Re-Rank: Top 20 Boys NCAA Swimming Recruits, Class of 2021

Right off the top I want to give credit where credit is due: A lot of the content in this article was possible due to the work done by Jared Anderson in previous rankings.

As the 2021-22 NCAA season draws near, it’s time to revisit our recruiting ranks of the graduating high school seniors, who will be entering their freshman year of college in the coming weeks.

As recruiting classes get closer to actual NCAA competition, we start to weigh certain factors more heavily: NCAA scoring times become more important, and we tend to value one or two standout events a bit more heavily (compared to a wide range of just decent events) than we would for a high school sophomore who has more time to develop across the board. Having already ranked this class about a year ago, we also get a clearer picture of momentum and trajectory: which recruits are continuing to drop time through their senior seasons, and which have stagnated.

You can look back on our original ranks for this class below, but do remember that those ranks are merely a snapshot in time – we didn’t have a working crystal ball then, nor do we now:

Our rankings for the high schools class of 2022 were released earlier this year, as were the Way Too Early ranks for the class of 2023. Still to come will be the re-rank of the girls’ class of 2021.

2021 Addendum: The 2020 short course season was an abbreviated one for many, meaning several swimmers competed only a few times, and maybe didn’t get a chance to fully taper for their big meet—not to mention a disruption in training—due to the coronavirus pandemic. So we’re working with partial information, though most swimmers were able to get some good racing under their belt in late 2020 and early 2021 in the short course pool before gearing up for the long course season.

But nonetheless, this still made it difficult to really get a good gauge on which swimmers were stagnant and which lacked opportunity, so bear that in mind with the rankings.


  • A class incredibly tailored to the NCAA format – multi-stroke sprinters abound
  • Very sprint-based class – 50/100 a lot stronger than 200
  • Relatively light in distance swimmers at the top
  • Great class for 200 IMers
  • Tons of fast risers, especially among breaststrokers this past season
  • Not a terribly deep fly group, though some risers there as well
  • A lot of big-time long course swimmers that shined at Trials

This class is absolutely loaded with all-around sprinting talents, led by a pair of monsters in Aiden Hayes and Anthony Grimm. David Curtiss presents the fastest 50 freestyler out of high school other than Caeleb Dressel and Ryan Hoffer, and Jack Alexy is a premier 100 freestyler who is coming off a big summer.

The versatile sprinting is this the biggest thing that jumps off the page about this class, but there are some strong performers everywhere.

Jack Aikins and Josh Matheny represent the best pure backstroke and breaststrokers in the class, and while neither stroke is particularly a standout here, several swimmers saw big improvements in their senior year.

The distance free and butterfly areas are a little bit lacking, but there are some excellent all-arounders who can do both while maintaining a strong IM base.

The 200 IM is maybe the best event of the entire class, save the 100 free, with a ton of guys moving into the 1:44-45 range this past season.

Top Times in the Class of 2021
50 Free David Curtiss 19.11
100 Free Jack Alexy 42.63
200 Free Tim Connery 1:34.77
500 Free Luke Hobson 4:16.56
1000 Free** Matt Fallon 8:56.67
1650 Free Jackson Carlile 15:08.71
100 Back Anthony Grimm 45.60
200 Back Jack Aikins 1:39.85
100 Breast Josh Matheny 51.84
200 Breast Josh Matheny 1:51.38
100 Fly Aiden Hayes 45.47
200 Fly Aiden Hayes 1:41.34
200 IM Arsenio Bustos 1:43.94
400 IM Matt Fallon 3:44.08

**The 1000 free isn’t an event at the Division I NCAA Championships, but is swum instead of the 1650 in many Division I dual meets and is part of the NCAA program in Division II.


Our goal in these rankings is to reflect what college coaches look for in recruits, based on many years of conversations and coverage.

We focus only on American-based athletes, simply because there is so much uncertainty with international recruits – if they’ll come to the United States, when they’ll come to the States and with what graduating class they should be ranked. Projecting international recruits often becomes more a discussion of when they’ll first join a college program and not which program they’ll join.

A few other factors that weigh heavily in our rankings:

  • Relay Value – Relay points count double in college swimming, and any program needs a strong stable of quality sprinters to fill out all 5 relays with stars. Obviously, a special distance swimmer can easily rank ahead of a very good 100 freestyler, but college swimming generally values a sprint freestyler over a distance swimmer, all other factors being equal.
  • Improvements – Actual times are the trump card, but any big improvements in quality can make a difference as well. For example, a swimmer who only took up year-round swimming as a junior in high school going the same time as a swimmer whose been swimming year-round since they were 8 will probably get the edge in our rankings.
  • Short Course over Long Course – while every club and every swimmer will have a different balance of focus between short course and long course swimming, the NCAA competes in short course yards, and that’s going to be the main factor considered in these rankings. Long course times are another data point for consideration, but we mainly view them through the lens of what a big long course swim could mean for an athlete’s future in short course.
  • NCAA scoring ability – NCAAs are the big show for college teams, so we’ve weighted NCAA scoring potential very highly. Swimmers who already have NCAA scoring times wind up mostly filling out the top our of rankings. Since college athletic directors – and by extension coaches – also place high value on conference championships, scoring ability at conference meets is also a factor in our rankings.
  • Relative depth in the NCAA and recruiting class – a wealth of elite depth nationwide in one stroke discipline makes a big difference in what times are considered more valuable in that event. Events rise at different rates in the NCAA, but when one event gets extremely deep and fast at the college level, it makes high school prospects in those events a little less valuable, relatively, with lots of other veteran options. In the same way, a recruiting class stacked with swimmers in butterfly, for example, would make each butterflyer a little less sought-after in the market, with lots of other recruiting options able to provide similar production.

