As NCAA recruiting continues to evolve, so does our coverage. High schoolers are committing earlier, which last year caused us to move up our annual recruit rankings by a month. This year, we moved up another month, then jumped a year into the future to rank the Class of 2020 a full 14 months before we traditionally would.
But to compensate, we’re adding yet another layer – class re-ranks, looking at how the landscape of the recruiting class has changed as the swimmers wrap up their high school careers and head to the college realm.
As usual, our traditional recruiting methodology applies. In lieu of reposting it here, we’ll let you check it out in our original rankings for this class, which you can see below:
Do remember that the 2017 version of me doesn’t own a working crystal ball, and that going back to a year-old story to start arguments or leave gloating comments isn’t a great use of time and isn’t appreciated by 2017 me (or 2018 me for that matter).
- Incredible breaststroke class has only gotten better
- Dominant 200 frees abound
- No standout fly/back swimmers, but depth has developed
- Elite distance potential
Last time around, we noted that this class of breaststrokers is probably the best since the Seliskar/Vissering class of 2015. One year later, this group is blowing even that class out of the water. We’ve got three guys coming in with breaststroke times that would have made the NCAA’s A final a year ago, including the best breaststroke prospect we’ve ever ranked. In fact, we’re leaving guys off our list who would be the top breaststroker in almost any of the surrounding years’ classes.
Outside of breaststrokers, this class is loaded with 200 free monsters. We count at least 8 guys under 1:36, at least five under 1:34 and three who are 1:33.0 or better. A lot of those guys swim up into the 500 free range as well, but quite a few of them are stroke specialists who happen to also have big-time 200 frees. Keep an eye on the NCAA 800 free relay, because that event is set to get a whole lot faster across the board in the coming years.
On the flip side, there aren’t really any standout flyers or backstrokers, at least not to the level of the Hoffer/Murphy/Katz/Taylor Class of 2017. We noted last spring that the class was deep with fly talent, though, and that remains the case. What was previously a pretty thin backstroke class has also developed, so those events will have some diamond-in-the-rough opportunities.
Not counting the 200/500 types, this class only has two true distance swimmers ranked, but they’re potential generational talents. Beyond that, there are three more just off our list who could probably make an argument for a top 20 ranking, if the NCAA had relay point opportunities for milers.
|Top Times in the Class of 2018|
|50 Free||Drew Kibler||19.38|
|100 Free||Daniel Krueger||42.50|
|200 Free||Drew Kibler||1:32.66|
|500 Free||Patrick Callan||4:13.78|
|1000 Free**||Robert Finke||8:45.50|
|1650 Free||Michael Brinegar||14:35.35|
|100 Back||Noah Henry||46.82|
|200 Back||Drew Kibler||1:42.34|
|100 Breast||Reece Whitley||51.16|
|200 Breast||Reece Whitley||1:51.43|
|100 Fly||Cody Bybee||46.50|
|200 Fly||Andrew Koustik||1:43.69|
|200 IM||Reece Whitley||1:43.55|
|400 IM||Kieran Smith||3:43.20|
**The 1000 free isn’t an NCAA event at the Division I level, but is swum at Division I dual meets and at the Division II level.
Disclaimer: there are a lot of high school seniors in the country, and no really good, complete, 100% accurate listing of them all. If you don’t see your favorite swimmer on the list, feel free to politely point them out in the comments. There’s a chance that we disagree with your assessment of their spot in the top 20, and so long as it’s done civilly, there’s no problem with differences of opinions. There’s also a chance that we’ve simply missed a no-brainer (we’ve taken every precaution to avoid that), and if that happens, we want to make sure we correct it.
TOP 10 SWIMMERS FROM THE CLASS OF 2018
1. Reece Whitley (Previous Rank: #1) – Penn Charter Aquatic Club – William Penn Charter School – Lafayette Hill, PA **Verbally committed to Cal**
Best Times: 200 breast – 1:51.43, 100 breast – 51.16, 200 IM – 1:43.55, 400 IM – 3:44.71, 200 free – 1:36.99, 100 free – 44.58, 50 free – 20.61, 100 fly – 48.23, 200 fly – 1:46.42
Whitley has a chance to be a historically-good breaststroker at the NCAA level and beyond. Even since last spring, he’s cut almost a full second from an already-unbelievable 200 breast. He would have tied for 2nd in the 100 and placed 3rd in the 200 at this year’s NCAA Championships. If that weren’t enough, Whitley adds the best 200 IM in the class and a 400 IM that would make him a top-20 recruit in this class even if he didn’t swim breaststroke. We partially justified ranking him #1 last spring on the strong possibility that his 6-foot-8 frame would make him a likely free relay factor, and that’s already bearing out in results. Since last spring, Whitley has dropped his 50 free from 21.3 to 20.6, his 100 from 45.1 to 44.5 and his 200 free from 1:38.5 to 1:36.9.
