Ranking the 2018 Men’s NCAA Recruiting Classes: #1-4

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We’re wrapping up our rankings of the top recruiting classes in the men’s NCAA- these swimmers will be starting their freshman seasons in the next month. Stay tuned for women’s class rankings coming soon.

Here are a few important notes on our rankings:

  • The ranking numbers listed for individual recruits are from our Class of 2018 Re-Rank, which was done this past spring. Certainly some of those ranks would change after this summer’s season.
  • 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 are lots of big ones.
  • For the full list of the 1200+ committed athletes, click here. A big thank-you to SwimSwam’s own Anne Lepesant for compiling that index – without it, rankings like these would be far less comprehensive.

Here are the top 4 incoming freshmen classes in this year’s NCAA:

#4: Indiana Hoosiers

Top-tier additions: Zach Apple (Auburn transfer – free), #13 Michael Brinegar (CA – distance), HM Jack Franzman (IN – free), Mikey Calvillo (TX – distance), Zane Backes (NV – breast/IM), Van Mathias (OR – fly/IM), Jakub Karl (Czech Republic – free)
The rest: Brandon Hamblin (VA – sprint free), Paul Gabhart (IN – IM), Ben McDade (WI – distance), Andrew Couchon (IN – sprint free), Michael Draves (WI – distance), Zach Cook (IN – fly), Cole VanDevender (IN – diving), Logan Brown (IN – diving)

Easily the biggest transfer in the NCAA this season (and arguably the biggest transfer we’ve ever seen), Zach Apple is a one-man wrecking crew of NCAA points. Last year for Auburn, he was 3rd nationally in the 200 free, 5th in the 50 and 9th in the 100, though his winning time from the B final in that 100 would have been 3rd overall in the A heat. His lifetime-bests return as the 2nd-fastest 50 freestyler (18.82), 3rd-fastest 100 freestyler (41.36) and 3rd-fastest 200 freestyler (1:31.18) in the nation. Add to that his extraordinary relay value and how he meets IU’s specific position of need after the graduation of Blake Pieroni, and you’ve got the absolute best pickup the team could have gotten.

IU also did very well with freshman recruiting. Michael Brinegar is the best miler in the class (14:35.35) and based on his long course and open water accomplishments, is a much better swimmer than his recruiting rank suggests. He’s also 8:47 in the 1000 and 4:19 in the 500 free, and should be an instant NCAA scorer in the mile at the very least.

The Hoosiers did an excellent job of in-state recruiting. Jack Franzman was just outside our top 20 recruits, and has terrific relay value with his 19.7/43.4 sprint speed. He’s also rangy enough to go 1:37 in the 200, and that time could very well develop in a big way at Indiana. Other Indiana-based products include 1:48/3:51 IMer Gabhart, 20.4 sprinter Couchon, 48.5 flyer Cook and the divers VanDevender and Brown, who join a diving group that has been incredibly elite.

Mikey Calvillo fits into the Brinegar mold of a distance swimmer who has flashed a lot more in long course meters. He was a Junior Pan Pacs team member for the United States and brings in short course times of 15:05 in the mile and 3:50 in the 400 IM. He’s joined by Junior Pan Pacs team member Van Mathias out of Oregon, who is also better in long course meters but is also 47.9/1:46.3 in short course fly.

Also coming in with a strong meters background is Jakub Karl out of the Czech Republic. He’s been 150.76 in the long course 200 free, 55.8 in the long course 100 fly and 51.05 in the long course 100 free, but is probably better in short course meters (49.3/1:46.46/3:47.24 freestyle).

Zane Backes follows the footsteps of Olympian Cody Miller as a Nevada breaststroker heading east to Indiana. Backes (53.1/1:55.0) is actually quite a bit faster than Miller was (54.3/1:56.4) as a high school senior, which has to be awfully exciting for a breaststroke group that already includes NCAA champ Ian Finnerty. Backes doesn’t yet appear on the IU roster; but will join the program in January, the school says.