Of course, there’s no way to predict the future, and the most concrete data we have to go on are cold, hard times. These rankings in no way mean that all of these 20 swimmers will be NCAA standouts, and they certainly don’t mean that no swimmer left off this list will make big contributions at the NCAA level.

With that out of the way, let’s get to our rankings.

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.


1. Aiden Hayes (Previous Rank: #1) – Sooner Swim Club – Norman North High School – Norman, OK **Committed to NC State**
Best Times: 100 fly – 45.47, 200 fly – 1:41.34, 50 free – 19.20, 100 back – 46.31, 100 free – 43.00

Hayes holds onto the number one ranking despite some big pushes from swimmers below him, due in large part to his rare combination of being able to step in and score at NCAAs right away individually and be a valuable relay contributor. After rocketing to the #1 spot in these rankings last year, Hayes dropped a mammoth 45.47 swim in the 100 butterfly to break Joseph Schooling’s National High School Record in February. That time would place him in the consol final at NCAAs, an event that NC State failed to score in in 2021. Hayes also showed improvement in his senior year in the sprint freestyle events, ranking him right at the top of the class, but the only knock would be his lack of racing in the 200 fly—which was a key reason why he landed the top spot in 2020. Hayes dropped a time of 1:41.34 in December 2019 in the event, a surefire top-16 NCAA time, but he hasn’t been within five seconds of it since, only racing it sparsely. With that, he may project to swim the 100 free over the 200 fly on the final day of NCAAs, which would diminish his individual value, but an increased focus on the sprints could be a huge benefit for the Wolfpack relays of the future.

2. Josh Matheny (Previous Rank: #3) – Team Pittsburgh Elite Aquatics – Upper St. Clair High School – Pittsburgh, PA **Committed to Indiana**
Best Times: 200 breast – 1:51.38, 100 breast – 51.84, 200 IM – 1:47.54, 400 IM – 3:51.99

Matheny levelled up from the early rankings to the one-year-out standings, and he did it again this past season, moving him into #2 in our official re-rank. Already an elite 200 breaststroker at 1:52.1 last year, Matheny dropped a scorching 1:51.38 in December, which broke top-ranked 2018 recruit and 2021 NCAA runner-up Reece Whitley’s 17-18 National Age Group Record of 1:51.43 (watch that swim here). That time would’ve placed Matheny fourth at the 2021 NCAA Championships, and the top three finishers are all rising seniors. In the 100 breast, Matheny dropped his best time by a considerable margin as a high school senior, going from 52.52 to 51.84 to overtake Anthony Grimm‘s #1 time in the class. As he builds strength in college, the power required to be a great 100 breaststroker should continue to develop for Matheny, and given what Indiana head coach Ray Looze has been able to do with breaststrokers both collegiately and on the international stage, including producing the fastest swimmers ever in the 100-yard breaststroke for both men and women (Ian Finnerty and Lilly King), the sky is the limit for Matheny in Bloomington. As for his third event, which is almost always the 200 IM for breaststroke specialists, Matheny dropped 1.5 seconds down to 1:47.54 as a senior.

3. Jack Aikins (Previous Rank: #5) – SwimAtlanta – West Forsyth High School – Cumming, GA **Committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 200 back – 1:39.85, 100 back – 46.05, 100 free – 43.27, 50 free – 19.68, 200 free – 1:36.10, 200 IM – 1:47.77, 100 fly – 47.64

Aikins was a huge riser from the way-too-early rankings in 2019 to last year’s official ranks, and another year of progression has vaulted him into the top three. Aikins dropped two seconds in his primary event, the 200 back, bringing his time down to 1:39.85 at the Georgia Senior SC State Champs in February. Not only would that time be in the ‘A’ final at the 2021 NCAAs, only three swimmers have ever gone faster in the 17-18 age group—two of which have won NCAA titles in the event (Ryan Murphy and Austin Katz). The soon-to-be UVA freshman also dropped more than a second in the 100 back (46.05), kept his 50 and 100 frees at a competitive level (19.6 and 43.2 in each of the last two seasons), and brought his 200 free down to 1:36.1, making him a potential option on the 800 free relay. Carrying his SCY momentum into the summer, Aikins was one of four swimmers in this class to make a final at Wave II of the Olympic Trials, placing seventh in the 200 back after swimming three consecutive 1:57s despite having never broken 2:00 prior. If this improvement curve continues, Aikins will be a big-time scorer in college.

