Ranking the 2019 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 2019 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 our top four classes nationwide:

#4: California Golden Bears

Top-tier additions: #12 Jason Louser (NY – IM/breast), Hugo Gonzalez (Auburn transfer – IM/back), Jaques Lauffer (Switzerland – breast/IM), Nick Hart (IN – diving), Michael Petrides (HI – free), Calvin David (CA – distance), Colby Mefford (CA – free/back), Will Pelton (MD – fly/back), Sebastian Somerset (Canada – back)
The rest: 
Addie Laurencelle (SC – sprint free), Preston Niayesh (CA – breast)

Cal has had the #1-ranked class two of the past three years, but last year checked in at just #8. This year’s group splits the difference between those two levels. The Golden Bears didn’t pull in a ton of top-20 recruits, but got a high-impact transfer, a great international and then a bunch of guys likely in the 21-50 range domestically.

Hugo Gonzalez was the big get. A freshman standout for Auburn back in 2017, Gonzalez sat out last season, but plans to resurface for Cal this season. His production is elite: NCAA A final times in both IMs (3:35.7/1:40.6) and the 200 back (1:39.0). During his Auburn season, Gonzalez was great at conference but awful at NCAAs. He’ll have to level that out to be the kind of scoring threat we’re projecting him to be, but that’s probably much easier to do in the Pac-12, where teams seem to care very little about the conference championships compared to the rough-and-tumble SEC.

The best part about Gonzalez: he should have three full years of college eligibility remaining, making him closer to a true college freshman than a typical upperclassmen transfer.

Domestically, Cal got #12 Jason Lousera fast-rising IMer from New York with massive potential. Louser has a huge frame, long arms and an excellent improvement curve in the IMs. He’s not far off of NCAA invite status in the 400 IM (he was 3:45.87 last year), and is one of the class’s better 200 IMers (1:46.00). Louser is also 53.9/1:57.0 in breaststroke, and should help ease the loss of former IM/breast standout Andrew Seliskar.

Adding to perhaps the nation’s toughest breaststroke group is Swiss import Jacques Lauffer. A national teamer for Switzerland, Lauffer has been 1:01.6 and 2:11.4 in the long course breaststrokers. The latter, in particular, converts close to NCAA invite range. Long course to short course conversions are always difficult to project, but Lauffer has a chance to be a freshman scorer, especially with a lot of the top NCAA breaststrokers graduating.

And a surprise: Cal got a top dive recruit. That’s been rare for Cal, but they’re hoping to make it the norm with the completion of their on-campus platform diving facility in 2016. Nick Hart has represented Team USA at World Juniors, and has been top 20 at USA Diving Senior Nationals. Getting the Lafayette, Indiana prospect to leave Indiana – a hotbed of diving and also home of Cal competitor Indiana University – is a major get.

The rest of the class are high-end developmental guys. Calvin David is a 15:12 miler with great range down to a 1:36 200 free. He overlaps there with Hawaii’s Michael Petrideswho is 1:35.2 and 44.3 in the 100 – good relay depth. There are a couple of legacy commits that might excite fans with their names: Colby Mefford is a 1:35.5 freestyler and 1:44.4/48.2 backstroker, reminiscent of his older brother Bryce, now a Cal junior and key scorer at the last two NCAAs. Will Pelton is a 47.9 flyer and 48.7/1:45.5 backstroker, who follows former women’s NCAA champ and older sister Elizabeth to Berkeley.

Then there’s one more international: Sebastian Somerset out of Canada is a 55.9/2:00.1 backstroker in long course meters. He joins the burgeoning Cal backstroke factory, and brings in a 200 back time that could put him near NCAA invite status if it transfers over well from long course.

Fast riser to watch: Colby Mefford might not be as early a scorer as older brother Bryce was, but his improvement curve is excellent. Most notably, Colby went from 1:47.8 to 1:44.4 in the 200 back as a senior, and also from 1:37.2 to 1:35.5 in the 200 free.

#3: Virginia Cavaliers

Top-tier additions: #3 Jack Walker (NC – free), #7 Jack Wright (PA – free), #20 Sean Conway (VA – IM/back), Henry Schutte (MI – sprint free), Max Edwards (NC – sprint fly/free), Konnar Klinksiek (TX – sprint free)
The rest: 
Daniel Gyenis (VA – distance), Josh Fong (NJ – fly)

Hello, Todd Desorbo. The Virginia head coach was hired in August of 2017, putting him a little behind the 8-ball for his first recruiting class. But in his first full recruiting season, he hauls in Virginia’s best-ever class in the years we’ve ranked them. In fact, if we didn’t include transfers, this group might be in the conversation for the #1 spot.

