Returning Conference Points: 3 Clear-Cut Front-runners In Men’s Big Ten

The 2020 NCAA Championships were canceled in the coronavirus pandemic – but the virus can’t stop our pre-season coverage for the 2021 campaign. We’re running through a comprehensive preview of each of the Power-5 conferences in Division I, compiling returning conference points and tracking transfers and incoming recruits.

2020 Lookback

A huge Michigan senior class dominated a top-heavy Big Ten, ending a three-year Indiana run atop the conference. Michigan was untouchable over the longer distances. Senior Felix Auboeck won the 500 free and 1650 free and senior Charlie Swanson the 400 IM. Michigan also took the 800 free relay, 200 breast (senior Tommy Cope) and 100 fly (senior Miles Smachlo).

Ohio State nipped Indiana for second, getting two 1-2 finishes from Andrew Loy and Paul DeLakis in the 200 IM and 200 free. IU had the top-end talent, though, winning a meet-high nine events, including a sprint sweep from junior Bruno Blaskovic (50 free, 100 free), a backstroke sweep from junior Gabriel Fantoni (100 back, 200 back), and a 200 fly title for rookie Brendan BurnsIU also won both medley relays and the 200/400 free relays for 4/5 relay titles.

There was a massive dropoff from those three teams to the rest of the field. The only event winner outside of those three programs was Minnesota sophomore Max McHughwho won the 100 breast. Wisconsin was 4th as a team, besting a resurgent Northwestern group.

Returning Points for 2021

The top three remain well ahead of the rest of the conference – but they directly reversed their 2020 finish order when you stack up returning points.

Indiana returns a whopping 89% of its individual points, losing just three scorers and only three Mohamed Samy relay legs. Both Ohio State (11/20 returning) and Michigan (12/20 returning) cleared out almost half their relay legs, and Michigan only returns a little more than half of its individual points.

Further back, Northwestern and Purdue both return huge points. Neither program graduated a single relay leg, and both graduated just one single individual point-scorer apiece.

Team Returning Individual Points % Returning Individual Points Returning Relay Legs
Indiana 898.5 89% 17/20
Ohio State 820 78% 11/20
Michigan 705 56% 12/20
Northwestern 432 96% 20/20
Wisconsin 371 63% 10/20
Purdue 317 99% 20/20
Iowa 307 88% 15/20
Penn State 275 95% 16/20
Minnesota 214 64% 12/20
Michigan State 78 66% 13/20

Scorers By Team

Teams are listed in their 2020 conference finish order. Athletes are listed with their year as of the current 2019-2020 season, not their year for the 2020-2021 season.

Michigan (705)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Todd, Ross JR 87
Vargas Jacobo, JR 83
Borges, Luiz Gu JR 74
Callan, Kevin P SO 70
Roberts, Willia JR 67
Canning, Chris JR 55
Wright, River S FR 52
Berlitz, Daniel FR 50
Peel, Cameron R FR 30
Hunter, Mason H SO 28
Carl, Spencer A SO 25
Chan, William E SO 22
Daigle, Jared B SO 16
Bornstein, Andr SO 15
Storms, Eric M SO 12
King, Alex M JR 11
Leavell, Nick M FR 8

Ohio State (820)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Yost, Lyle FR 87
Delakis, Paul J JR 84
Fielding, Jacob SO 74
Canova, Joseph JR 68
Siler, Jacob JR 66
Andreis, Semued SO 65
McDermott, Coli JR 63
Cooper, Jonah L FR 58
Mathews, Jason SO 54
Watkins, Thomas FR 44
Burt, Carson J JR 32
Isings, Connor JR 28
Grannum, Hunter FR 27
McDaniel, Hudso SO 24
Kondalski, Robe SO 20
McFadden, Evan JR 11
Pohlmann, Josef SO 10
Gribble, Traher SO 3
Weaver, Lain M SO 2

Indiana (898.5)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Blaskovic, Brun JR 92
Burns, Brendan FR 87
Fantoni, Gabrie JR 80
Mathias, Van L SO 71
Calvillo, Micha SO 66
VanDevender, Co SO 57
Steele, Jacob A JR 55
Franzman, Jack SO 50
Backes, Zane V SO 48
Bathurst, Chris FR 47
Gould, Mory E JR 40
Gallant, John W FR 39
Lehman, Spencer JR 30
Kostbade, Gary JR 27
Karl, Jakub SO 25
Vanderbrook, Th JR 17
Jerden, Matthew JR 16.5
Hamblin, Brando SO 14
Gambardella, Co JR 12
McDade, Bennett SO 12
Eiber, Griffin JR 10
Flanders, Henry FR 3

