Ranking The 2023 Men’s NCAA Recruiting Classes: #1-4

With the NCAA season upon us, we continue our annual rankings of the incoming recruiting classes for the 2023-24 campaign.

See also:

We continue our 2023 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 2023-2024 season.

A few important notes on our rankings:

  • The rankings listed are based on our Class of 2023 Re-Rank. “HM” refers to our honorable mentions and “BOTR” refers to our Best of the Rest section for top-tier recruits.
  • 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 being 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, though weighed less than recruits who came in with four seasons of eligibility.
  • 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.
  • Some teams had not released a finalized 2023-24 team roster at the time these articles were published, meaning it’s possible we missed some names. Let us know in the comments below.

BEST NCAA SWIMMING & DIVING RECRUITING CLASSES: MEN’S CLASS OF 2023

Previously Ranked:

  • #16: Yale Bulldogs
  • #15: Virginia Tech Hokies
  • #14: Harvard Crimson
  • #13: USC Trojans
  • #12: Tennessee Volunteers
  • #11: Northwestern Wildcats
  • #10: Texas A&M Aggies
  • #9: Georgia Bulldogs
  • #8: Virginia Cavaliers
  • #7: Arizona State Sun Devils
  • #6: NC State Wolfpack
  • #5: Stanford Cardinal

#4: INDIANA HOOSIERS

Indiana has a large freshman class, and although quantity is never a bad thing when it comes to incoming recruits, that’s not the reason the Hoosiers cracked the top four.

Ahmed Hafnaoui is the best male distance freestyler in the world at present, and barring something unexpected, he immediately gives IU 40 NCAA points, which is something no other class can boast.

Hafnaoui’s stunning upset victory in the men’s 400 free at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 led to plenty of promise for his debut at Indiana last fall, but after he was ruled a partial qualifier academically, he was forced to sit out of the 2022-23 NCAA season.

The Tunisian still spent the year in Bloomington, and his training there clearly has been working based on what he did at the 2023 World Championships, winning the 800 free (7:37.00) and 1500 free (14:31.54) in two of the fastest times ever while also moving up the all-time ranks with a close runner-up finish in the 400 free (3:40.70).

If Bobby Finke was still eligible at Florida, Hafnaoui might have a race on his hands in the 1650 free at NCAAs, but for now, he’s a lock to sweep the 500 and 1650, and while it’s not clear what he can do in the 200, it’s probably a scoring event for him as well.

Hafnaoui is joined in this class by some other high-level international freshmen, most notably Singaporean Mikkel Lee, who’s coming off dropping a 47.25 (LCM) 100 free relay split at the Asian Games. From a flat start in LCM, Lee is 22.3/49.1 in the sprint free events and 23.4 in the 50 fly, making him a scoring threat individually and a valuable relay asset.

The Hoosiers also bring in Hong Kong native Benson Wong, a 1:02.3/2:15.0 LC breaststroker who has also been 1:00.3/2:10.0 in short course meters. Those long course times put him right in the mix with some of the top U.S. recruits in the class.

In terms of domestic newcomers, #17 Toby Barnett leads the way as the second-fastest swimmer in the class in the 400 IM at 3:43.28, putting him within three-tenths of the 2023 NCAA cut line. As you’d expect from a 400 IMer, Barnett is well-rounded, with a 1:46.2 200 IM likely being one of his primary focuses and either the 200 breast (1:55.8) or 200 fly (1:45.8) being his third event. He’s also strong in the 100 breast (54.2), 500 free (4:24.1) and 200 back (1:45.6).

BOTR distance freestyler Elliot Weisel is a strong 200/500 option for the team, bringing in 1:36.9/4:20.3 best times to go along with a 15:26 mile. Another intriguing distance swimmer joining the fold is Honza Zika, who is 15:24 in the 1650, though that was set back in December 2021.

Max Cahill and Dylan Smiley are near-identical in terms of butterfly times, both in the 47/1:46 range, while Cahill also brings 47.8/1:48 backstroke ability and Smiley is also 54.5 in breast, 1:47.8 in IM and 1:37.5 in free.

In-state product Lucas Byrd is another intriguing breaststroke addition at 54.1, and there are a few others in the class who bring sprint free and backstroke depth to the mix.

Two other new additions for the season are transfers Billy Cruz and Collin McKenzie, who come over from USC and NC State, respectively.

