Ranking the 2017 Men’s NCAA Recruiting Classes: #5-8

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Please read these notes:

  • The rankings numbers listed for some individuals are from our pre-recruiting season rankings done more than a full year ago. Had we re-ranked these swimmers today (including some previously-unknown internationals putting their hat in the ring), the rankings would undoubtedly be different.
  • Like most of our rankings, these placements are subjective.  Rankings are based on a number of factors, including prospect’s incoming times, team needs filled, prospect’s potential upside, class size, and potential relay impact. Greater weight is placed on known success in short course yards, so foreign swimmers are slightly devalued because of their inexperience in SCY.
  • Transfers are included, and there were a lot of big ones this summer.
  • For the full list of the 1200+ committed athletes, click here.

Here are the 5th-through-8th-ranked Men’s NCAA Swimming & Diving classes with the top 4 to follow later this week:

Update: We’ve tweaked our rankings to include transfer Jacob Molacek, who is joining NC State this year after a redshirt season.


Top-tier additions: Spencer Carl (MI – fly), #18 Nick Albiero (KY – fly/back)
The rest: TC Smith, Michael Hampel, Daniel Pinto (diver)

This is a small class, but the top-end speed from Spencer Carl and Nick Albiero is impossible to ignore. Carl is very strong with a 47.6/1:44.1 fly range as well as a 1:36.3 in the 200 free. Louisville just graduated Josh Quallen, their best sprint butterflier who also has split sub-20 fly on their medley relays in the past, along with another top butterflier in David Boland. Carl’s 200 fly is already fast enough to A-final at the ACC Championships, and he will go a long way in helping Louisville recover from losing their big senior class after last year.

Meanwhile, Albiero is the big name here. In addition to his stellar fly times of 46.2/1:43.5, he’s been 47.2/1:45 in back, 1:45 in the 200 IM, and 20.2/44.4/1:36.8 in free. Albiero is looking like a triple A-finalist right off the bat at ACCs as a freshman, and he’ll be very valuable on medley relays. He’ll have to swim some backstroke this year, too, as top backstroker Grigory Tarasevich is out of eligibility. As 1:36 200 freestylers, Carl and Albiero could be immediately called on to join an 800 free relay that just lost three of its members to graduation.

Besides those two, Michael Hampel is a strong breaststroker with a 54.9 in the 100, while TC Smith has some mid-distance potential with a 1:39/4:23 combo in the 200 and 500, respectively.


Top-tier additions: Bruno Blaskovic (Croatia – sprint), Nikola Miljenic (Croatia – sprint), Gabriel Fantoni (Brazil – back), Corey Gambardella (CT – fly), Spencer Lehman (IN – IM)
The rest: Gary Kostbade, Gage Hamill, Griffin Eiber, Jacob Steele, Thomas Vanderbrook, Matthew Jerden, Brock Brown

Like NC State, Indiana did not shy away from the international talent pool, picking up 3 key foreign additions. Two sprinters hail from Croatia: Bruno Blaskovic and Nikola Miljenic. The former has been 22.2/50.1, while the latter is a tick back at 22.4/50.6. With Coley Stickels now heading the sprint group as an assistant coach, these two newcomers could really make the IU sprint relays lethal.

The other overseas freshman this season will be Brazil’s Gabriel Fantoni. He’s a strong backstroker with times of 55.3/2:03 in back and 54.9 in fly. Fantoni will be of major importance, as top backstroker and 2017 Big Ten 200 back champion Bob Glover has graduated.

Corey Gambardella brings in times of 47.9/1:44.7 in fly, while Spencer Lehman popped a 1:47/3:49 IM combo along with a 1:46 200 back in a great senior year season. Those two diversify the top talent in this class, as the rest are sprinters or backstrokers.

This is a really big class for IU, and there are some interesting pieces in the rest of the class. They have a nice breaststroke trio incoming in Gary Kostbade (55.3/2:00), Matthew Jerden (54.9/2:00) and Brock Brown (55.8), while Jerden has also been 48/1:47 in fly. Additionally, Colorado native Griffin Eiber had a strong senior year and could develop more in sprint free– he’s been 20.7/44.6/1:37 across the 50/100/200 free.


Top-tier additions: Giovanni Izzo (Italy – sprint), Gil Kiesler (Israel – distance free), Eric Knowles (Ohio – IM), Noah Hensley (FSU transfer – back), Jacob Molacek (Auburn transfer – sprint free/breast)
The rest: Daniel Forndal, Jacob Johnson, Ray Van Deusen, Luke Sobolewski

Giovanni Izzo of Italy could end up being the most impactful addition to the NC State Wolfpack should his LCM speed carry over to the small pool. He has been 22.0/49.3 LCM in free as well as 53.8 fly, and he’ll help cover the losses of Joe Bonk, Soren Dahl and Andreas Schiellerup. It’s quite possible that Izzo, with his speed, will become one of NCSU’s big name sprinters, and his arrival in Raleigh is timely considering the graduation turnover as well as it being Ryan Held’s final year with the Wolfpack. While it’s never smart to bank on LCM newcomers to excel in SCY, it would be very odd if a 22.0 long course sprinter couldn’t at least produce something in the range of a 19-low/mid flat start.