2. Drew Kibler (Previous Rank: #2) – Carmel Swim Club – Carmel High School – Carmel, IN **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best Times: 200 free – 1:32.66, 500 free – 4:14.42, 100 free – 42.90, 50 free – 19.38, 200 back – 1:42.34, 100 back – 47.06, 100 fly – 46.81
Kibler is a great prospect, too, and continues to rise in his own right. He’s got a 200 free that would have made the A final at 2018 NCAAs, and would have had a shot to elevate almost any 800 free relay in the country. Kibler also has an NCAA scoring time in the 500 free, though he’s maybe more valuable down into the 50 and 100, where he’s right near the top of the class. Kibler has value on any and all of the five relays, and his big improvements have come in the back and fly – in our original ranks, he was a 48.5/1:45.9 backstroker and a 48.8 flyer. Now he’s 47.0/1:42.3 and 46.8, in striking distance of best-in-class in all three.
3. Alexei Sancov (Previous Rank: #3) – Terrapins Swim Team – Northgate High School – Walnut Creek, CA **Verbally committed to USC**
Best Times: 200 free – 1:32.80, 500 free – 4:14.25 100 free – 42.68, 50 free – 20.27, 100 fly – 47.32, 200 fly – 1:44.51, 200 IM – 1:45.85
Part of what drives down Kibler’s value is that Sancov has caught him through the mid-range freestyles. Sancov, too, has an NCAA A final time in the 200 and a scoring time in the 500. Sancov also brings great two-distance butterfly speed and one of the better 200 IMs in the class. Sancov’s wild card is that he’s arguably better in long course meters (49.0/1:47.0 freestyles in particular), which could mean he’s still got room to drop those short course bests even further. He’s already had a great senior year, cutting five seconds in the 500, 1.2 in the 200 and seven tenths in the 100.
4. Max McHugh (Previous Rank: #5) – Door County YMCA – Sevastapol High School – Sturgeon Bay, WI **Verbally committed to Minnesota**
Best Times: 100 breast – 51.59, 200 breast – 1:53.59, 50 free – 20.24, 100 free – 45.49
McHugh is the next of the elite breaststrokers in the class, and he moves up from last year’s ranks thanks to almost a full-second drop into A final territory in his 100 and a nearly-two-second drop in his 200. He’s built a lot like Whitley – minimum six-foot-four with long limbs – and has actually been dropping faster over the past four years. McHugh doesn’t yet have the versatility of Whitley, but a 20.2 50 free is a solid tertiary event, and makes him a potential free relay factor down the road.
5. Daniel Krueger (Previous Rank: #10) – McFarland Spartan Sharks – McFarland High School – Deerfield, WI **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best Times: 100 free – 42.50, 50 free – 19.48, 200 free – 1:35.58, 200 IM – 1:47.34
In the midst of the Kibler/Sancov battle for freestyle supremacy, our second Wisconsin prospect slid in and stole the class’s best 100 free. Krueger has dropped almost a full second there and about a half-second in his 50 since ranking 10th in our first edition. Krueger had a huge drop in his 200 free right before last year’s rankings, but went a tenth slower this year. He’s got outstanding relay value
6. Trey Freeman (Previous Rank: #9) – Baylor Swim Club – Baylor School – Chattanooga, TN **Verbally committed to Florida**
Best Times: 200 free – 1:33.06, 500 free – 4:15.06, 800 free – 8:56.30, 1650 free – 14:59.33, 100 free – 43.87, 50 free – 20.12, 100 fly – 48.64, 200 back – 1:46.83, 400 IM – 3:53.12
Freeman is a rangy freestyle prospect and another elite-tier 200/500 talent. Already in scoring range in the 200 free (and therefore 800 free relay), Freeman isn’t far off in the 500, and can swim equally well up to the mile and down to the 100. He developed better in the sprints this past year with big 100/200 drops, while his mile added slightly. Huge relay value and huge individual value, even in a class loaded in his best events.
7. Cody Bybee (Previous Rank: #4) – Dayton Raiders – Bellbrook High School – Dayton, OH **Verbally committed to Arizona State**
Best Times: 100 fly – 46.50, 200 fly – 1:45.21, 200 free – 1:34.02, 100 free – 43.75, 50 free – 20.19, 500 free – 4:20.16, 100 back – 48.28
You know it’s a class-wide phenomenon when even the class’s best flyer has a standout 200 free. Bybee moves down more than he should only because so many others exploded into NCAA scoring time range over the pat year. Bybee had a solid senior season, highlighted by a 2.5-second drop in his 200 fly. His other events were moderate improvements: four tenths in the 100 fly, a half-second in the 200 free, three hundredths in the 100 free. Potentially a five-relay guy down the road, and perhaps a relay factor even as a rookie.
