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.