Indiana made a surprise run at the NCAA team title with a small scoring roster last year. The graduation of Pieroni hurts, but with this good (and deep) of a recruiting class joining the program, IU could have a more rounded attack this season – a scary thought for the top team contenders.

#3: Stanford Cardinal

Top-tier additions: #9 Jack LeVant (TX – free/fly/IM), #10 Daniel Roy (WA – breast), #20 Mason Gonzalez (PA – sprint free/fly), David Madej (OH – fly/free), Jonathan Cook (WA – breast), Conor Casey (VA – diving), Noah Vigran (OH – diving),
The rest: Alessandro Boratto (PA – back), Will Roberts (CA – IM)

This is a really, really good class, and one that has a lot of rising potential on the national and international stage. In our 2017 recruit rankings, we had Jack LeVant at #11, but even then, it didn’t feel right. The Texas-based swimmer can do basically everything – the question has always been where he projects best. This past summer may have made some headway in that question: the 18-year-old LeVant took 5th at U.S. Nationals in the 200 meter freestyle with a 1:46.46, and was also 1:55.89 in the 200-meter fly.

He’s also popped in the 200 yard free (1:33.57 during his senior year) and has an NCAA scoring time in the 500 (4:14.40). He’ll find a third event somewhere between a 43.9 freestyle, 1:44.5/47.6 butterflys, 3:45 IM and 48.8/1:45.0 backstrokes. And that’s not even mentioning the obvious relay impact.

Roy is another long course standout who is still very good in yards. One of the nation’s better 200-meter breaststrokers, Roy brings in a lifetime-best in yards of 1:51.69, a time that would have placed 3rd at NCAAs last year. Roy is 53.4 in the 100 breast and also 1:47.8 and 3:49 in the IMs. The other big get is relay hero Mason Gonzalezwho has split as fast at 19.3 on a 50 free from a flying start. He’s 19.9/43.0/1:36.4 individually, and carries massive relay value.

Stanford also got two guys just outside our top recruit ranks. Jonathan Cook was originally an honorable mention in our first ranks, though he got crowded out in our re-rank. He’s 53.9/1:57.0 in breaststroke, a very solid prospect. David Madej is a 47.4/1:46.0 flyer with a 44.0 100 freestyle to boot.

The Cardinal also adds two divers who look high-impact: Noah Vigran and Conor Casey were finalists at Senior Nationals and state champs in their home states of Ohio and Virginia, respectively. The rest of the class includes Alessandro Boratto, who is 48.0 and 1:46.4 in the backstrokes, and Will Roberts, a local pickup who can do a little bit of everything: he’s 1:47.9 in the 200 IM, 49 in both fly and back and 57 in the 100 breast.

#2: Florida Gators

Top-tier additions: #6 Trey Freeman (TN – free), #11 Kieran Smith (CT – IM), #12 Robert Finke (FL – distance), HM Will Davis (FL – sprint free/fly), Kacper Stokowski (Poland – back/free), Dillon Hillis (NY – breast/IM), Isaac Davis (FL – sprint free/fly)
The rest: Miguel Cancel (FL – back/IM), Nick Hackett (FL – fly), Lyle Hayes-Macaluso (FL – diving), Nicholas Lydon (NY – diving), Santiago Morales (GA – diving), Timothy Marski (NY – free/fly), Jake Adcock (FL – fly), Jorge Depassier (FL – free)

If you thought classes #5-8 looked good, now you’re getting a glimpse at just how loaded the top 4 classes are. This Florida group is outstanding, both in American and international pickups.

Trey Freeman is an absurdly rangy freestyle talent out of Tennessee. He’s got an NCAA scoring time in the 200 free (1:33.06) plus an NCAA invite time in the 500 (4:15.06). But what’s truly impressive is that he can swim up to a sub-15-minute mile (14:59.33) while also coming down to 43.8/20.1 speed in the sprints. Even if Freeman becomes more of a distance swimmer in Florida’s system, he could also contribute on multiple free relays the same way someone like Cristian Quintero did in years past.