8. Patrick Callan (Previous Rank: #6) – Trident Aquatics Club – Bishop Kelley High School – Owasso, OK **Verbally committed to Michigan**
Best Times: 500 free – 4:13.78, 200 free – 1:33.52, 100 free – 43.90, 50 free – 20.61, 100 fly – 48.29
Still the class’s best 500 freestyler, Callan is yet another potential superstar in the 200/500 from this class. His stellar 200 and solid 100 make him a multi-relay prospect, and his best events cooperate well in the NCAA Championships lineup. In long course last summer, Callan cut down to 1:47.33 in the 200 free, making him one of the best 200 freestylers of any age in the nation. Like Bybee, he moves down, not because of any drop in potential, but because his senior season drops were moderate (half-second in the 200, nine tenths in the 500) rather than explosive.
9. Jack LeVant (Previous Rank: #11) – North Texas Nadadores – Carroll High School – Southlake, TX **Verbally committed to Stanford**
Best Times: 200 free – 1:33.57, 500 free – 4:14.40, 100 free – 43.98, 50 free – 20.19, 400 IM – 3:45.75, 200 IM – 1:48.39, 200 back – 1:45.06, 100 back – 48.89, 100 fly – 47.64, 200 fly – 1:44.51
Last spring, we noted the difficulty of ranking the jack-of-all-trades LeVant, who at the time projected best as a fly/back type. His senior improvements have largely come in freestyle, though, and he’s now joined the glut of talented 200/500 types at the top of the recruiting pool. Intriguingly, he’s the third-best 400 IMer in the class, though that doesn’t match well with his 200 free in the NCAA event schedule. LeVant is going to be an excellent college swimmer, we just don’t know yet in what events.
10. Daniel Roy (Previous Rank: #14) – King Aquatic Club – Gonzaga Prep – Spokane, WA **Verbally committed to Stanford**
Best Times: 200 breast – 1:51.69, 100 breast – 53.42, 200 IM – 1:47.83, 400 IM – 3:49.98
A bit of a forgotten man behind Whitley, Roy ranks 10th in the class despite holding a 200 breast time that would have finished 3rd at NCAAs this year. Roy is improving extremely fast. When we ranked him last year, he was 1:54.4 in the 200 and 54.1 in the 100. He’s also cut about a second in both IMs and now has a very respectable three-event NCAA lineup. Just recently, Roy made a huge long course surge, going 2:09.7 in the 200 meter breast to challenge some of the best collegiate and professional swimmers in the nation.
11. Kieran Smith (Previous Rank: #8) – Ridgefield Aquatic Club– Ridgefield High School – Ridgefield, CT **Verbally committed to Florida**
Best Times: 400 IM – 3:43.20, 200 IM – 1:44.08, 200 back – 1:42.70, 200 free – 1:34.89, 500 free – 4:16.96, 1000 free – 9:07.03, 1650 free – 15:04.79, 100 back – 48.16
Discounting Whitley (who probably won’t swim both IMs much), Smith is the class’s best IMer by a wide margin. The IMs have gotten so absurdly fast at the NCAA level (did you know it took 1:42.9/3:41.7 to score last year?) that no high school prospect looks like an instant-impact guy, but college-level training seems to have huge impacts on IM capability, too. Smith supplements with a 200 back that is one of the best-in-class, and he’s got a ton of endurance, as evidenced by his awesome 200 through mile. Also a very good long course swimmer and a steady improver since last spring.
12. Robert Finke (Previous Rank: #7) – Saint Petersburg Aquatics – Countryside High School – Clearwater, FL **Verbally committed to Florida**
Best Times: 1650 free – 14:37.49, 1000 free – 8:45.50, 500 free – 4:17.79, 200 free – 1:36.85, 400 IM – 3:44.04, 200 IM – 1:47.41, 200 back – 1:44.68, 200 fly – 1:46.48
The first of our stellar milers, Finke’s time would have placed him 5th at NCAAs last year. He’s got an elite 1000 and a good 500 with eventual scoring potential. And in the right program, he could also contend for an 800 free relay spot down the road. The bonus is his 3.6-second improvement in the 400 IM, which may make the best tertiary event for him over the 200 free. He’s also outstanding in long course, where he’s a Junior Pan Pacs champ and a senior World Championships team member.