Cruz has been as fast as 19.1/43.3 in the sprint free events and 47.3 in the 100 fly, though all of those times were set during the 2019-20 season. He has one season of eligibility remaining.

McKenzie is well-rounded with bests of 47.9/1:46.7 in back, 54.9/1:57.9 in breast and 1:46.2 in the 200 IM. He has three seasons of eligibility remaining, having raced with the Wolfpack through November of last year.

#3: FLORIDA GATORS

Florida’s class is stacked with versatile sprinters and distance freestylers.

Highlighting the Gators’ class is #3 Scotty Buff, the class’ fastest 100 fly swimmer at 44.87 who is also near the top of the heap in the 100 back (45.7), 50 free (19.4) and 100 free (42.9), making him an incredibly valuable relay weapon to go along with high scoring potentially individually.

#20 Jonny Marshall is one of three sub-1:42 200 backstrokers in the class, and although his PB of 1:41.99 stems from December 2021, he’s coming off of setting an LCM best of 2:00.7 in August and he also set new bests of 20.3/44.5/1:35.9 in the free events and the 100 back (46.3) earlier this year.

Along with their two top-20 recruits, Florida also has a pair of Honorable Mention distance freestylers and four swimmers featured in the BOTR section in our 2023 re-rank.

Andrew Taylor is the #1 swimmer in the class in the 1000 free at 8:50.6, and although it’s not a scoring event in the NCAA, it indicates he should be able to drop from his current PBs of 4:19.1 and 15:08.8 in the 500 and 1650. (Though it’s worth noting the 800 free is also his best event in LC, so maybe that’s just his perfect distance.)

Josh Parent isn’t quite as fast in the 500 (4:23.5) or 1000 (8:58.8), but comes in as the #2 miler in the class at 14:56.6, putting him in a good spot as he joins the high-level distance group in Gainesville.

Bobby Dinunzio (1:38.1/4:24.1/15:06.7) and Amadeusz Knop (4:25.6/15:09.4) add to the distance free depth, both with best times that would make them the top distance recruit for most teams, and Knop is versatile across back (1:45.0), fly (1:49.7) and IM (1:48.8/3:51.6).

Flying under the radar a bit in this class is Caleb Maldari, who represented the U.S. in all three backstroke events at the 2023 World Juniors and finished as high as 6th in the 200 back after firing off a PB of 1:57.8 in June.

Maldari is 46.9/1:42.7 in the SCY back events, which should both improve based on what he’s done recently in LCM, and he’s also 1:36.5 in the 200 free, 1:47.3 in the 200 fly and 1:46.0/3:50 in the IM events.

Sean Sullivan is similarly versatile, highlighted by his medley abilities (1:45.7/3:53.5), and he’s also 20.1/44.0/1:36.2/4:28 in free, 47.3/1:44.1 in back, 56.2 in breast and 47.8 in fly. He also went 2:01.0 in the LC 200 fly this summer, so that could be a focus as well.

Evan Keogh is also 4:28 in the 500 free (and 1:46.7 in back and 1:47.7 in fly), rounding out this class that has no shortage of talent in the pool. Pennsylvanian diver Conor Gesing won the PIAA 3A state title on 1-meter last year.

#2: TEXAS LONGHORNS

The lone school to put two swimmers in our top-five domestic rankings, Texas brings in the incredibly versatile Will Modglin and Nate Germonprez who will provide a nice boost to a program that’s dealing with several key losses this season.

Modglin’s backstroking ability is simply on a different level compared to other swimmers in the class, with his 45.01 100 back time already fast enough to make the NCAA ‘A’ final, not to mention he’s coming off of breaking 54 seconds in the long course event this summer. He’s also the #2 swimmer in the class in the 200 back (1:40.5) and 200 IM (1:43.3), with the 200 back also under the 2023 scoring threshold and the 200 IM within striking distance.

Those three races will most likely make up Modglin’s individual schedule in college, but he could also end up in the 100 breast (52.9) or the sprint free events (19.5/43.2/1:35.9), though those abilities will also work towards helping the team’s relays.

Germonprez’s wide-ranging sprint abilities can be put on display by simply looking at what he can do in the 200 IM, coming in as the #1 in the class at 1:42.82, plus he broke 2:00 in long course in July. His breaststroke times (52.5/1:54.8) put him near the top of the class there, and he’s also 47.2/1:42.4 in the backstrokes and 47.2 in the 100 fly.