4. Anthony Grimm (Previous Rank: #2) – Mason Makos Swim Team – Oakton High School – Fairfax, VA **Committed to Texas**
Best Times: 100 back – 45.60, 100 breast – 52.51, 50 free – 19.67, 100 fly – 46.50, 100 free – 44.00

Set to join the defending NCAA champion Texas Longhorns, Grimm brings a high-level of sprinting ability across all four strokes, buoyed by an explosive start and dynamic underwaters. While he didn’t drop time in his top-billed event, the 100 back, or the 50 free or 100 breast, Grimm slashed his 100 fly time down by almost a second in 46.50 and solidified himself as a future 400 free relay player with a 2.5-second best time of 44.00 in the 100 free. The Mason Makos swimmer has also been 20.8 in the 50 back multiple times, so we know he’s going to be a crucial leg of Texas’ 200 medley relay for years to come. The only problem with Grimm’s versatility is that the 100 back, 100 fly and 100 breast all fall on the same day at NCAAs, meaning he’ll likely either be taking on the 100 back/100 fly double or tackling the 100 free individually. Nonetheless, he’s got huge relay value, and while individual scoring level isn’t quite at Matheny or Aikins’ level for now—which is why he’s dropped two spots in the re-rank—he’ll be a Swiss Army knife for Texas and will be a big part of the program moving forward.

5. Matt Fallon (Previous Rank: #8)  Greater Somerset County YMCA Storm – The Pingry School – Warren, NJ **Committed to Penn**
Best Times: 200 breast – 1:51.39, 400 IM – 3:44.08, 200 IM – 1:45.67, 100 breast – 52.35, 200 fly – 1:45.98, 500 free – 4:21.89, 1000 free – 8:56.67, 1650 free – 15:45.96

Fallon became a well-known in American swimming at the U.S. Olympic Trials, coming from way back to win his semi-final of the 200 breaststroke and qualify first for the final. And while he ultimately would finish eighth, Fallon’s pure swimming ability was on full display there. He’s one of the best all-around, versatile competitors in the class, with the only thing keeping him out of the top-tier being his lack of relay contribution relative to the others. In April, Fallon came within .01 of Matheny’s 200 breast NAG in 1:51.39, and his 400 IM remains the best in the class at 3:44.08 (with a 2020-21 season-best of 3:44.76). The Penn commit also made major strides 200 IM, dropping two seconds for a 1:45.6 and three solid NCAA events, and his 100 breast also reached elite status in 52.35. With an endurance base behind him (oh, he also has the fastest 1000 free in the class at 8:56.6—not an NCAA event, but impressive nonetheless), Fallon probably won’t be training enough speed to be a factor on the 200 medley relay, but his 52.3 would make him a viable option on the 400. The 200 breast will obviously be his Day 4 event at NCAAs, but he can also be thrown in the 200 fly, 1650 free, or really anything, at a dual meet and be counted on to score.

6. Jack Alexy (Previous Rank: #6) Greater Somerset County YMCA Storm – The Delbarton School – Mendham, NJ **Committed to Cal**
Best Times: 100 free – 42.63, 200 free – 1:35.52, 50 free – 19.61, 500 free – 4:26.25, 100 back – 47.29, 200 back – 1:46.19

A towering 6’7″ sprinter, Alexy is the best the class has to offer in the 100 free, widely regarded as the most important event in college swimming. Alexy lowered his best time down two tenths to 42.63, joined the class’s upper echelon by going from 20.0 to 19.6 in the 50, and matched his PB this past season to the hundredth in the 200 free (1:35.52). Set to join a Cal team that has churned out high-level sprinters in recent years, including reigning NCAA champion Ryan Hoffer and 18.7/41.6 sprinter Bjorn Seeliger, Alexy will fit in perfectly on the Golden Bear relays, with his freestyle range making him a potential fit in any of the five events. His 100 back also took a big step forward over the last year, and his long, loping stroke is one that could end up producing a very high-level 200 if that’s a primary training focus. Alexy also made some major strides in long course, breaking Caeleb Dressel’s 17-18 NAG in the 100 free at the Olympic Trials in 48.69, and came within a tenth of qualifying for the final.

7. Arsenio Bustos (Previous Rank: #12) – Woodbridge Aquatic Club – Amity Regional High School – Orange, CT **Committed to NC State**
Best Times: 200 IM – 1:43.94, 100 fly – 46.51, 100 free – 43.27, 50 free – 19.96, 200 free – 1:36.31, 100 back – 47.98, 100 breast – 53.57

Bustos is one of the major risers in these rankings, jumping 10 spots in two years thanks to his incredible versatility across the sprints—similar to a Hayes or a Grimm. However, Bustos can put it all together in the 200 IM, where he’s the fastest in 1:43.94, overtaking Tim Connery‘s class-leading 1:44.05 from last season. Bustos reset his best time this season in each and every one of the events listed above. 200 IM, 100 fly and 100 free looks like a pretty clear-cut NCAA schedule at this stage, but it could really go any direction for Bustos, who could also end up racing the 100 back, 100 breast or even 200 free given his talent. NC State is going to be in good hands for years to come in the sprint relays, with Hayes and David Curtiss joining the fold, and Bustos will be able to swim wherever he’s called upon and make a meaningful contribution. Bustos also made some noise in the long course pool, going 49.03 in the 100 free at Trials to earn a second swim, and earlier in the year at the ISCA Senior Cup, he gave Caeleb Dressel a run for his money when he broke 50 for the first time in 49.25 (his smooth stroke looks like it could lend itself to a promising SCY 200 free in the video).