As it is, UVA pulled in three of our top 20 recruits, along with a few more impact guys. Jack Walker and Jack Wright are the kingpins. Both are elite freestyle prospects, top-10 recruits and instant-impact relay additions for the Cavaliers. Walker comes out of SwimMAC in Carolina, with Desorbo stealing a top in-state recruit from his former program, NC State. Walker trends a little more upwards in range: he’s got the class’s best 200 free (1:33.7) with a 4:15.0 500 that would have earned an NCAA invite last year. He probably comes down best to the 100 (43.5), and is also 20.0 in the 50 free. Wright, on the other hand, is a Pennsylvania product who has very comparable 50/100 speed (20.2/43.5) along with a great 200 (1:34.7). That combination should be absolute relay monsters for the Cavaliers, who already return 13 of 16 relay legs from NCAAs.

#20 Sean Conway was an essential commitment for UVA. He was one of three Virginia prospects to make our top recruit ranks, and may just turn out to be the best of them. Conway has really exciting IM speed (1:45.7/3:47.3) – those are events where NCAA scoring times are rare among high schoolers, and a lot of improvement seems to happen during the college years. Conway is also a 1:43.5 backstroker and a 44.2/1:37 freestyler, not to mention a 55/1:59 breaststroker. That’s supreme versatility. He joins an IM group that got Casey Storch to score as a rookie last year and also returns scorer Ted Schubert.

Henry Schutte and Konnar Klinksiek are more sprint fodder for Desorbo’s relays. Schutte (20.0/44.1/1:38.7) was inside our top 20 recruits nationally when we first ranked them, though he went backwards over his senior year and fell out of the rankings this spring. Klinksiek (20.1/44.8) is more of a developmental type, but has good short speed.

Virginia had great success with butterflyers last year, and Max Edwards comes in as a 47.0 talent who is also 20.2 in the 50 free. Meanwhile Josh Fong is only 49.0, but that’s exaclty what his older brother Zach was out of high school, and Zach finished his UVA career going 45.5.

On the distance end, they kept Daniel Gyenis (15:26/4:24/1:37) in-state, and his 200/500 are dropping solid time.

Fast riser to watch: outside of Walker, who cut seven seconds in his 500 as a senior, the flyer Edwards is on a nice trajectory. Edwards went from 48.1 to 47.0 in his 100 fly over his senior season.

#2: NC State Wolfpack

Top-tier additions: #6 Ross Dant (NC – distance/IM), #8 Noah Bowers (VA – IM/everything), #14 Hunter Tapp (KY – sprint free), #15 Noah Henderson (NC – fly/free), Kimani Gregory (PA – sprint free/fly), Markus Wennborg (NC – breast)
The rest: 
Owen Hanna (OH – back), Thomas Hamlet (NC – back), Zachary Cram (VA – back/fly/free), Kevin Childs (CA – back/fly), Garrett Waite (WA – IM), Bayne Bennett (NC – diving), Patrick O’Brien (NC – diving)

NC State has surged into the NCAA’s elite class this decade, but surprisingly enough, this is by far the best recruiting class they’ve ever brought in. Some of that owes to the scholarship money freed up by last year’s graduating class, but it’s also a testament to what coach Braden Holloway has done in recruiting, even with his top assistants leaving Raleigh for head coaching jobs in Auburn and Virginia.

One of two classes in the nation with four top-20 domestic recruits, NC State brought in a really varied group that covers pretty much every discipline.

Their best pickup is a distance man, #6 overall recruit Ross DantBear in mind how much our recruit ranks devalue distance swimmers (for lack of relay impact) and you’ll get an idea just how good a distance swimmer needs to be to rank that high. Dant comes in with a mile time (14:46.2) that would have scored at NCAAs last year, and he complements it with a great 400 IM (3:46.5) and a very good 500 (4:18.7). Joining a program that trained NCAA mile champ Anton Ipsen, Dant should be a perfect fit. He’s also one of the top in-state prospect as NC State locks down its recruiting borders.