But like Modglin, Germonprez will surely be called upon to contribute in freestyle—maybe individually but definitely relays—where he’s 19.6/43.1 in the 50/100 and most impressively 1:33.9 in the 200.

Modglin and Germonprez may be top-tier breaststrokers, but they may end up dropping it as a focus due to the additions of Will Scholtz and Brayden Taivassalo.

Scholtz, a BOTR breaststroker, is 53.6/1:56.7 in yards and is riding a good wave of momentum after hitting LC bests of 1:01.8/2:15.8 in late July.

Canadian swim fans will remember Taivassalo coming from behind to win the 200 breast at the Canadian Trials this past spring, where he put up an LC time of 2:11.28 which converts to sub-1:54 in LCM. A smooth transition to yards could see him scoring there right away, and he’s also 1:01.1 in the 100 in LCM which puts him in the same range as the others in the class (52.9).

Camden Taylor and Logan Walker add to the Longhorns’ class as more versatile options who have the potential to make an impact, with Taylor more of a freestyler who can do it all while Walker’s best race is the 200 fly.

Taylor is 20.4/43.7/1:36.3 in free, and goes 1:48.0 in the 200 IM with sub-50 100-yard times in back and fly and 56.6 in breast. Walker is notably 4:26 in the 500, 1:44.6 in the 200 back and 1:46.5 in the 200 fly, with 1:49.7/3:53.6 IM times to boot.

#1: CAL GOLDEN BEARS

The two-time defending national champions reload with an impressive class that includes three of our top-12 domestic recruits, led by #6 Aaron Shackell.

Shackell is the class’s fastest in the 200 free at 1:32.85, putting him just outside of NCAA scoring last year (1:32.61) while slotting into Cal’s 800 free relay after they lost half of the squad that finished 3rd last year in Lucas Henveaux and Patrick Callan.

Shackell’s 4:15.3 500 free ranks #2 in the class, and his 1:44.2 200 fly will likely get knocked down fairly quickly this season given he’s been 1:55.8 in the long course pool.

#9 Keaton Jones specializes in the 200 back, where his 1:40.32 best time ranks atop the class and is fast enough to score at NCAAs right away. Jones also has similar freestyle pedigree to Shackell, only losing about a second and a half in the 200, as he’s got impressive range at 20.2/43.3/1:34.3/4:15.5/15:06.

Jones is 46.9 in the 100 back, 47.8/1:45.8 in fly and 1:45.5/3:47.5 in IM, so he’ll essentially be a Swiss Army knife for Cal in dual meet settings.

#12 Roman Jones brings a unique four-pronged skillset with elite best times across all of the 100-yard stroke events: 46.3 in fly, 46.2 in back, 53.8 in breast, and 43.1 in free. While he’s got strong abilities in all of those events, there’s obviously some potential in the 200 IM, though he hasn’t focused on it thus far (1:51.3 best time). Jones is also 19.7 in the 50 free, so he might take that on and forgo any 200 IM training (for Day 2 of championship meets), or he could go for the 100 back/100 fly double like we’ve seen so many others do on Day 3. There’s also the chance that he keys in on breaststroke given that’s probably Cal’s weakest discipline. Regardless, he’s a huge asset.

Humberto Najera is the other top-tier versatile newcomer, as he was featured as a BOTR backstroker (47.3/1:42.9) but is also strong in free (1:38.3/4:26), fly (1:46.8) and IM (1:46.0/3:47).

Bolstering the class in the sprint free events is Samuel Quarles (20.0/43.1/1:35.6), Rob Alexy (20.3/43.7/1:37.7), Andrew Hallett (20.4/44.6), and Cyprus native Nikolas Antoniou, who is 22.5/49.6 in the long course pool. Quarles is also 47.0/1:47.8 in fly and 1:46.9 in the 200 IM, and Alexy is notably the younger brother of one of Cal’s top swimmers, Jack Alexy.

French sprinter Nans Mazellier was expected to join the team this fall, owning similar LCM best times to Antoniou at 22.3/49.1 in the sprints, though he’s currently missing from the roster. We’ve reached out to Cal to see if he’ll join the team later this season, possibly for the second semester.

Also heading to Cal is diver Geoffrey Vavitsas, a Canadian junior national champion who will aim to continue the momentum started by Joshua Thai last year when he scored at NCAAs for the Bears.