8. Tim Connery (Previous Rank: #4) – SwimMAC Carolina – Christ the King Catholic High School – Davidson, NC **Committed to Texas**
Best Times: 200 IM – 1:44.05, 200 free – 1:34.77, 100 fly – 46.73, 100 back – 47.24, 100 breast – 53.19, 100 free – 44.18, 50 free – 20.42, 200 breast – 1:57.16, 400 IM – 3:53.90

Connery sees his ranking diminish after setting no new yards best times during his senior season of high school, but a lot of that was simply due to swimming in only a few meets (and no SCY championship settings). Despite that, Connery’s best times from his junior year remain elite—he’s still the fastest in the class in the 200 free, second in the 200 IM, and brings that rare versatility (similar to Bustos) with the ability to perform at a high-level in all four 100s. If there were any doubts as to whether Connery might be a little rusty beginning his first season at Texas after racing sparsely in SCY this past winter, his LCM swims in the summer have put those ideas to rest. The SwimMAC product set personal best time across the board in early August at the Speedo Summer Championships in Greensboro, clocking 23.5/49.3/1:47.9 in the freestyles and 53.0 in the 100 fly. Those performances indicate he’s ready to go upon arrival in Austin, and will immediately be a contender to get on the Longhorn 800 free relay as a freshman. His relay value as a whole is strong, and perhaps the only negative is that the majority of his best events fall on the same day at NCAAs. Based on his long course swim, his 44.1 best time in the SCY 100 free has a lot of room to come down and would likely be a focus moving forward.

9. David Curtiss (Previous Rank: #11) – Hamilton Y Aquatic Club – Pennington School – Yardley, PA **Committed to NC State**
Best Times: 50 free – 19.11, 100 free – 42.80, 200 free – 1:38.71, 100 fly – 48.51

Aiden Hayes had briefly stolen Curtiss’ distinction as the best 50 freestyler in the class in February, but it was short-lived. In early March, just a few days after breaking the Independent High School Record in 19.26, Curtiss blasted a time of 19.11 to lower Hayes’ overall HS Record of 19.20. The only NCAA swimmers that have been faster prior to entering college are Ryan Hoffer (18.71) and Caeleb Dressel (18.94), who have combined to win the last six national titles in the event. Curtiss is a towering, powerful presence in the water, and added to his 50 prowess but dropping a significant chunk of time in the 100 in his senior year. Curtiss broke out of the plethora of 43s in this class by unleashing a 42.80 in April, ranking him second in the class behind Jack Alexy. Set to join a stacked incoming class for NC State that also includes Hayes, Arsenio Bustos, Sam Hoover and Garrett Boone, along with Swiss dynamo Noe Ponti, Curtiss projects to be a big point contributor across the 50 and 100 free individually, plus four of the five relays. He also showed solid improvement in the 200 free (1:38.7) and 100 fly (48.5) in the last year, giving him a couple of options for a third individual race come NCAAs.

10. Luke Hobson (Previous Rank: #15) – Lakeridge Swim Team – Reno High School – Reno, NV **Committed to Texas**
Best Times: 500 free – 4:16.56, 200 free – 1:35.09, 100 free – 43.34, 1650 free – 15:20.29, 1000 free – 8:58.07, 50 free – 19.98, 200 back – 1:45.22

One of the big-time risers in his senior year, Hobson staked his claim as the class’s best in the 500 free by a long shot, which was perhaps the only event really lacking a true blue chip prospect. Hobson went from 4:21.05 down to 4:16.56, leaning on his improved front-end speed to get there (out in 1:39.9 at the 200 compared to 1:42.2 previously). Those other improvements include the Texas commit dropping from 20.5 to 19.9 in the 50, 44.4 to 43.3 in the 100, and 1:36.1 to 1:35.0 in the 200. That 100 time is very strong, though there are several 43s in the class, but the 200 time put him within a few tenths of the best in the class (Connery’s 1:34.7). Hobson also has some big-time range—he’s now been sub-9:00 in the 1000, and probably has more than 15:20 in him in mile if he were to give it a go (hasn’t raced it since January 2020). At the U.S. Olympic Trials, he dropped a monster 3:52.7 in the 400 free, which translates very favorably for his 500 in the upcoming college season. He’ll be joining a high-level training group in Austin as well—six of the top-21 finishers in the 500 at the 2021 NCAAs were Longhorns, all of whom will be returning this season. While that may make it very hard to crack the NCAA roster from the jump, Hobson has the tools to contribute both individually and in relays, sooner rather than later.