Kieran Smith is the best pure IMer in the class, and is arguably ranked too low outside of the top 10. He’s 3:43.20 in the 400 IM and 1:44.08 in the 200, times that should be primed to improve in a Florida system that has been excellent for IMers. Smith can also add a 1:42.7 in the 200 back (nearly the best time in the entire recruiting class) and a 1:34.8 in the 200 free.

Freeman is bolstered in a new-look freestyle group by Robert FinkeWill Davis and Isaac Davis.Finke has represented Team USA at Worlds and is among the best distance men in the recruiting class as a whole. He’s got the fastest 1000 (8:45.50) and a mile time (14:37.49) that would have been 5th at NCAAs last year. Finke can also go 3:44.0 in the 400 IM, which fits very well with Florida’s historic strengths. The Davis brothers hold down the sprinting end, following in the footsteps of Florida high school standout Caeleb Dressel. Will Davis is 19.7 and 43.9 in sprint free, plus 47.6 in sprint fly, while Isaac is a tick faster in fly (47.5) and a tick behind in free (19.9, 44.4).

Always dominant in international recruiting, Florida nabbed Poland’s Kacper Stokowskiwho has been 53.8 in a long course 100-meter backstroke as well as 1:48.5 in a 200 meter free. The added bonus with Stokowski is that he’s arguably been better in short course meters, which suggests his walls and underwaters are good enough to convert his speed well into the NCAA’s yards format.

Without top-tier breaststrokers for awhile, Florida did get 53.2/1:59.6 talent Dylan Hillis out of New York. Hillis is also 1:46.2 in the 200 IM and reloads what should be a very talented IM group. The Gators have a trio of divers (Hayes-Macaluso, Lydon and Morales) and a trio of 48-second flyers in Cancel, Hackett and Marski. Cancel can also swim some backstroke (he’s 48.5/1:45.5 in back, 48.5 in fly and 3:51 in IM), while Hackett is more of a pure 100 flyer at this point. Marski is an intriguing prospect: he’s equally good through every freestyle distance without a standout swim in any one of them yet: 20.4/44.9/1:39/4:27/9:17/15:21. That gives him an incredibly high ceiling if he can break out at the college level. Marski is also a 48.5/1:46.6 flyer, which might be his early ticket to contributing.

#1: Texas Longhorns

Top-tier additions: #2 Drew Kibler (IN – free/fly/back), #5 Daniel Krueger (WI – free), #14 Matthew Willenbring (TX – IM/free), #16 Jason Park (TX – back/fly), HM Andrew Koustik (CA – fly/breast), Alex Zettle (TX – distance), Braden Vines (TX – breast/IM), Charlie Scheinfeld (IL – breast), Jake Sannem (USC transfer – free)
The rest: Aitor Fungairino (TX – free), Alex Margherio (MI – fly/back)

This Texas class is absolutely loaded, particularly in the freestyles. They got the premier relay-distance freestyler of the class in Drew Kiblera prospect who perfectly fits the events where Texas has had so much success. Kibler is a 1:32.6 200 freestyler, good enough to make last year’s NCAA final. He’s also got a scoring time in the 500 free (4:14.42) as well as an elite 100 (42.90) and the class’s best 50 free (19.38). If that’s not enough, Kibler is 46.8 in butterfly and 47.0 in backstroke, plus brings the class’s best 200 back at 1:42.34. There’s a real argument to be made that Kibler, not Reece Whitley, is the best prospect in this class. Kibler will certainly have early opportunities for impact, with a real shot at all three free relays as a rookie.

Daniel Krueger out of Wisconsin is the only freshman in the nation faster than Kibler in the 100 (42.50) and can also go 19.4 in the 50 and 1:35.5 in the 200. He brings a 1:47 IM that might not even see use, and projects as great sprint depth moving forward for the Longhorns.