Wisconsin (371)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Mao, Jian JR 70
Jekel, Wesley B FR 64
Abramowicz, Taz SO 47
Aman, Caleb R SO 40
Hillmer, Matthe SO 31
Novinski, Matth JR 29
Miotke, Graham SO 25
Leuthold, Jack FR 16.5
Gessner, Erik T SO 13
Mitchell, Matt FR 8
Niziolek, Frank SO 7
Nixdorf, Andrew FR 6
Niemann, Robert SO 6
Kurka, Tadzio FR 5
Fouts, Eli A SO 3.5

Northwestern (432)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Eskrick-Parkins SO 51
Burdisso, Feder FR 43
Gridley, Ryan T SO 43
Schirmer, Henry FR 40
Martos Bacarizo SO 40
Labuda, Evan SO 38
Gately, Liam J JR 32
Bobar, Aleksa FR 22
Hwang, Dongjin JR 22
King, Ryan M FR 20.5
Houseman, Kevin FR 20
Mok, Kai Tik M FR 19
Miller, Benjami FR 15
Durmer, Jeffrey JR 12
Forbes, Benjami FR 6
Mizgala, Ezra J SO 5.5
Blaul, Henry N SO 3

Iowa (307)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Neuman, Mohamed FR 46
Tarasenko, Alek SO 44
Swanepoel, Dani JR 41
Fers Erzen, Anz SO 40
Arndt, Mateusz SO 34
Myhre, William FR 25
Kuznetsov, Serg FR 17
Purdy, Ryan A FR 15
Hoherz, Anton JR 14
Planells, Prest FR 11
Posligua, Jonat JR 8
Craine, Dolan L SO 6
Fierke, Andrew SO 4
Holt, Evan H FR 2

Purdue (317)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Duncan, Greg B JR 59
Bramley, Ben G SO 43
Pellini, Trent JR 38
Acin, Nikola SO 37
Juengel, Michae FR 28
Sherman, Nichol SO 25
Riley, Brett A SO 25
Lawrence, Ryan JR 20
Hrosik, Ryan M SO 18
Bjelajac, Nikol JR 11
Hart, Keelan R FR 7
Barsanti, Natha JR 4
Cooper, Elliot FR 1
Gomez Treig, Ga JR 1

Minnesota (214)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
McHugh, Maxwell SO 59
Butler, Jake A FR 48
Kelley, Cameron JR 34
Phillip, Ryan J SO 17
Lester, Duncan JR 15
Yudashkin, Eita JR 13
Olson, Gavin FR 11
Berkoff, Cale O JR 9
Dillon, Aidan J SO 5
Sates, Tim L JR 2
Dulaney, Aidan SO 1

Penn State (275)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Daly, Michael C SO 79
Castano, Gabrie JR 48
Harlow, Hayden JR 29
Roberson, Willi JR 26
Zwijacz, Zachar SO 26
Rennard, Samuel FR 16
Lulek, William SO 16
Raisanen, Danie FR 14
Johnson, Brad R JR 9
Vasquez, Carlos SO 6
Sullivan, Kevin FR 4
Gosieniecki, Ju JR 1
Perelli, Theo A SO 1

Michigan State (78)

Athlete Year 2020 Points
Farley, Aidan J JR 48
Moskovich, Guy JR 15
Heberling, Jako SO 12
Mills, Kevin A SO 2
Wolfson, Ari SO 1


New Additions

Michigan’s incoming class is the clear-cut best in the conference – it’s just how much that can eat into the other two teams’ superior returning points. (Some redshirt returners are going to make that task even harder, too). The Wolverines graduated a boatload of points, but they do get elite backstroker Wyatt Davis (45.8/1:40.8) and fast-rising distance man Jake Mitchell (14:57/4:14.6/1:34.0 free), both top-10 domestic recruits. Long course 22.8/50.4 sprinter James LeBuke should also help the relays.

Ohio State gets impact sprinter Ruslan Gaziev (19.3/42.5/1:34.8) back from an Olympic redshirt season, and also pulled Hunter Armstrong (19.7/42.7/1:35.8) as a sophomore transfer from WVU. That helps offset the loss of Loy and Matthew Abeysinghe off the free relays, plus the news that star transfer Cameron Craig will not compete for Ohio State moving forward. The Buckeyes also add 3:46.0 IMer Owen Conley and a big, well-rounded freshman class.

The Indiana recruiting class is a clear tier below those two, but still has elite international flyer Tomer Frankela 51.9 long course butterfly who is also 1:47.1 in the 200-meter free. Recall that this is a program that returns 17 of 20 relay legs already and won four of five relays last season. IU also got a bunch of solid freshman breaststrokers. And the team expects NCAA runner-up miler Michael Brinegar (14:27/4:16.4) to return from an Olympic redshirt along with NCAA champion diver Andrew Capobianco.

