Top 10 Male Swimmers to Watch at the 2019 World University Games

2019 World University Games/Summer Universiade – Swimming

  • July 4th-9th, 2019
  • Napoli, Italy
  • LCM (50m)
  • Live Stream: Olympic Channel (in US), Rai Sport (in Italy)
  • Entry Lists

On Thursday, the 2019 World University Games will begin in Napoli, Italy. While athletes are representing countries from around the world, there is a substantial bent toward those based out of US universities – 8 of the 13 top seeds in the men’s events attend American colleges, which includes 3 who are not actually Americans.

Below are a list of 10 swimmers that we’re watching at this week’s World University Games, in no particular order. These aren’t necessarily the 10 best swimmers (there’s seeding for that), but 10 whose results we’re most interested in, in no particular order.

1. Zach Apple, USA

Apple might be the United States’ 2nd-best 100 freestyler. He was, in fact, the Americans’ fastest 100 freestyler in 2017-2018. His 48.03 at Pan Pacs in prelims, though, was in the wrong round, and when he slid to just 48.47 and 5th place in finals, that cost him a spot on the World Championships team. That makes him probably, objectively, the best American swimmer at this meet. He’ll add entries in the 50 free and it appears also the 200 free. Jack LeVant was scheduled to be entered in the 200 free, but it seems that his health issues have changed those plans – the Americans have 3 swimmers entered in each of his individuals, when they’re only allowed 2, implying that LeVant is scratching. Similar subplot: Tate Jackson, who was the US #4 last season in the 100 free. He did his swim in the right round, in finals at US Nationals, but didn’t do enough in the other round: he was in the B final, which didn’t count for Pan Pacs or Worlds selection.

2. Michael Houlie, South Africa

Michael Houlie turned a ton of heads last year at the Youth Olympic Games. His unabashed front-half speed on the 100 breaststroke is something that few elite internationals (Adam Peaty comes to mind) have the turnover to put in. Houlie moved to the US and started at the University of Tennessee (Molly Hannis, PJ Stevens) in the spring semester. After just a few short months with his new team, his NCAA Championship results didn’t quite match the hype – he was 23rd in the 100 breaststroke and skipped his other individual, the 200 breaststroke. But, that wasn’t really a fair data point – we don’t know how good he is in short course, and it was such a short turnaround after arrival, all while adapting to college and a new country. This week, Houlie is the top seed in the 50 and the 12th seed in the 100. He’s the youngest #1 seed in the meet on the men’s side.

3. Kirill Prigoda, Russia

The Russians have sent a strong squad to the World University Games this year. Some of that (like Grigory Tarasevich – the odd man out in a deep Russian backstroke group) is swimmers who didn’t make the squad for Gwangju. Others, like Prigoda, are pulling double duty. Prigoda was the 2017 World Championships bronze medalist in the 100 breaststroke, and a crucial cog in the medley relay’s chances at the World Championships. As swimmers jockey for breaststroke positions behind Adam Peaty, Prigoda will probably be suited, at least, for this meet, so this will be a medal-worthy data point.

4. Justin Ress, USA

Entering his first professional season, Ress needs a 100 meter breakthrough to drive his momentum forward toward the Olympic Games. At US Nationals last year, he was 2nd in the 50 backstroke (where he’s been very fast in long course) and 3rd in the 100 backstroke. 34-year old Matt Grevers is his biggest road block to the 2020 Olympic Team in an individual event. Grevers, after missing the 2016 Olympic Team, has shown that 52-mid is still within his range, while Ress’ best is 53.26. If he can get under 53, at least, in Napoli, that’s a big step in the right direction. He’s the top seed in that 100 back, with Russia’s Grigory Tarasevich 2nd behind him in 53.29.