Both Matthew Willenbring and Jason Park both come right out of Texas and are among the best in the class in their events. Willenbring is a 1:44.1 IMer with a massive frame that also allows him to go 19.9, 43.2 and 1:35.2 in freestyle. He was previously a medalist at the World Junior Championships in 2017, though he later tested positive for a banned substance and had to return the medals. Park is within a nose of the best 100 back in the class (he’s 47.0) with a 1:43.1 200 to back it up. He’s also 46.9 in fly, which is maybe even a better event for him.

Andrew Koustik is another great recruiting value. He didn’t quite fit in our top 20 list, but a class-best 1:43.69 in the 200 fly is outstanding for a program that recently finished training two of the best 200 flyers of all-time in Joe Schooling and Jack Conger. If that’s not enough, Texas pulled a big-name transfer is Jake Sannema former top-20 recruit who just finished his freshman year at USC. Sannem is a 1:34.7 200 freestyler and a 4:19 in the 500, plus 44.0 in the 100.

Texas has struggled for a breaststroker for awhile, so Charlie Scheinfeld and Braden Vines hit a position of need. Scheinfeld is 53.6 and 1:55.9, while Vines is 54.0/1:57.4 but also brings 1:45 IM speed.

The rest of the class is very solid freestyle depth. Alex Zettle (4:18/9:00/15:20) is a solid in-state distance prospect. Aitor Fungairino is 44.2/1:34.8 in the 100/200 free. And then Alex Margherio rounds out the crew with a very good 47.5 100 fly and a 48-second 100 back.

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Swimmer
4 years ago

There is no secret to winning national titles. Recruit the best class in the country year after year. Turn on the lights, show them the pool, and get out of the way. Simple as that.

Right Dude Here
Reply to  Swimmer
4 years ago

I can think of over 9000 examples of how wrong that is.

Back2Back
Reply to  Swimmer
4 years ago

OK… Mental image here: 1.) Aggregate the top freshmen into an independent ‘team’ at a school with no team. 2.) Procure the best pool you can find. 3.) Hire the janitor to turn on the lights each day and point them at the lanes 4.) They get themselves to NCAA’s 5.) They draw straws over events 6.) They win a national title Got it! Recruits will flock to said ‘team’ year over year! BTW SWIMMER – I trust you just wrote that to elicit my first comment this season… Hook ’em Horns!

Bay City Tex
Reply to  Back2Back
3 years ago

I’m surprised your Back2Back is not back2back2back2back!

Pvdh
4 years ago

Florida got a lot of diversity while Texas look like it got a lot of speed. Will be interesting to watch them develop.

USA
4 years ago

These are all wrong. The real number 1 is Dean Farris.

IU Swammer
Reply to  USA
4 years ago

The Dean Farris class embodies the phrase “full of swimming.” Texas will be dethroned.

catch22
4 years ago

I don’t think anyone can argue that Texas and Florida have the top classes though as I mentioned on another thread, I think that they should be #1 and #1A. I think Texas has the advantage on relays, but I’ve always adhered to the advice Jack Roach gave the national campers a few years ago… ‘if you do nothing else, make yourself into a great 400 IM’er’. That said, according to the STARS database, Florida recruits Kieren Smith and Robert Finke have the top two 400 IM times in the class as a whole (you kind of glossed over Finke’s 400 IM time, plus totally ignored his performances at this year’s Nationals and Pan Pac’s). With those IM times and… Read more »

catch22
Reply to  Jared Anderson
4 years ago

I think you need to chill a bit Jared… Put in a comment section, you need to expect people to disagree with you. Other than the times and events, EVERYTHING in these articles and comments are opinions. Good reporters have to be able to take criticism without getting defensive. Do I think you short-changed Finke? When you don’t mention the two biggest meets this summer, yeah in my opinion you did. You could add a million things about each swimmer but 999,999 would be less impactful than the summer’s two biggest meets IMHO. You mentioned last summer’s World Championships; compare the performances.