The Wisconsin Badgers return a conference-low 63% of their individual points and only half their relay legs. But their recruiting class is solid, with NCAA qualifying miler Josh Dannhauser (14:52/4:16.7) coming in on a transfer from Auburn and 53.6 breaststroker and 20.0/44.0 freestyler Andrew Benson joining as a freshman.

A few other standout recruiting classes:

2021 Outlook

With Indiana’s incredible recruiting run the past few years, this roster is loaded with talent. Adding in Frankel and returning Brinegar and Capobianco is just too much to bet against. We’ll take IU to return to the top of the conference, though Ohio State could make a sneaky run if they can knock Indiana off the top of some of these relays.

The Gaziev/Armstrong pairing is a great start. And OSU also has one of the nation’s top young divers in Lyle Yost to compete with Capobianco.

Michigan could surge back into contention if this recruiting class gets up to speed quickly. The relays aren’t in as bad of shape as it looks – Smachlo is a big loss on the fly legs of the medley, but River Wright went 46.1 as a freshman last year, and Davis is probably an instant upgrade on the backstroke leg. It’s just matching the returning redshirts that’s going to be difficult for Michigan against the top two teams.

Northwestern should have a lot of continuity… but head coach Jeremy Kipp also moved on to USC and we don’t know who is leading that Wildcat program yet. They’ve stockpiled a lot of young talent, and their freshman (185.5 individual points) and sophomore (180.5) classes easily outscored their upperclassmen (83 combined junior/senior points) last year.

Wisconsin returns about 60 fewer points than Northwestern, so the question is how much we can expect the Badger newcomers to outscore Northwestern’s recruiting class. Our read is that Dannhauser alone probably projects to score 50+, so we’ll back Wisconsin to hold 4th.

Last year, the Iowa/Purdue/Minnesota/Penn State bloc were all within 40 points of one another, and returning points would suggest a similarly even matchup this year. Of that group, Purdue has the clear edge in returners (losing just one scorer and zero relay legs) and gets conference champion diver Brandon Loschiavo back from a redshirt year, along with school record-holding 500 freestyler Batuhan Hakan.

From there, we’ll take Minnesota on the strength of their recruiting class, but only narrowly over strong returning Iowa and Penn State groups.

Way-Too-Early Conference Picks

  1. Indiana
  2. Ohio State
  3. Michigan
  4. Wisconsin
  5. Northwestern
  6. Purdue
  7. Minnesota
  8. Iowa
  9. Penn State
  10. Michigan State

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2 years ago

Why tease? The NCAA seems to be controlling the kids preventing them from their “playing fields”. They seem to be making up rules, one kid on one side of the pool, another on the other side and one in the middle. For Pete’s sake chlorine is designed to kill enterics, which are a gazillion times more stable in chlorinated water. There is no covid in pools! Worried about locker room use? Use the bathroom. Don’t shower or change. Use the bathrooms like golf courses. NCAA- STOP punishing the kids for wanting to make money for what they worked for. LET THEM GO BACK!

2 years ago

How many years in a row has the men’s big ten meet been IU/OSU/UM in some order?

Reply to  Landrew
2 years ago

The last interloper into the top 3 was Minnesota in 2010 when they placed 3rd on the strength of a freshman breaststroker named Jared Anderson from rural Minnesota. Little did they know the superstar that he would go on to be for the Gophers. Indiana was 5th that year at Big Tens and 31st at NCAAs during a Eric Ress redshirt season.

Cow Milk
2 years ago

Did you take a higher or lower percentage of returning individual points into consideration?

For example, Michigan returns 705 individual points to Indiana’s 898. But Michigan returns 56% of individual points to Indiana’s 89% which means Michigan has a bigger space for improvement as they will have more roster spots opening for freshman (which is the best in the Big Ten) or for guys that didn’t make the cut this year. In that case, I don’t think IU and OSU are as ahead of Michigan as the returning points initially tell.

B hole surfer
Reply to  Jared Anderson
2 years ago


2 years ago

There is one front runner – IU. Go Hoosiers!

Carol Glover
2 years ago

Unfortunately, Marcum’s points need to be removed. With that said, Go Hoosiers!

Reply to  Carol Glover
2 years ago

Speaking of IU transfers, does anyone know if Dupre has made her decision for this fall yet?

Reply to  JCO
2 years ago


Lane 8
Reply to  BamaSwimFan
2 years ago

Wait were you guessing or did you actually know

Reply to  Carol Glover
2 years ago

Marcum didn’t score any points. He was Indiana’s 4th 200 backstroker this year.

Reply to  Ecoach
2 years ago


Reply to  Ecoach
2 years ago

The answers to this debate do exist. He scored 14 points at the Big Ten Championships –

GA Boy
Reply to  Ecoach
2 years ago

Come on man! its in the articleeeeee.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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