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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5 years ago

Indiana will be dangerous. They have 3 guys under 22.4 LC 50 and Peroni, plus Coley coaching them.

5 years ago

Also Alberios 100 isn’t a 40. From what I remember. Don’t get me wrong Albert does a great job but I don think his son is there just yet. Also for record. Medley for the Wolfpack. 2med Coleman/ress/Vazio Moleck Ress/Vaz Held. Outside of Texas that looks damn good

Reply to  Swimnerd
5 years ago

Who is swimming the breast leg for Texas?

Reply to  Swimnerd
5 years ago

re 200 Medly both NCS and Texas have to replace their breaststroke leg from last year’s teams, which placed 6th and 1st respectively. #3 Cal and #5 Florida must replace their backstroke leg. Cal appears to have frosh Ryan Hoffer (45.58 in the 100 back) or Zheng Quah (46.25) as likely candidates. I do not know enough about Texas or NCS to attempt to consider their breastroke options but I do not believe they had anybody on their rosters last year beyond Licon and Hren that qualified in the 100. Florida has frosh Michael Taylor who I believe has the 2017 class best 100 back time (45.53) to replace Blyzinskji, so they should certainly be in the medal mix.

tea rex
5 years ago

Molacek will pretty much be NC State’s only breaststroker, correct?

They already have ridiculous options on free, back, and fly. Ironically, those were the events that Molacek really crushed during his redshirt year.

Reply to  tea rex
5 years ago

I swam with Jacob in high school. He will not focus on breaststroke this year. Whatever he does focus on will be dynamite.

Reply to  Swimswum
5 years ago

Do you coach at NCSU as well?

Reply to  Swimfan
5 years ago

Nope, but I also know my good friend. When did he last swim breastroke? How’d that go?

5 years ago

Encouraging news for Trojan swim fans who’ve been disappointed that USC hasn’t done as well signing elite American high school swimmers especially compared to northern Pac-12 rivals Stanford and Cal. In other words, for every high profile recruit (top 20) USC signs, Cal and Stanford sign 2-3 giving them both quality AND quantity..
But the good news is that Salo always seems to land a world class international swimmer or two to make up for it. Remember, last year Canadian sprint super Markus Thormeyer committed to USC before doing a last-minute de-commit before the Rio Olympics. And world Jr. record holder Andrei Sancov was a major international commit for class of 2018. USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic seems… Read more »

Reply to  SwimPhan
5 years ago

USC got one of the best classes ever when they signed Santo, Dylan Carter, Reed Malone, Stephen Stumph, and Mike Domagala all in one class. Unfortunately it never turned into the huge title contending class that a lot of people (including myself) thought they would be. Each had individual success just never seemed to all fire at the same time to truly make a big jump in NCAA standings. Overall, I think USC has been a little lack luster the past couple years but they’re certainly capable of rebounding.

Reply to  Swimswamswum
5 years ago

It looks like Salo’s reputation in coaching post-college international swimmers for Club Trojan on the “back end” of the age spectrum is paying dividends in recruiting junior international talent on the “front end” of the younger age spectrum for USC. USC as a private university has to be very selective in recruiting and looking to proven international level stars who can belikely NCAA point-winners. If you take USC’s projected 2017-18 roster of 29 and take out divers and apparent “preferred walk ons” that leaves 18-19 athletes to be covered by 9.9 scholarships. Of that number 7 (or over one third) would be international swimmers (Glinta, Koenigspergr, Futek, Tribuntov) or internationals who attended American High Schools (Candorelli, Carter, Tretyakov). That seems… Read more »

5 years ago

Karl and Braden,

Thanks again for publishing this very fun and informative list of the top 2017 recruiting classes. Always seems to stir up the passion of fans who feel aggrieved about their favorite program being under rated. Of course, this is what fan sport sites are supposed to do.The real test will come in future NCAA championships as some swimmers seem to explode out of relative obscurity (Will Licon), while some highly rated preps simply do not pan out due to a variety of reasons (academic priorities, injuries etc).

Looking forward to seeing the final four (Cal, Stanford, Texas and Florida, I presume).

5 years ago

I’m suprised Michigan didn’t get any ranking or honorable mention. The incoming class has a couple of studs including Gustavo Borges Jr. and great distance swimmer Ricardo Vargas. They also picked up a good sprinting transfer in the form of James Peek.

5 years ago

Nate Mullens is going to NC state too and has a 20.45 pr 50

Reply to  Uberfan
5 years ago

He’s a rising high school senior who committed early. Won’t be at State until 2018.

Tom from Chicago
5 years ago

Lots of foreigners winning scholarships to US universities.

Reply to  Tom from Chicago
5 years ago

Lots of foreigners are paying big bucks to US universities.

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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