Ranking The 2021 Men’s NCAA Recruiting Classes: #9-12

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We continue our 2021 recruiting series with a team-by-team look at the best recruiting classes entering the NCAA next season. The classes below are projected freshmen for the 2021-2022 season.

A few important notes on our rankings:

  • The rankings listed are based on our Class of 2021 Re-Rank from just last month. “HM” refers to our honorable mentions.
  • Like most of our rankings, these placements are subjective. We base our team ranks on a number of factors: prospects’ incoming times are by far the main factor, but we also consider potential upside in the class, class size, relay impact and team needs filled. Greater weight is placed on known success in short course yards, so foreign swimmers are slightly devalued based on the difficulty in converting long course times to short course production.
  • Transfers are included.
  • For the full list of all verbally 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.
  • Several swimmers that would’ve been freshman last season deferred enrollment for one year in order to focus on the postponed Olympic Games. There were also teams that didn’t compete last year, such as those from the Ivy League and Arizona State, so last season’s would-be first-years are now redshirt freshmen in 2021-22. Due to the fact that these swimmers were included in our 2020 recruiting class rankings, they have been left out of these rankings.
  • Some teams had not released a finalized 2021-22 team roster at the time these articles were published, meaning it’s possible we missed some names. Let us know in the comments below.

Previously ranked:

  • #16: Florida Gators
  • #15: Texas A&M Aggies
  • #14: Ohio State Buckeyes
  • #13: Louisville Cardinals

#12: Georgia Bulldogs

It’s a freestyle-heavy class for the Georgia Bulldogs this season, with a trio of 1:36 200 freestylers set to enter the fray and two more with potential to be there this season:

Mitchell Norton, one of many in-state products in this class, leads the pack with competitive free times of 20.3/43.8/1:36.1, plus a 48.3/1:47.1 backstroke combo and an additional 49.2 100 fly.

While Norton leads that deep group of 200 swimmers, none of Georgia’s 800 free relay members from last season have departed (Luca Urlando, Jake Magahey, Zach Hils and Bradley Dunham), leaving the likes of Norton and others time to continue their development early on without the pressure of being relied upon too heavily.

With that being said, Norton and Reese Branzell also have sub-44 100 frees in their repertoire, and there should be an opening on the 400 free relay.

Branzell’s 43.6 100 free is complimented by a 20.1 50 and a 49.4 100 fly, making the Manalapan, Florida native a very strong sprinting prospect.

On the sprint side, the Bulldogs also pick up local standout Peter Sacca, a member of multiple National Age Group Record-setting relays with the Spartan Aquatic Club, who is extremely versatile with bests of 47.3 in the 100 fly, 20.1 in the 50 free and 49.4 in the 100 back. The 100 fly in particular is huge for the Dawgs, given Camden Murphy’s graduation last season, and his sprint free abilities and relay experience will surely come in handy.

Zach Koum and Henré Louw present a solid distance free duo, set to join reigning 500 free NCAA champ Magahey for some tough sets. Koum’s got a strong 4:23 500 time to back up his 1:36-mid 200, and his 3:54 400 IM and 1:48 200 fly show he can be an option to move around and race other events when needed.

Louw, a South African native, has long course bests of 3:56.8/8:14/15:49 in the 400, 800 and 1500 free, converting to 4:25/9:14/15:30. Also an experienced open water swimmer, Louw will join countryman Neil Versfeld, a UGA alum and associate head coach since 2019, in Athens.

The class also includes breastroker Arie Voloschin, who has instant SEC scoring ability with bests of 53.7/1:58.8 (and he can sprint free, too), and Keegan Streett heads up the remaining swimmers that are full of solid freestyle prospects. Streett’s best event is clearly the 200 free, but his 100 isn’t far off reaching a high level.

#11: Michigan Wolverines

One international recruit, a domestic standout and a key transfer head up a relatively small yet talented class for Michigan.

The biggest get for Mike Bottom and the Wolverines has to be Gal Cohen Groumi, a 19-year-old Israeli native that has accrued a ton of international experience so far in his young career, including making his Olympic debut in Tokyo this summer.

Cohen Groumi’s best events in the long course pool are the 100 fly (51.93), 200 IM (1:59.44), 100 free (49.57) and 200 free (1:47.77), projecting him to be a very valuable collegiate swimmer both individually and on relays.

His 100 fly converts to a 45.5 in yards, right on the cusp of being an NCAA ‘A’ finalist, and the other three events are also just outside of last season’s cutline times (1:44.7 IM, 43.2/1:34.2 FR).

Cohen Groumi actually anchored Israel’s 10th-place-finishing 800 free relay at the Olympics in 1:46.41, which would project him more in the 1:32 200 free range in yards, at least with a takeover, which is huge. Michigan’s currently got a stacked group of 200 freestylers, with their entire Big Ten-winning 800 free relay returning, and with Cohen Groumi, the rich get richer. That depth should also free him up to swim the 100 fly individually instead of tackling a tough double, at least at the conference championships.

The Wolverines have also got one of our Honorable Mentions from the individual rankings in Connor Hunt, a distance freestyler that’s got a 3:50 400 IM in his repertoire.