11. Luke Barr (Previous Rank: #16) iNspire Swim Team – Papillon Lavista High School – Papillon, NE **Committed to Indiana**
Best Times: 200 IM – 1:45.60, 50 free – 19.83, 100 free – 43.73, 100 fly – 47.85, 100 breast – 52.81, 200 breast – 1:56.05, 100 back – 46.97

Barr was one of the most improved swimmers in his senior season among the top-ranked names, setting new best times in all of his primary events. In fact, if we take a glance between Barr and Sam Hoover‘s times, they’re eerily similar: both 1:45.6 in the 200 IM, strong freestyle sprinters and the ability to swim breaststroke and butterfly as well. Hoover’s got the 1:35 200 free on his side, but Barr’s drops in the 100 back (46.97) and 100 breast (52.81) this past year were pretty significant, bringing him near the top of the class in both. As a junior, Barr’s improvement on breaststroke slowed as he progressed everywhere else. In his senior season the breaststroking ability took another leap forward, jumping on the train with his other strokes, making him a hot commodity as he heads to Bloomington.

12. Sam Hoover (Previous Rank: #7) – North Carolina Aquatic Club – Chapel Hill Senior High School – Chapel Hill, NC **Committed to NC State**
Best Times: 200 IM – 1:45.61, 100 free – 43.10, 50 free – 20.07, 200 free – 1:35.57, 400 IM – 3:47.56, 100 fly – 48.92, 100 breast – 54.10, 200 breast – 1:57.18, 200 back – 1:47.49

Hoover, another member of the stacked incoming class at NC State, seemed to expand his already wide versatility as a senior, despite not dropping time in all of his best events. Still sitting near the top of the class in the 100 and 200 free (43.1, 1:35.5), Hoover has now certified himself as a prospect to swim breaststroke at the highest level, bringing his bests in the 100 and 200 down to 54.1 and 1:57.1 this past season. The North Carolina native improved his 200 IM down to 1:45.6, and his 400 IM saw an eight-second leap down to 3:47.5. Hoover’s got that 43-low 100 free in his back pocket, but with such a strong group of sprint freestylers at NC State, he could very well pursue some other events in college. The 200 IM looks like it’s going to be his number one race, and beyond that his options are pretty wide open. But a 200 IM/200 free/100 free NCAA schedule, plus some relays and the ability to help out anywhere in dual meets, looks extremely promising.

13. Matthew Fenlon (Previous Rank: #10) – Badger Swim Club – Horace Greeley High School – Sleepy Hollow, NY **Committed to Stanford**
Best Times: 200 fly – 1:42.53, 100 fly – 47.26, 500 free – 4:21.41, 200 IM – 1:47.74, 200 back – 1:45.71, 100 back – 49.64, 200 free – 1:37.38, 400 IM – 3:56.35

Fenlon was very quiet this past short course season, racing very sparsely, taking on more of a long course focus in 2020-21. A versatile talent with endurance, Fallon was 1:49.7/3:56.4 in the 200 and 400 free at the U.S. Open in November and then hit swims of 54.8/1:57.4 in the 100 and 200 fly at the Summer Championships in August. He’s got huge upside to be a major player in the 500 free and 200 fly in college, and while his current 200 free time leaves something to be desired, his long course swims show there’s more in the tank. His 1:42.5 PB in the 200 fly flies a little under the radar due to Aiden Hayes having been 1:41, but he was the fastest in the class at his time of commitment and the time would’ve slotted into the top five at last season’s Pac-12 Championships. Given that he has five sub-2:00 long course 200 flys under his belt over the past nine months, we shouldn’t put too much stock into the fact his best SCY time of the season was only 1:46.00; he should be firing right out of the gate.

14. Henry Bethel (Previous Rank: unranked) – Carpet Capitals Aquatic Club – Dalton High School – Dalton, GA **Committed to Auburn**
Best Times: 200 IM – 1:45.54, 100 breast – 52.96, 200 breast – 1:56.77, 200 free – 1:37.20, 200 back – 1:48.58, 100 free – 44.73, 50 free – 21.07

The first swimmer to go from unranked (not even an honorable mention, in fact) into the top 20, Bethel joined the class’s elite by dropping a 1:45.54 200 IM in February, having been 1:47-flat as a junior. Bethel also took a huge leap forward in the 100 breast, going from 54.0 to 52.9, and his 200 saw a massive eight-second drop at one meet last December: 2:04.8 to 1:56.7. The 200 free is very much the same story; he entered his senior year having never broken 1:40, and managed to dip down to 1:37.2. While he may not have the high-end range in the sprints that many of his counterparts do in this class, his rapid improvement last season brings him up into these rankings. A swimmer riding the momentum of recent improvement entering their freshman year, versus one that’s been stagnant, can be a huge trajectory indicator in a collegiate career. Bethel is on the right side of it.

15. Jacques Rathle (Previous Rank: Honorable Mention) – Crawfish Aquatics – ED White High School – Thibodaux, LA **Committed to Auburn**
Best Times: 400 IM – 3:45.90, 200 IM – 1:46.45, 200 free – 1:35.65, 100 breast – 54.40, 500 free – 4:23.32, 200 breast – 1:58.68, 100 free – 44.92

Rathle, who will be joining Bethel at Auburn, experienced success similar to his future Tiger teammate as a high school senior. An honorable mention in last season’s rankings, Rathle knocked more than four seconds off his 400 IM in 3:45.9, putting him within two seconds of class leader Matt Fallon, and also developed his 200 IM (1:48.0 to 1:46.4) and 100 breast (55.7 to 54.4) impressively. But it was the 200 free that really stands out for Rathle, who went from it being an afterthought in his repertoire (1:38.7 as a junior) to joining the class’s best with a 1:35.65 in March. That performance came on a relay lead-off, which is fitting because he likely won’t swim the event individually at SECs or NCAAs, given its proximity to the 400 IM. A byproduct of that 400 IM/200 free success was his 500 free, which improved by almost five seconds in 4:23.3. Rathle’s improvement curve, not unlike Bethel’s, says good things are coming for Auburn in future seasons.