13. Michael Brinegar (Previous Rank: N/A) – Mission Viejo Nadadores – Columbus North High School, Tesoro High School – Mission Viejo, CA **Verbally committed to Indiana**
Best Times: 1650 free – 14:35.35, 1000 free – 8:47.53, 500 free – 4:19.30, 200 free – 1:38.96
Brinegar actually has a better mile than Finke – one that would have placed 4th at NCAAs. But he’s not quite as good down through the 500 and doesn’t have the IM/stroke versatility of Finke. On the other hand, Brinegar has momentum. He dropped more than 18 seconds in his mile since our first ranks, and 9 from his 1000. On the other hand, his 500 didn’t drop much. Brinegar is also improving rapidly in long course.
14. Matthew Willenbring (Previous Rank: #16) – Austin Swim Club – Westlake High School – Austin, TX **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best Times: 200 IM – 1:44.14, 200 free – 1:35.26, 100 free – 43.22, 50 free – 19.93, 500 free – 4:21.71
Willenbring made a massive improvement to his 200 IM (dropping from 1:47.00) since our first ranks, and his 50 and 100 free have also improved, despite not being able to compete for four months this winter as he served a suspension for a failed doping test at Junior Worlds. (FINA’s doping panel eventually said Willenbring’s failed test was an accident on his part and not an intentional use of banned substances).
15. Noah Henry (Previous Rank: #13) – Tigershark Swim Team – Belton High School – Belton, TX **Verbally committed to Arizona State**
Best Times: 100 back – 46.82, 200 back – 1:44.81, 100 fly – 46.80, 200 free – 1:34.96, 100 free – 44.87
Henry is the top backstroker in the class, and among the top sprint flyers, too. He dropped a few tenths in his 100 back since our original ranks, but also cut 1.3 in the 100 fly to surge toward the top of the class. His 200 back went backwards, a bit, but he also developed from a 1:37.9 to a 1:34.9 in the 200 free because it’s apparently a rule for everyone in this class to be good at 200 free. Henry is a ways out of scoring range yet, but a double-46 swimmer out of high school is still a high-level talent.
16. Jason Park (Previous Rank: #17) – Metroplex Aquatics – Allen High School – Allen, TX **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best Times: 100 back – 47.09, 200 back – 1:43.17, 100 fly – 46.99, 200 IM – 1:48.96, 100 free – 44.20, 50 free – 20.19, 200 free – 1:37.57
Park has made massive strides since our last rankings, putting himself into contention with Henry for the best fly/back specialist in the field. Park is just a tick slower in the 100s of both, but quite a bit faster in the 200 back, plus brings solid 50/100 free potential to the table. Since our first ranks, Park has cut 2.6 seconds in his 200 back and 2.3 seconds in his 100 fly. The 200 back is especially exciting. He only trails three others in his class in that event, one of them being Kibler who may not swim the event regularly.
17. Danny Kovac (Previous Rank: N/A) – Fort Collins Area Swim Team – Fossil Ridge High School – Fort Collins, CO **Verbally committed to Missouri**
Best Times: 100 fly – 46.65, 200 IM – 1:46.27, 100 free – 43.86, 50 free – 20.24, 200 free – 1:36.98
Kovac is a late addition to our top 20 after a monster Colorado high school state meet just a couple weeks ago. Kovac – who was 48.1 in fly and 1:48.8 in IM and didn’t make our list last spring – cut down to 46.6 and 1:46.2 at Colorado’s state meet, and split 43.0 on the end of a 400 free relay. That leaves him knocking on the door of the class’s best 100 fly with at least three-relay (200 medley, 400 medley, 400 free) potential coming in the door.
18. Khalil Fonder (Previous Rank: N/A) – Virginia Gators – William Byrd High School – Vinton, VA **Verbally committed to Arizona State**
Best Times: 100 fly – 46.91, 100 back – 47.47, 200 back – 1:45.88, 100 free – 44.06, 200 free – 1:37.62, 50 free – 20.34
Yet another 46-second butterfly late in our list. Fonder has really come on during his senior year, slicing about a second and a half in both of his backstrokes and seven tenths in his 100 fly. His sprint free times give him some added relay value, including a 200 free that has dropped almost two seconds since last spring.