Hunt is one of the class’s lone swimmers that’s been sub-9:00 in the 1000 free, and can put up top-16 points at the Big Ten level right away with bests of 4:23/15:09 in the 500 and 1650. He’s also been making progress in the 200 free of late, dropping three seconds down to 1:37.4 in his senior year of high school.

The big-time transfer Michigan picked up is former Auburn Tiger Nik Eberly, a 2021 SEC finalist in the 50 freestyle.

Eberly’s got drop-dead speed with a 19.38 50 free, easily an ‘A’ final in the Big Ten last season, and will be a welcome addition after the departure of Luiz Gustavo Borges.

Eberly, who is coming home as a native of Drexter, Michigan, will have up to three years of eligibility remaining, and should push to be a Big Ten ‘A’ finalist in the 100 fly (46.63 PB) as well.

The Wolverine class also gets a talented backstroke/IMer in Indiana native Cameron Luarde, a 1:46 200 backstroker and 200 IMer with a 3:50 400 IM and 55.0/1:59 breaststrokes to boot, and Brendan Fitzpatrick, a Dubai-based swimmer with 1:01-high/2:16-high long course breaststroke times that convert to 53.9/1:59.7.

#10: Stanford Cardinal

Stanford’s class is small but mighty, and it needs to be acknowledged that their ranking doesn’t factor in the addition of individual World Championship medalist Andrei Minakov, who is officially a redshirt freshman after deferring his enrollment last season.

The Cardinal class is headed up by our #13-ranked recruit Matthew Fenlon, who is arguably the best 200 fly prospect the class has to offer. Fenlon ranks second in the class as a whole behind #1 Aiden Hayes, though it seems like there’s a chance Hayes drops that event from his program in college, and Fenlon (1:42.5 yards time) is coming off a massive 1:57.4 swim in the long course pool this summer.

That 200 fly time puts Fenlon into the top-five at Pac-12s and top-16 at NCAAs right away, and also has elite best times in the 100 fly (47.26), 500 free (4:21.41), 200 IM (1:47.74) and 200 back (1:45.71). On top of that, the Badger Swim Club product has a sub-1:50 in the long course 200 free under his belt, indicating he may have more in the tank than his 1:37.3 yards best.

Hayden Zheng, who was bumped from #13 to an Honorable Mention this year, is a top-tier add on breaststroke, with lifetime bests of 53.0/1:54.9, which would’ve placed fifth and sixth at the 2021 Pac-12s, though both were set back in December 2019. Zheng is not just a pure breaststroke either with a 1:47.0 200 IM, giving him three events to key in on in college.

This year’s recruiting class as a whole has several elite swimmers entering the NCAA ranks from Israel, and Stanford’s got a good one in Ron Polonsky, who is coming off of tackling three individual events at this summer’s Olympic Games.

Polonsky’s got a very rare combination of high-end abilities across freestyle, breaststroke and IM, highlighted by his 1:58.95 long course 200 IM PB set in Tokyo. That time converts to 1:45-high in yards, less than two seconds off an NCAA invite, and he’s also gone 1:45.7/3:47.2 in the SCM 200 and 400 free, 55.9 in the LCM 100 back, 1:01.9/2:12.4 in the LCM breast events, and 4:09.6 in the SCM 400 IM.

Needless to say, he’s versatile, and his breaststrokes convert to 54.0/1:55.7, the latter of which would be fifth at last season’s Pac-12s. His potential in the 200 and 500 free, which convert to roughly 1:35.2/4:19.6, make him a potential addition to a future 800 free relay and the ability to race outside of the breast and IM events at various dual meets.

A very solid sprint free pickup is Avery Voss, who owns bests of 20.0/44.1/1:38.4, and the Cardinal have also got a pair of incoming backstrokers in Gabe Machado (48.6/1:45.2) and Hayden Kwan (47.9/1:44.4) to compliment the current corps of Shane Blinkman, Leon MacAlister and Alex Boratto.

#9: Auburn Tigers

The Tigers bring in three swimmers that ranked in the top 20 of our re-rank this year, and they’ve picked up a total of four high-end recruits from the neighboring state of Georgia. The additions give new head coach Ryan Wochomurka a nice boost entering his first campaign.

#14 Henry Bethel and #15 Jacques Rathle jumped up to those positions after being left out of the top 20 as juniors, both coming off phenomenal seasons with similar event specialites.

Bethel, the top-ranked swimmer out of the non-ranked from last year, dropped 1.5 seconds down to 1:45.54 in the 200 IM, and also hit massive best times to get down to 52.9/1:56.7 on breaststroke. All three of those put him in the vicinity of SEC ‘A’ finals (all events Auburn didn’t have any top-eight finishers in last season), and he’s also got a solid 1:37.2 200 freestyle and 1:48.5 200 back in his arsenal.

Rathle, a Thibodaux, Louisiana native, is also a high-end medley swimmer, having progressed down to 3:45.90 in the 400 as a senior, putting him within two seconds of the class’s best. He also has a 1:46.4 200 IM, plus 54.4/1:58.6 breaststrokes and 1:35.6/4:23 freestyles. Both free events in particular improved by a landslide last season, projecting him to be a valuable 800 free relay contributor in future seasons, if not right away.