16. Ziyad Saleem (Previous Rank: unranked) – Schroeder YMCA Swim Team – Milwaukee King High School – Milwaukee, WI**Committed to Cal**
Best Times: 200 back – 1:42.36, 100 back – 46.95, 50 free – 20.74, 100 free – 45.53, 100 fly – 48.88

Saleem had a massive senior season, bringing his 200 back time down from 1:45.9 to 1:42.3, the second-fastest in the class in 2020-21 behind only Jack Aikins. That swim from April wasn’t a one-off—he also went 1:42.9 in December—and made similar progression in the 100 back, hitting three 46.9s in 2021 after finishing his junior year with a best of 48.6. Set to join the great backstroking tradition at Cal, Saleem is already within striking distance of the NCAA cutlines in the 100 and 200 back from the 2021 championships, and also has a strong 21.7 best in the 50 back which will be crucial for the medley relay. While he projects to be a pure backstroker, his 50 free also progressed in a big way as a senior, coming down to 20.7 after previously sitting at 21.4.

17. Brady Samuels (Previous Rank: unranked) – Cardinal Community Swim Club – Delta High School – Muncie, IN **Committed to Purdue**
Best Times: 100 fly – 46.78, 50 free – 19.59, 100 free – 43.80, 100 back – 47.73, 100 breast – 57.08

Arguably the biggest riser of the class, Samuels wasn’t even mentioned in last year’s rankings. Not an honorable mention, not even noted in the “best of the rest” section. His improvement as a senior was truly remarkable. Samuels, a Muncie, Indiana native that will stay in-state and go to Purdue, dropped almost four seconds last season in the 100 fly, joining the class’s top tier with a 46.78. He also dropped almost a second to get his 50 free down to 19.59, brought his 100 down from 44.5 to 43.8, and showed off some sprinting versatility with a 47.7 100 back and 57.0 100 breast. Samuels will join a Purdue program with a few high-end talents who will serve as great training partners, including rising senior Nikola Acin (2021 NCAA 100 free ‘A’ finalist), and he should easily slide into multiple Boilermaker relays. With perhaps greater opportunity compared to those going to bigger schools, Samuels may emerge quicker than some of the others in the individual ranks, potentially being a big fish in a relatively smaller pond at Purdue than he would at Texas or Cal. And the rapid improvement is encouraging.

18. Trent Frandson (Previous Rank: #14) – Central Iowa Aquatics – Ankeny Senior High School – Ankeny, IA **Committed to Cal**
Best Times: 500 free – 4:20.40, 200 free – 1:35.68, 100 free – 43.79, 1650 free – 15:12.92, 1000 free 9:11.32 (to the feet in 1650), 50 free – 20.53, 100 back – 48.31

Frandson is the most versatile freestyler in the class, from 50 up to 1650, and appears to be settling into the mid-distance events being his bread and butter. The incoming Cal freshman didn’t lower many of his best times as a senior—though he did bring his 100 free time down from 43.9 to 43.7—but has an easy-looking, long stroke, and that coupled with the speed he’s developed will make him dangerous in the 200 and 500 in the coming years. Frandson went 4:20 in prelims and finals of the 500 in December 2019 at Winter Junior Nats – West, and then a few months later ripped a 1:35.6 200 free. While he was only 1:36.4/4:25.7 as a senior, he didn’t compete a ton in what was a strange year for everyone. The Ankeny, Iowa native also brought his 100 back down from 49.9 to 48.3, and his ability in the 1000 could be key for the Bears in dual meets.

19. Nate Stoffle (Previous Rank: #19) – Spartan Aquatic Club – Brockwood High School – Lilburn, GA **Committed to Auburn**
Best Times: 100 back – 46.63, 200 back – 1:43.51, 50 free – 20.06, 100 free – 45.15, 100 fly – 48.37

Stoffle further cemented his status as one of the best backstrokers in the class as a senior, dropping a 1:43.51 200 back in late March. The Auburn commit also dropped his 100 back down a half-second in 46.6, and made strides in some of his off-events, including dropping his 50 free seven-tenths for a very respectable 20.06. Stoffle’s individual success this past season was bolstered by a strong group of teammates at Spartans Aquatic Club, where he helped them break a pair of National Age Group relay records—which included him splitting 19.5 on the 200 free relay. While Auburn only had a few swimmers compete at NCAAs last season, their incoming class is strong, and Stoffle will be a big part of the team from the jump, and will likely slot in as the Tigers’ top backstroke option as a freshman. He’ll also be joining his brother, Aidan, a rising junior at Auburn.