The meat of the class is in butterfly. Fellow North Carolina high schooler Noah Henderson (46.5/1:45.5) is one of the best sprint flyers in the entire class, and also brings 19.9/44.1 free speed to the relays. Virginia import Noah Bowers (1:44.0/47.6) brings a little more range in the butterfly, and is maybe more notable for a 1:45.5 200 IM. It’s kind of a back and forth between Holloway and former assistant Todd Desorbo, with Desorbo stealing one of North Carolina’s top swimmers in Jack Walker, but Holloway hitting back with Bowers, one of Virginia’s top talents. Bowers is also wickedly versatile: 20.0/43.8/1:35.4 in the relay-distance freestyles.

(The butterflys will get even stronger in 2021 with transfer Erge Gezmis, but the former Florida Gator will redshirt in the Olympic year).

Kimani Gregory is a nice transition from the butterflyers into the freerstylers. Gregory was one of the top swimmers outside our top 20 recruits. He’s a 47.9 butterflyer, but maybe more valuable as a 20.0/43.7 sprint freestyler. Joining him in the sprint frees is Kentucky high schooler Hunter Tappone of the top speedsters in the class at 19.9/43.1, but with solid range up to a 1:36.1 in the 200 free.

For a program built on relay power, this recruiting class is extraordinary. They could put together an all-freshman 200 free relay with all 20.0s or better out of high school: Tapp (19.9), Henderson (19.9), Bowers (20.0) and Gregory (20.0). They’ve got the best 100 freestyler in the class in Tapp, plus two more guys in the 43s and another at 44.1. In the 200, they’ve got a 1:35, two 1:36s and two more 1:37s.

This is a big class, too. Markus Wennborg out of North Carolina is a 54.7/2:00 breaststroker, and that’s an area of need for the Wolfpack, which has had elite talents at pretty much every stroke besides breaststroke over the past few years. The backstrokes are more developmental: twin 47.8s Thomas Hamlet and Kevin Childsplus the more 200-oriented Owen Hanna (1:45.6) and Zachary Cram (1:46.2).

Garret Waite is a versatile IM type (1:49/3:56 in the IMs), and NC State also brought in two divers in a bid to compete with programs like Texas and Indiana, who tend to rake in the diving points every NCAAs.

Fast riser to watch: Really all of the backstrokers are dropping time in a hurry (and the program that produced Coleman Stewart and Justin Ress is probably apt to continue those improvements). Hanna might be the most exciting, dropping 2.3 seconds in his 200 back as a senior, but Cram also dropped more than two seconds in both his 100 and 200 backs during his senior year.

#1: Texas Longhorns

Top-tier additions: #2 Jake Foster (OH – IM/breast), #4 Caspar Corbeau (OR – breast/free), #9 Peter Larson (MN – back/free), #10 Ethan Harder (MT – back/fly), Maxime Rooney (Florida transfer – fly/free), Chris Staka (Alabama transfer – back/fly/free), Alvin Jiang (UNC transfer – fly/back/free), Paul Degrado (FL – breast), Cole Crane (FL – fly/free)
The rest: 

So Virginia has three top-20 recruits. NC State pulls in four. Texas counters with four recruits inside the top 10, plus no less than three high-impact transfers.

Jake Foster is arguably the best recruit in the class – we had him ranked #1 during their junior seasons, but moved him narrowly behind Brendan Burns in our senior re-rank. Foster is a rare IM talent with an NCAA scoring time (3:42.28 in the 400) out of high school. He’s also 1:43.9 in the 200 IM, 52.92 in the 100 breast and 1:54.27 in the 200 breast. Foster maybe projects best as a breaststroker who could cross over occasionally into IM – his younger brother Carson will be a Texas Longhorn next year, and is an even better IMer, so it might make sense for Jake to carve out his own niche in the breaststrokes.

Breaststroke has been a glaring weakness for Texas the past few years, and they addressed that hard in recruiting – first with last year’s standout freshman Charlie Scheinfeld, and now with two of the top three breaststrokers in this year’s class. Caspar Corbeau represents the Netherlands internationally, but grew up in Oregon. He’s a 52.9/1:54.5 breaststroker with rare sprint free speed. That’s a trend with this class – breaststrokers who also have free relay value. Corbeau is 19.8 in the 50, 43.2 in the 100 and 1:35.8 in the 200. That’s probably not going to make Texas’s stacked relays as a freshman, but he could be a pinch-hitter type to fill in a vacant leg on one of those relays down the road.