The third Auburn recruit ranked in the top 20, and the only one of the three that was also featured there as a high school junior, is Spartan Aquatic Club sprinter Nate Stoffle.

Stoffle, who will be joining older brother Aidan with the Tigers, immediately becomes the team’s best 100 backstroker with his PB of 46.63, and he’s right at the top of the squad with his 1:43.51 200. Similar to his club teammate Peter Sacca, Stoffle is a clutch relay performer, including having split 19.5 on a 200 free relay, with his flat-start best sitting at 20.0.

Once a revered sprinting school, Stoffle will be relied upon to contribute right away to Auburn’s 200 free relay, with their top 50 swimmer from last season, Nik Eberly, transferring to Michigan.

But outside of the top three, the other swimmers Auburn managed to pick up are also very strong.

Grant Davis has a quality 500 free at 4:23.7, with a ton of potential to improve in the 200 (1:37.9) and 1650 (15:30) free. Mason Mathias brings a similar skill set with bests of 1:36.5/4:25/15:20 in the freestyles, and the duo will form a competitive distance training group with rising sophomores Mikkel Gadgaard and Michael Bonson.

Not to be overlooked, Andrew Simmons (48.7/1:45.1) and Fletcher Hayes (49.4/1:46.6) add to the backstroke depth of the team.

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1 year ago

Aaron Sequira also redshirted for Stanford last year I believe!

Reply to  OhioSwimmer
1 year ago

Larry moment

Mark Nedza
1 year ago

Add Mathew Sates to the mix and UGA easily has a top 10 class coming in. But, let’s be honest, it’s all about the SECs and NCAAs. Top three in the end… knock, knock, knocking on Texas’ door. Go Dawgs!

Reply to  Mark Nedza
1 year ago

Sorry. Too biased. No way they beat Texas, Cal, NCST or ASU. Georgia doesn’t have a stud breastroker. And their relays aren’t podium contenders especially since Javi and Murphy declined the 5th year.

Reply to  Ghost
1 year ago

Yeah does UGA have a breaststroker under 53 on the roster this year? I guess with Sates there in the spring you could go Urlando-BR-Sates-Downing but that 2nd leg would just take them out of any race against some of the top teams in the SEC and NCAA

Ole 99
1 year ago

How is Minakov a officially a red-shirt freshman if he deferred enrollment. Don’t you have to be on the team to get a red-shirt. NCAA gives a one year grace period/ gap year after high school graduation before the clock starts. He’s just a freshman. Should have 5 to complete 4 like anyone else unless I’m missing something.

NC Fan
Reply to  Ole 99
1 year ago

SwimSwam’s point is that the gave Stanford ‘credit’ for Minakov last year, so since he deferred they aren’t counting him again in the rankings

1 year ago

What teams are missing so far? (top 8)

1 year ago

NC State
Arizona State
Virginia Tech
Seems like an oversight for Alabama to be left off everything with Kaique Alves, Charlie Hawke, Gil Kiesler, Mateo Miceli, and some strong others in a pretty solid class. Would have thought they’d at least be HM unless they somehow show up at number 8

Last edited 1 year ago by Swimm
Reply to  Swimm
1 year ago

Interesting – probably will come down to Bama or VT for the last spot. I haven’t heard much about VT’s 2021 class but I agree, I also would’ve thought they/bama would at least be HM.

tea rex
Reply to  Swimm
1 year ago

Bama got Lio Perez too, right?

Reply to  tea rex
1 year ago

He signed there, but isn’t on their roster. We’ve reached out to see what his plans are going forward.

Reply to  Braden Keith
1 year ago

From what I’ve seen, 2 signees pulled out of Bama (Lio Perez and Braden Rollins). Looking at Braden’s Instagram, he decided to enlist in the military and skip college. Not sure on Lio. But Kaique Alves apparently committed late in the summer. Guessing that some of that freed up money let them go after him? Alves, Bondra, and Hawke should be big international newcomers for the tide this season

Reply to  Swimm
1 year ago

I think you might see USC miss out in place of Bama

The last water bender
1 year ago

Matt sates is going to mess up the NCAA’s!!

1 year ago

Spartans Aquatic Club is a speed factory! Producing lots of solid swimmers for such a young team

Reply to  Swimm
1 year ago

Well they got most of them from Swim Atlanta and Gwinnett

1 year ago

1:58 long course IM to a 1:45 short course is the most laughable conversion I’ve seen.

Reply to  50free
1 year ago

More like he’s going to go 1:41-43 somewhere in there

tea rex
Reply to  50free
1 year ago

Yeah I thought that too… hope that’s a typo?

Reply to  James Sutherland
11 months ago

Well that conversion didn’t age well. Bloke went 1:40 at conference, slated for a 1:39 at NCAA.

former swimmer
1 year ago

Matty Sates is going to be at UGA in January, that alone makes the class better

Reply to  former swimmer
1 year ago

Jacks new focus on academics seems to be paying off

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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