20. Daniel Matheson (Previous Rank: unranked) – Scottsdale Aquatic Club – Sunrise Mountain High School – Peoria, AZ **Committed to USC**
Best Times: 500 free – 4:20.64, 200 free – 1:35.90, 1000 free – 9:02.33, 1650 free – 15:13.94, 400 IM – 3:47.69, 200 IM – 1:47.66, 200 fly – 1:45.59, 50 free – 21.07, 100 free – 46.01

Matheson has really launched himself up the class rankings over the past 10 months, transforming from solid distance free prospect into all-around talent. Matheson now sits near the top of the class in the 500 and 1000 free, having been 4:20 and 9:02, and has made massive strides in the 200 (1:42.1 in February 2020 to 1:35.9 in July 2021), and can go all the way up to the mile. But he was already pegged as a freestyler before—his IM and 200 fly are where the real gains have been made. The incoming USC Trojan dropped almost three seconds in the 200 fly (1:48.3 to 1:45.5), two seconds in the 200 IM (1:49.6 to 1:47.6) and four and a half in the 400 IM (3:54.1 to 3:47.6) over the past year. Having raced the 800 free, 1500 free, 200 fly and 400 IM at Wave II of the U.S. Olympic Trials and setting best times in all four, Matheson is a hard-worker who can deliver under pressure.


Whittling down the list to 20 is difficult, especially with several highly ranked swimmers from last year’s rankings not racing much this past season. This isn’t an exhaustive list of others that were in consideration for the top 20, but here are a few of those who narrowly missed out.

Max ‘Scooter’ Iida (Previous Rank: unranked) – Glenbrook Swim Club –Glenbrook South High School – Glenview, IL**Committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 200 IM – 1:44.86, 100 breast – 53.29, 200 breast – 1:59.71, 100 fly – 48.64

Iida’s breaststroking prowess was overshadowed by his massive drop in the 200 IM this past March, as he knocked his time down from 1:47.40 to 1:44.86 at the CSL South Conference Championship. That puts him within a second of the best in the class, and will instantly make him a scorer at the conference level (it’s also only seven tenths outside of the 2021 NCAA cutline). His 100 breast also jumped down from 54.6 to 53.2, a competitive time and a noteworthy improvement that gives him some momentum as he heads to UVA.

Connor Hunt (Previous Rank: Honorable Mention) – Ridgefield Aquatic Club – Ridgefield High School – Ridgefield, CT **Committed to Michigan**
Best Times: 1650 free – 15:09.20, 1000 free – 8:58.98, 500 free – 4:23.98, 200 free – 1:37.45

Hunt continued to make strides as a senior, becoming one of the lone swimmers in the class sub-9:00 in the 1000 free. Set to join a Michigan program with a long history of distance success, Hunt also dropped two seconds in the 500 and three in the 200, setting the table for what sets up to be a very solid 200/500/1650er for the Wolverines.

Tyler Lu (Previous Rank: #9) – Seattle Metropolitan Aquatic Club – Kirkland, WA **Committed to Northwestern**
Best Times: 200 IM – 1:44.87, 400 IM – 3:48.14, 200 back – 1:42.97, 100 back – 47.34, 200 free – 1:37.43, 100 free – 44.60, 50 free – 20.41, 100 breast – 55.80

Lu is an incredibly versatile IMer with high-end ability on backstroke, but he falls out of the top 20 due to inactivity, with only a few SCY races under his belt last season. His 200 back and 200 IM still rank near the top of the class from his junior year, and he did put forth a quick 2:02.9 LCM 200 IM at the Olympic Trials, so it’s not like he won’t be sharp coming in.

Hayden Zheng (Previous Rank: #13) – Aquajets Swim Team – St. Louis Park High School – St. Louis Park, MN **Committed to Stanford**
Best Times: 200 breast – 1:54.98, 100 breast – 53.09, 200 IM – 1:47.05, 400 IM – 3:55.28

Stanford’s Zheng was surpassed by a few of the risers this past season in breaststroke and IM, falling out of our top 20, but he remains a very promising recruit for a Cardinal team that figures to be on the rise in the coming years. Zheng essentially matched his PBs in the medley events this past season, and he was just a bit off on breast, though he is coming off a LCM best in the 200 in August.

Garrett Boone (Previous Rank: #18) – Aquatic Team of Mecklenburg – South Mecklenburg High School – Charlotte, NC **Committed to NC State**
Best Times: 50 free – 20.00, 100 free – 43.76, 200 free – 1:36.30, 200 back – 1:45.37, 200 IM – 1:47.49, 500 free – 4:27.55

Boone brings the rare combo of a high-end freestyle with a solid 200 back and 200 IM, set to join the stacked NC State freshman crew this season. The 100 free was his lone best in one of his primary events as a senior, but that was a big one, as he joined the slew of 43s in the class that will be vying for some big-time relay spots in college.