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Aquajosh
7 months ago

UF also got a transfer diver from Stanford who qualified for NCs last year as a freshman. Conor Gesing is going to be really, really good. In his first meet, he won both the 1 and 3 meter decisively against MIAMI, which is a diving powerhouse.

Freddie
7 months ago

Do I count 17 newcomers for IU? SMH. Wonder how many will be around in 2-3 years.

Andrew
Reply to  Freddie
7 months ago

11-12 id say

Noah
7 months ago

Ngl Stanford was snubbed from top 4 since SwimSwam didn’t take Jonathan Tan into account before the article was published

Justin Pollard
Reply to  Noah
7 months ago

Now they get a chance to prove SwimSwam wrong! What an opportunity!

Andrew
Reply to  Justin Pollard
7 months ago

they won’t because their stacked class will do absolutely nothing similar to their rivals in freaky and hippie 3rd world country Berkeley

jp input is too short
7 months ago

I can buy that Hafnaoui is probably a lock in the mile, but I have a hard time saying Hobson and Magahey won’t at least give him a race in the 500.

SHRKB8
Reply to  jp input is too short
7 months ago

No-one is coming within 4 or 5 seconds of Hafnaoui in the 500 unless he just races to win the final 50. If Hobson and Magahey are within 4 or 5 sec of Hafnaoui over 500, what held them back from even making the US 2023 World’s team where no American made the 400 free final? (Genuine question as I am not abreast of US qualifying procedures and how healthy everyone was for that process to make the US World’s team)

Seriously, a 3.40 400free is a long way from a 3.45+ 400free.

Completely no disrespect to Hobson or Magahey as their 500 times are no joke and very elite, I just think very few in the world are capable… Read more »

JP input is too short
Reply to  SHRKB8
7 months ago

I love early season NCAA prognostication, when everyone’s favorites are going to break NCAA records by several bodylengths.

Grant Drukker
Reply to  SHRKB8
7 months ago

Perhaps maybe Hafnaoui might not be good at the turns that SCY requires swimmers to be good at? the 400LCM and 500 SCY are completely different events. Yes Hafnaoui is a much better swimmer over 4 minutes, but he might not be good at turns which could make it close.

Noah
Reply to  Grant Drukker
7 months ago

Hafnoui went 14:10 SCM, turns aren’t a problem for him.

SHRKB8
Reply to  Grant Drukker
7 months ago

Possibly correct regarding turns (only time will tell I guess) but my wild predictions based on 3.38 at SC World’s for Magahey Vs 3.40 long course for Hafnaoui at LC World’s, indicating to me that Hafnaoui will have this 500yrd race well and truely covered. Guys at this level don’t slow down from turns (they may not be as proficient as others, but they are still faster than themselves in an equivalent long course distance, if that makes sense).

grant wellington
Reply to  jp input is too short
7 months ago

hobson wont be fully rested because of the olympics. That guy really struggles to move when hes not fully rested, I see him hitting 4:08 at best

IU Swammer
7 months ago

Hafanaoui is poised to score 200 individual points in his career, which makes him alone one of the top recruiting classes in the country.

Bing chilling
Reply to  IU Swammer
7 months ago

Except he’s only for sure swimming this year. With the Olympics and pro swimming calling his name you have no idea what could happen. I have a feeling he won’t be there all 4.

IU Swammer
Reply to  Bing chilling
7 months ago

There is a very real risk he’ll go pro. But he could have done that after Tokyo or this past Worlds and he chose to stay, so maybe he’ll stay. If he’s breaking world records in Paris, I have to assume he’s going pro. Maybe he’ll stay and train at IU, though.

Wondering Willie
7 months ago

Can someone explain how SMU’s class with an NCAA finalist doesn’t even get honorable mention? Seems like the goal is to add NCAA points, many of these teams listed did not add immediate scorers.

jp input is too short
Reply to  Wondering Willie
7 months ago

Because he’s only a scorer for max one year. That kinda limits his overall value compared to most of these kids who could score for four years.

Livin4givin
Reply to  jp input is too short
7 months ago

He has 2 years right? Because of the scooter accident?

Jonny Newsom
7 months ago

Cal is absolutely stacked. Again. 🐻🐻🐻

Ervin
7 months ago

Indiana should be higher!

Grant Drukker
Reply to  Ervin
7 months ago

Indiana could be #3, possibly #2 if the rankings were only for the 2024 year, but in the long run I don’t think they will score more than the teams above them.

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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