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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5 years ago

Andy song for Cal is actually 47.5 100 back

5 years ago

No Texas in the top 12 recruiting classes???

Reply to  SUNY Cal
5 years ago

They had like one commit over the past year.

Reply to  SamH
5 years ago

That’s weird would’ve thought that as ncaa champs two years in a row they’d have more recruits

Reply to  SamH
5 years ago

I think it may have been more like three as reflected in the link below, but I was incredulous as well. Especially knowing what kind of barrage Cal will be bringing to the table next year. Scary.

From a couple of other threads, it sounds like Eddie got such an embarrassment of riches in the last few classes that he didn’t have room for any scholarship guys this year. The incoming guys do sound like promising late-bloomers. It’s been a long time, but I’m not sure Shaun Jordan was a scholarship guy his first year, and he ended up with two or three individual NCAA titles and some Olympic relay gold.


Hint of Lime
5 years ago

Monster class from Cal this year. Exciting to see what will happen at Pac-12s and NCAAs next year!

Joel Lin
5 years ago

Mad props to Morgan Priestley for putting this piece together with such color and detail. Morgan, a I know it must really hurt to flatter the Bears, but it shows you’re a pro.

5 years ago

Michigan also brings in two divers, Steven Anderson and Jake Herremans. Anderson was top 6 at CIF and Herremans is an All-American. Seems like that should place them solidly at number 2.

Derek Mead
Reply to  grrr
5 years ago

Herremans was on my team the last 2 years, best athlete I’ve worked with and will score big points for Michigan.

5 years ago

Cal is going to do in backstroke what Texas did in fly last year. Jensen and lileilkis give them good options for a 4×200 as well especially Jensen.

Joel Lin
5 years ago

Another Arvidsson, eh? Nort knows a bit about all that.

Reply to  Joel Lin
5 years ago

Hope Arvidsson can come down in 100/200 breast strokes in a couple of years–Cal still has Hoppe, coberleigh, Seliskar?, et al for 2016/17 season. For those who don’t know here, Arvidsson’s dad (Par) was a great swimmer for Cal when the Bears fielded a lot of International swimmers.Yes, old Cal Coach Head Coach Nort Thorton may be able to help Arvidsson which would be a boon in a couple of years.
Also, very impressed by our top PAC12 rival Stanford’s class. They seemingly never have a bad recruiting year (Men or Women), but Men’s results in the NCAA do not seem to match the great talent they have every year. Their women should win the NCAA championships for upcoming… Read more »

Justin Pollard
5 years ago

I’m really surprised Cal’s Lileikis didn’t get a top 25 ranking, though maybe he swam his best after the rankings had been assembled. The guy may be a top 5 recruit:
50 free: 19.95
100 free: 43.63
200 free: 1:34.82 (1:49.90 long course)
500 free: 4:24.26
100 fly: 48.36
200 IM: 1:47.33

With those numbers, he’s at least top 10 …

Reply to  Justin Pollard
5 years ago

Not that this matters so much to swimming… but he made the Water Polo All Americans list this year too.

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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