As for a GOOD 100 Freestyler outscoring a GREAT 400 IM’er? I know the NCAA scoring just as… Read more »

Swimming Fan
Reply to  Jared Anderson
4 years ago

Cough, cough. At least some Gator precedence. Mark Szaranek (4 relays). Switkowski (4 relays) was also a good 400 IM’er, although he only swam the 200 IM at NCAAs

Benedict Arnold Schwarzenegger
Reply to  Swimming Fan
4 years ago

Yes, I agree that because of the legacy left by Switkowski, Robert Finke (21.8 in the 50 free) will be on the 200 free relay and should be ranked as such.

JP input too short
Reply to  Swimming Fan
4 years ago

Special case: That’s the only team that’s ever had someone literally a second faster than the rest of the nation in the 50 free on their team. So their relay success is a little amplified by that.

JP input too short
Reply to  JP input too short
4 years ago

Sorry, half a second.

JP input too short
Reply to  Jared Anderson
4 years ago

I think it can be pretty fairly said that unless your team has Caeleb Dressel, it is not going to win an NCAA relay outside of the 800 FR if you have to put a 400 IMer in it.

Swimming Fan
Reply to  JP input too short
4 years ago

Didn’t you hear? They’re going to add a mile relay… 🙂

Yabo
Reply to  JP input too short
4 years ago

Texas??

Swimmer1
Reply to  catch22
4 years ago

Wow. Didn’t see anything defensive about Jared’s reply. He simply gave Completely valid explanations for his rankings.

Onemanopinion
Reply to  catch22
4 years ago

There’s nothing better on message boards than
“I’m going to disagree with your opinion, but get super sensitive when you disagree with mine”
A time honored tradition!

Admin
Reply to  Onemanopinion
4 years ago

catch22 has always had very strong opinions about Robert Finke. We know why, but will leave you guys to guess :-).

renédescartes
Reply to  Braden Keith
4 years ago

Welcome to the internet Robert Finke’s dad.

Poropat
4 years ago

Dillon Hillis, not Dylan.

Love to Swim
4 years ago

Cal beat Texas in swimming.

Texas beat Cal in Swimming AND Diving.

Repeat.

Right Dude Here
Reply to  Love to Swim
4 years ago

Golly, we’ve never heard that justification for 2nd place before.

Reminds me of that 2011 Alabama LSU Game
“Alabama won offense, LSU just won the score”

Swimdad
Reply to  Love to Swim
4 years ago

The sport “is” swimming and diving. Complete teams and strategy. Same argument between IU/Mich and I laugh everytime i hear it.

Superfan
Reply to  Swimdad
4 years ago

Those that give that “argument” don’t get that the scholarships they give to diving would have been used on more stud swimmers!

AJ Pouch
4 years ago

Zane is going to tear it up at IU. Very excited to see his future, plus he and Daniel Roy are going to have the race of the century at NCAAs. Both are great guys love them both and excited for them!

B1Guy!
Reply to  AJ Pouch
4 years ago

Yeah have the race of the century for 2nd place behind Max Mchugh!

Captain Ahab
4 years ago

Wow, Texas should win the next 3 to 4 NCAA men’s swimming and diving championship

JP input is too short
Reply to  Captain Ahab
4 years ago

And they already have 3 National Junior team members and a European Championships competitor committed for next year, and a Carson Foster committed for the year after.

Sarcastic
Reply to  JP input is too short
4 years ago

Carson Foster committed to Cal and then Eddie somehow got a hold of that and stole him from Cal – bad move

Foreign Embassy
Reply to  Sarcastic
4 years ago

It’s just a verbal commitment and a lot can change in 2 years. 👍🏻

Bay City Tex
Reply to  Sarcastic
4 years ago

Stole=Out-recruited.

QuatroLoco
Reply to  Sarcastic
4 years ago

I think you misunderstand how this went down. What actually happened was that Eddie stole Jake Foster from Stanford, and knowing that family, there was no chance that those two boys were ever going to go to school 2000 miles apart.

Coaches reap what they sew. Use your games to force early commitments, and sometimes you get burned.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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