Another international freshman this season will be Israel’s Gil Kiesler, a mid-distance/distance free specialist. He just put down bests of 1:50/7:59/15:33 in long course at the Israeli Summer Champs earlier this month, while his 3:52 400 from 2016 is his best event. Kiesler will help keep the distance tradition alive at NC State, and he’ll have a year to train with current star Anton Ipsen. Meanwhile, Ohio-based Eric Knowles brings in a 4:23 500 free, though he’s poised more to train IM with times of 1:48/3:50 in the 200/400 IM.

NC State will also get an impact transfer in Jacob Molacekwho sat out last year after two at Auburn. He’s a big-league sprinter (19.08/42.38) who should score in both sprint freestyles at NCAAs, and he had a good ‘gap’ year with best times in all three relay-distance freestyles. His third event is likely 100 fly (where he’s just inside NCAA scoring range) or 100 breast (where he’s just outside it). Molacek is a great 200 IMer, but that’s almost a moot point since it conflicts badly with his 50 free. Transfers always have to count for a little less than regular recruits (less years to contribute to the team, less room to project the kind of strength/experience boosts high schoolers usually get as they hit adulthood), but Molacek should be an immediate-impact swimmer in a lot of ways – many of them relays – during his two remaining years.

Noah Hensley is another transfer who just finished sitting out a year, him because of an intra-conference transfer from Florida State. He’s a strong back/fly addition. Hensley posted PRs of 46.9/1:45.5 in back this spring along with a 47.3 fly, and he’ll add depth to an already very strong backstroke group.

The rest of the class has a lot to offer, too. Jacob Johnson and Luke Sobolewski are two more backstroke specialists, both at 48.2 in the 100 and then split at 1:44 for Johnson and 1:46 for Sobolewski in the 200. Sobolewski is also a 48.3 100 flyer. Ray van Deusen and Daniel Forndal (Swedish), meanwhile, are solid sprint free pickups. Van Deusen has been an impressive 20.0 in yards, while Forndal has been 23.5/50.6 LCM.


Top-tier additions: Robert Glinta (Romania – back), Nikita Tretyakov (FL – back), #8 Jake Sannem (PA – free), Justin Nguyen (CA – free)
The rest: N/A

Does the number four sound familiar to you? It should, seeing as the USC women are also bringing in only four for their 2017-18 freshman class.

Similarly to the women’s class, this is a small class that packs a punch. #8 Jake Sannem out of Pennsylvania is one of the class’s exceptional 200 freestylers, coming in at 1:34.7 in that as well as 4:19.3 in the 500 and 44.4 in the 100. Sannem fits the type as a mid-distance freestyler who can sprint, which is the kind of swimmer that typically excels at USC. Coming in with very strong mid-distance speed as well is Justin Nguyen at 44.5/1:36.6 in free as well as 48.9 in the 100 back.

The other two swimmers are backstroke specialists, and come in with time to train with backstroke stars Ralf Tribuntsov and Patrick Mulcare– Tribuntsov is now a senior and Mulcare a junior.

Romanian national Robert Glinta, a World junior champion, has very good LCM times in the back at 53.3/1:57.9. He’s one of the best 200 backstrokers in long course in the class, and far and away the best 100 backstroker with his 53.34, a time that would’ve placed 3rd at US Nationals earlier this summer. Glinta could easily be a national title contender in the 100 back with the right translation to SCY, but that transfer is often a lot to ask for in just one season. Still, Glinta should be able to score in both backstrokes as a freshman at NCAAs. He’s also a 49.8 in the 100 free, meaning he will be a free relay boost if needed.

The fourth and final addition is Nikita Tretyakov, a Russian national training and living in Florida. He’s another solid backstroker at 47.7/1:46, while he’s also been 1:38 free, 48 fly, and 55/1:58 in LCM backstroke. He’s another newcomer with big potential, and with strong times across several events, he’s not going to be restricted to one skillset at USC.

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What about Jacob Molacek for NC State?


Seems to me that you’ve seriously underestimated the NC State class. Unless there is recent news I haven’t heard, you’ve left out transfer Jacob Molacek. Pretty notable error with 19.0/42.3 frees, 45.5 fly and 1:43 IM all having potential to score at NCAAs and have huge relay contributions. In my opinion including him makes them a top 3 class.


You seriously need to calm down.


Good thing your opinion doesn’t matter.

Human Ambition

IF The Croatians deliver IU scores loads of relay points The Hoosiers haven’t been close to since Mark Spitz.


IU scored all the 5 relays the past 2 years so definitely much improved. Those kids pan out big this year with Pieroni and Khalafalla they should be able to compete for the top few places in the sprint relays.


Personally I think when factoring in Molacek for NC State they have a better class the SC and maybe one of the other teams ranked 1-4. I also think that depth and numbers of quality should be factored in and IU is better than SC, however it’s hard to argue against having an Olympic finalist in your class to bunpmyour rankings. Waiting to see who is ranked ahead before final judgements can be made.

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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