19. Andrew Abruzzo (Previous Rank: N/A) – Plymouth Whitemarsh Aquatics – Germantown Academy – Plymouth Meeting, PA **Verbally committed to Georgia**
Best Times: 1650 free – 15:06.67, 1000 free – 8:56.26, 500 free – 4:21.81, 200 back – 1:45.51, 200 fly – 1:46.03, 100 fly – 48.59, 400 IM – 3:51.30, 200 IM – 1:48.56
Both rankings, it’s been so tough to find a spot for Abruzzo in the top 20, and tougher to find a spot that feels accurate to his career thus far. At this point, he just doesn’t have the short course production – but that’s by design. He’s focused on (and had far more success in) long course, and that’s made him a much bigger name than a lot of others who are more highly-ranked. 3:49/7:54/15:06 are especially eye-popping times in meters, and all three won World Junior titles last summer. Ultimately, he gets shorted on value without a great relay swim, but Abruzzo could put up a lot of points in a lot of different events if his short course catches up to his long course in the near future. He’s chosen the right school, Georgia, for the races he’s good at – and that makes him a potential future Olympian, even from deep in the top 20.
20. Mason Gonzalez (Previous Rank: N/A) – Allegheny North Swim Club – North Allegheny Senior High School – Allison Park, PA **Verbally committed to Stanford**
Best Times: 50 free – 19.99, 100 free – 43.03, 200 free – 1:36.48, 100 fly – 48.49
It’s hard to pass up a 19-second sprinter, especially when his 43.0 in the 100 is one of the best in the entire class. Over his senior year, Gonzalez has improved his 200 a lot (1.5 seconds), his 100 a little (0.6 seconds) and event though he didn’t break his 50 time, he did match it with a second 19.99. He’s come up with some big-time relay splits in that time, too, including a 19.3 on the end of a national high school record-setting relay.
Paring the list down to 20 always feels like pulling teeth. This isn’t an exhaustive list of others we considered, but the top few left off the list who made the decisions on 18-20 very difficult.
Shaine Casas (Previous Rank: N/A) – Nitro Swimming – McAllen High School – McAllen, TX **Verbally committed to Texas A&M**
Best Times: 100 back – 47.12, 100 fly – 47.31, 200 IM – 1:47.59, 50 free – 20.16, 200 free – 44.36
Casas has made marginal improvements in his butterfly from last year, but it’s his backstroke (48.4 to 47.1) that now puts him on the map. His 200 IM is intriguing, too, but he hasn’t swum it in short course yards since early 2017 based on USA Swimming’s database. Casas has appeared to focus more on long course over the past year or so, and did lower his 100 meter back time to 55.6 earlier this year.
Koustik continues to rule the 200 fly within this class, and compared to last fall, his 100 has come around significantly. He, too, gets shorted on relay value, and he also doesn’t have a lot on paper in other events. That 500 free is a nice time, but very developmental at the NCAA level. He’s another long course warrior who’s been a bruising 1:58.1 in the 200 meter fly.
Zach Brown (Previous Rank: N/A) – Marlins of Raleigh – Athens Drive High School – Cary, NC **Verbally committed to NC State**
Best Times: 200 fly – 1:43.96, 100 fly – 47.66, 200 IM – 1:48.47, 400 IM – 3:52.55
We usually don’t include this many honorable mentions, but in this case, we do only because so many of them are so similar in production. Compare Brown to Koustik in the butterflys, and the two are almost identical in time. Brown has made massive leaps since last year, when he wasn’t even in discussion for a top 20 rank. He was 48.2/1:46.1 at the time. Currently a very fast riser in long course, too, after going 54.3/1:59.0 last summer in butterfly.
Jack Dahlgren (Previous Rank: N/A) – Aquajets Swim Team – Chanhassen High School – Victoria, MN **Verbally committed to Missouri**
Best Times: 200 back – 1:42.54, 100 back – 47.52, 200 free – 1:35.39, 100 free – 44.92
Dahlgren has one big standout event – his 200 back that is pushing for the top time in the class. His 100 back is solid, as are his mid-sprint freestyle times. He’s another fast riser – a year ago, he was 48.2/1:45.8 in the backstrokes and 1:38 in the 200 free. Keep an eye on the 500 as a day 1 NCAA event. Dahlgren dropped about ten seconds in that event over the last year and sits at 4:22 with room to improve.
Only three eye-catching events, but when it’s those three, specifically, they can amount to three individuals and four relays. Davis is one of the better pure sprinters in the class, and made marginal improvements across the board in all three of his top events since last ranking.
Jack Franzman (Previous Rank: N/A) – Zionsville Swim Club – Zionsville Community High School – Zionsville, IN **Verbally committed to Indiana**
Best Times: 50 free – 19.74, 100 free – 43.44, 200 free – 1:37.58
Franzman is very comparable to Davis – slightly better in the sprint freestyles, but without the butterfly. His 200 free has potential to make up for it, though, especially after dropping from 1:41.7 as of our original rankings to 1:37.5.