reply to  Tea rex
6 years ago

I believe he’s back but haven’t seen the official roster yet.

Tea rex
6 years ago

Rooney and shoults are legit, but probably better suited to long course than ncaa competition. I may get some hate for this, but hear me out:

Rooney could final in 100/200 free, and score at SECs in a third event, but his 50, 500, or 200 im are not NCAA level yet. He helps with 4×200 and 4×100 free, but is at best a stand-in for the other relays.

Shoults can score in 200/500, but he’s maybe a b final in either the 1650 or 200 fly. His only relay impact is the 4×200.

Both of them are serious 2020 contenders for relays and individual events, but the NCAA format does not favor them

In contrast, Michael Jensen is tailor-made… Read more »

Reply to  Tea rex
6 years ago

You don’t think Rooney will contribute to other relays? How many high schooler’s are sub 20 going in? Probably a handful every year and yet there are 16 (64 people) relays at NCAAs going faster than 1:19. People develop further at college.

Furthermore, Florida is not exactly sprint heavy so the fact the have the best high school sprinter coming in is great. Even further, how many people have had a training partner of Caeleb Dressel’s caliber? Very few.

For relays next year he is pretty much a lock for the 4×100 and 4×200 (obviously barring disaster), but if Troy puts Dressel on breast or fly (or back his senior year- this coming year is Blyzinskij [spelling] senior… Read more »

bobo gigi
6 years ago

“Grant Shoults is the best mid-distance prep swimmer in history.”
Being the fastest in history doesn’t necessarily mean being the best in history in general. Fortunately.
I don’t talk specifically about that case in particular. Maybe you’re right. Maybe he’s the best. I don’t have enough knowledges about US high school swimming history.
But I just wanted to mention that to warn. Because if only the times count to evaluate then Dave Walters is the best American sprinter ever. He’s much better than Nathan Adrian, Matt Biondi, Rowdy Gaines or Mark Spitz! 😆 Of course that would be hilarious to write that.
Tracy Caulkins’ times are well beaten today but she remains arguably the best versatile… Read more »

Attila the Hunt
Reply to  bobo gigi
6 years ago


Attila the Hunt
Reply to  bobo gigi
6 years ago

“Weitzeil and Manuel reach the level US women’s sprint has never known”

Tea rex
Reply to  Attila the Hunt
6 years ago

I’m sorry about your computer. I hope spilling haterade on the keyboard doesn’t void the warrantee

Attila the Hunt
Reply to  Tea rex
6 years ago

Errr…. What?

Reply to  bobo gigi
6 years ago

I agree Bobo, your hater fan page doesn’t seem to though, there is much more than meets the eye when coming to judge talent. College is a different ballgame, the good either get much better or don’t improve, and having such a competitive class could be a negative thing as easily as a positive for Cal.

About Morgan Priestley

Morgan Priestley

A Stanford University and Birmingham, Michigan native, Morgan Priestley started writing for SwimSwam in February 2013 on a whim, and is loving that his tendency to follow and over-analyze swim results can finally be put to good use. Morgan swam competitively for 15+ years, primarily excelling in the mid-distance freestyles. While …

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