Tyler Hulet (Previous Rank: #20) – The Woodlands Swim Team – The Woodlands High School – The Woodlands, TX **Committed to Texas A&M**
Best Times: 200 back – 1:42.87, 100 back – 47.04, 200 free – 1:38.27, 100 fly – 47.86, 100 free – 44.96

Hulet dropped down to 47.0/1:42.8 in his backstrokes from 47.8/1:43.9 this past season, both very competitive times in the class. And while he barely misses the top 20 with a true #3 event, his 100 fly is rounding into form.

Alex McMahon (Previous Rank: unranked) – Aquawolves Colo Swim Team – Heritage High School – Highlands Ranch, CO **Committed to Arizona**
Best Times: 100 free – 43.38, 50 free – 19.84, 100 fly – 47.54, 200 free – 1:38.06, 200 IM – 1:49.33, 500 free – 4:30.72

McMahon completely skipped the 44s in the 100 free, going from 45.1 in March to a pair of 43-mids in late June. That alone makes him very valuable as a collegiate swimmer, both individually and in relays, and his 50 free and 100 fly also progressed nicely as a senior.

Mateo Miceli (Previous Rank: unranked) – Inspire Swim Team – Millard West High School – Omaha, NE **Committed to Alabama**
Best Times: 200 fly – 1:44.86, 100 fly – 47.01, 100 back – 47.79, 200 back – 1:44.26

Miceli rounded into a strong backstroker/flyer as a senior, led by his drop from 1:48.4 to 1:44.8 in the 200 fly. In fact, he’s more than nine seconds faster in the event since he verbally committed to Alabama in November 2019, and has also experienced nice drops in the 100 back, 200 back and 100 fly. After being unranked on our 2020 list, Miceli is in the vicinity of being a top-16 scorer in all four of the aforementioned events at SECs from the get-go (his 200 fly would’ve been ninth in last season’s prelims, the 100 fly 10th). The Crimson Tide have a solid group of 200 backstrokers already in place, so it would make sense to see Miceli focus more on butterfly early on, because doing both events come the postseason entails a brutal back-to-back, and the 100 back/100 fly double is much more tolerable.


This isn’t an exhaustive list, but we can rattle off a few of the athletes we studied who wound up just outside the top 20 in each event discipline. For the purposes of space, we won’t include every top event for these athletes, but just a few of their standouts. Each of these athletes is still an extremely high-level recruit:


Feeling nostalgic? Here’s a look back at our historic recruiting class rankings, plus our retrospectives of those classes after four NCAA seasons:

Recruiting Class
High School Class of 2022 Way Too Early Ranks As Sophomores Ranks as Juniors
High School Class of 2021 Way Too Early Ranks As Sophomores Ranks as Juniors
High School Class of 2020 Way Too Early Ranks As Sophomores Ranks as Juniors Re-Rank As Seniors
High School Class of 2019 Ranks as Juniors Re-Rank As Seniors
High School Class of 2018 Ranks as Juniors Re-Rank As Seniors
High School Class of 2017 Ranks as Juniors Post-college retrospective
High School Class of 2016 Ranks as Juniors Post-college retrospective
High School Class of 2015 Ranks as Juniors Post-college retrospective
High School Class of 2014 Ranks as Juniors Post-college retrospective
High School Class of 2013 Ranks as Juniors Post-college retrospective

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2 years ago

Gabriel Jett drops a 20th place finish at O Trials and he doesn’t even make honorable mention? You guys are sleeping on him…4 years from now I think you will have a very different take on his value to Cal.

2 years ago

Are you ever going to rerank the class of 2021 Girls??? — Usually the girls follow the boys the next day or so…

Thor Larson
2 years ago

Nice to see Luke Barr moving up, but this past year he was a member of the iNspire Swim Team.

tea rex
2 years ago

Wonder how these stack up to previous classes (or how this year’s huge European contingent will stack up to previous classes)
sub-20 50 free: 14 (Curtiss, Hayes, Samuels, Alexy, Grimm, Aikins, Reno, Boyle, Perez, Graunke, Barr, McMahon, Bustos, Hobson)
sub-4:20 500 freestylers: 1 (Hobson)
sub-15:00 milers: 0
sub-47 backstroke: 6 (Grimm, Aikins, Hayes, Stoffle, Saleem, Barr)
sub-53 breaststroke: 5 (Matheny, Fallon, Grimm, Barr, Bethel)
sub-47 fly: 5 (Hayes, Grimm, Bustos, Connery, Samuels)
sub-1:45 IM: 4 (Bustos, Connery, IIda, Lu)

tea rex
2 years ago

Garrett Boone’s 47.56 100 fly from December is not listed.
Let’s spare a thought for the kid who is 20.0/43/47 fly, and like 5th on the freshman depth chart.

2 years ago

Lots of kids off this list who would smoke a lot of BOTR but didn’t get meets. I know you don’t consider LC but maybe you should have this year. As always thanks for the work.

2 years ago

Cameron Luarde from Fort Wayne (Indiana) Swim Team. Headed to Michigan this Fall. 200IM:1:46.92 SC/2:05.85 LC, 400IM: 3:50.35 SC, 55+ 100 Breast SC.

2 years ago

“Fallon probably won’t be training enough speed to be a factor on the 200 medley relay”

Considering he is already under the program record in the 100 breast, I think he will be a big factor on the 200 medley relay in the Ivy League.

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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