Texas doubled up on a recent weakness (breaststroke) as well as a recent strength: backstroke. Peter Larson and Ethan Harder are among the better backstrokers in the class. Larson is a slightly better 200 swimmer (1:41.6 and 47.8) and Harder a slightly better 100 swimmer (47.4 and 1:41.9), but both are excellent two-distance guys. Larson also adds outstanding sprint free talent (1:35.3/43.4/19.9) to the relay pool, while Harder is more of a fly/IM type (1:43.5 in the 200 fly; 1:46.5 in the 200 IM).

In typical Texas fashion, the Longhorns pad out their class with some key transfers. Maxime Rooney leaves Florida with just one year of eligibility remaining. He was the top prospect in his recruiting class, and brings in NCAA A final-level times in the butterflys (44.9/1:40.8) and freestyles (1:32.1/41.7). He’s a massive boost to the relays, including a 19.4 in the 50 free. That’s a key addition for a Texas team that graduated nearly half (9 of 20) of its 2019 NCAA relay legs, including standouts Tate Jackson, Townley Haas and John Shebat.

More transfers: former Alabama sprinter Chris Stakawho is a 46.1 backstroker, a 46.5 flyer and a 19.7 freestyler. He doesn’t have as much yardage range, but is the type of versatile sprinter who is so valuable in the NCAA format. Former UNC Tar Heel Alvin Jiang is much the same, a 46.3 backstroker and 46.2 flyer with a 19.9 50 free. For a team that lost the flyer and freestyler from both its medleys, more fly/back options will help ease the transition and allow lineup flexibility.

A couple of Florida prospects pad out the developmental depth. Paul Degrado is a 54.0/1:57.3 breaststroker who helps build that group into a potential powerhouse. Cole Crane chips in 47.2 fly speed and 20.3/44.9 sprint freestyles.

Fast riser to watch: Larson, who put a premium on his freestyles during his senior year and went from an unranked recruit to a top-10 one. Larson dropped about a second in his 200 free, almost a second and a half in his 100 free and about a half-second in his 50 as a senior. He also managed to take almost two full seconds off his 200 back in that time.

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3 years ago

NC State will win a National title

2 Cents
Reply to  Swimmer
3 years ago

…In Rifle?

Reply to  2 Cents
3 years ago

That too. The rifle team is actually very good.

3 years ago

Didn’t include Gezmis in the Wolfpack additions!

Reply to  Jared Anderson
3 years ago

This comment didn’t age well based on your article a couple hours later. They were the facts at the time though and just makes the red scourge even tougher with Gezmis needed to stay in the US. Still wouldn’t put them above the Horns.

X Glide
3 years ago

Just to think that NC State’s bringing in Aleksander Norgaard next year on top of Ross Dant…..Oh for those who are unfamiliar he goes 14:47 in the mile.

Oh yeah I forgot to mention that that’s in LCM.

Reply to  X Glide
3 years ago

fittingly, he has alot of fours there…

Reply to  Really
3 years ago

NC State is Arsenal?

3 years ago

I love how they talk about how NC State coached Anton Ipsen to an NCAA champion but fail to mention that the coach that got him there is gone…

Reply to  daddy
3 years ago

Yes but they filled the hole with a coach who is as good, if not better

Reply to  daddy
3 years ago

Look at the success of nc distance last year

Reply to  daddy
3 years ago

that is marketing baby.

(G)olden Bear
3 years ago

Texas getting ready for another four-peat.

Bay City Tex
Reply to  (G)olden Bear
3 years ago

Cal still the team to beat. So much depth!

3 years ago

Texas is so good with 9.9 scholarships…almost impossible.

Reply to  volmenusa
3 years ago

The struggle is real. I know elite swimmers who “passed” on their top choice of Texas because they were out of scholarship money. And you’d be shocked at how many top swimmers in the country are NOT getting a full scholarship. Some athletes go where they can get the most money… some go where they want…regardless of the money they were offered. For Texas, it’s not magic dust. It’s Eddie Reese and a very special team culture.

Reply to  Swimfan
3 years ago

All top schools are like this!

Reply to  volmenusa
3 years ago

there are other scholarships available for all the students swimmers included…. 9,9 is not set in stone scholarshipwise

3 years ago

My biggest concern about Cal class is Hugo. He was at Cal this whole year and did nothing at Worlds…most of you probably didn’t even know he went?!?

3 years ago

Bar is set pretty high for the new Stanford coach.

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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