5. Dean Farris, USA

Everyone’s favorite traffic-driver, Dean Farrisis actually a relay-only swimmer World University Games. Even though a spot opened up in his best event, the 200 free, thanks to the presumed LeVant scratch, he didn’t get it. A big question, and maybe the biggest for the USA – will the best collegiate swimmer in the country last season be able to transfer at the same level to long course? He’s now the fastest-ever 200 freestyler in yards, and the swimmer whose time he beat, Townley Haas, is a contender for Gold in that event this summer and next. We don’t know for sure, but assume Farris will get a crack at the 100 and 200 free. He’ll have US Nationals to swim individuals at – where he’ll be fighting for a National Team spot, among other things – but I would expect some fast relay splits at this meet if he’s going to prove his worthiness for Tokyo. The spread from WUGs to Nationals works as a sort of Trials-Olympics test anyway.

6. Mark Szaranek, Great Britain

The Scotsman Szaranek took silver at last year’s Commonwealth Games in the 400 IM, making a huge leap forward with a 4:13.72 – his best time by almost 2 seconds. But, disaster struck at Britain’s Trials in April, and he swam 4:16.28 to finish 2nd in the final, missing the qualifying standard. Without a discretionary pick, he was relegated to the Universiade squad, where he’s the top seed in the 200 IM and the #4 seed in the 400 IM. With good competition to race against, he’ll have the opportunity to reclaim his momentum from last year and show the British coaches that he’s a big meet swimmer, regardless of what happens at Trials. In addition to the IMs, he’ll swim the 200 free.

7. Jack Saunderson, USA

After a big step forward in long course last summer, Saunderson dropped more time in yards in his senior season at mid-major Towson University. The places, however, weren’t as eye-catching (7th in the 200 fly, 15th in the 100 fly) collegiately as his swims at US Nationals were a summer prior. But, his future is now in long course, where he’s probably a better swimmer anyway, and so those places shouldn’t impact our view of the momentum that he’s carrying. The US looked thin in the butterfly races for a moment, but now with a rising tide led by Luca Urlando, it looks like they will be a huge battle ahead of Tokyo. Saunderson needs a statement this summer.

8. Daniel Roy, USA

The turnover in coaching staff at Stanford this summer, with Dan Schemmel taking over as head coach, seems to have hit a spark for Daniel Roy this summer. After not going lifetime bests in either the 100 or 200 yard breaststrokes, his 2 best events, as a freshman, he’s been on fire this summer. Roy has already hit 2 lifetime bests in the 100 breaststroke in long course this summer (1:01.41 in Clovis, and then 1:01.16 at the Cal-Stanford dual 2 weeks ago). The buildup indicates a good meet coming for Roy, who is entered in just the 200 breaststroke individually at this meet.

9. Pawel Sendyk, Poland

As a junior last season, Sendyk was the NCAA runner-up in the 50 free as part of Cal’s national championship run. He skipped Poland’s nationals this year, and has only raced in long course at 2 meets in 2019. Last year, he popped a 21.91 at Polish Nationals, but then was way off (22.68) at the European Championships. As Polish sprinting is rising (albeit a lot of that trained in America), Sendyk has an opportunity to win his first international gold medal this week. That is, if he can handle his taper better than he did last season. With no late-May Nationals to worry about like he had in 2018, he should have more freedom to line himself up for this meet.

10. Keisuke Yoshida, Japan

Japan used to send mega-teams filled with Olympic medalist and World Championships to the World University Games. While there are still a few stars on the team, it looks like Japan declined to include most of the swimmers from their World Championship roster. Their biggest medal threat in Napoli on the men’s side is 19-year old Keisuke Yoshida, who is pulling double duty with Worlds. He is swimming the 200, 400, and 800 freestyles this week in Napoli, and is a top 3 seed in all 3 events. I think as a sport, we’re hungry for a new global (undoped) star to come around in the men’s distance freestyles. Yoshida has the potential to move into that gap.

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I would put Coleman Stewart on this list before Daniel Roy. He pop 49.9 Free, 54 back, and 53 fly at Charlotte Ultra Swim and he’s been 1:50 in the 200 Free at Bloomington.

WV Swammer

Daniel Roy is overrated imo


I bet you would’ve! But you’re also a longtime drum beater for NC State on this site soooo…..


I’m with oldswimfan on this…


None of those times are in the same realm as a sub-2:10 200br. Coleman is very versatile, but none of those times will medal at WUGs


Number 5?

comment image

Ol' Longhorn

He’ll be good. Pushed a 25-mid 50 back before taper started, so he’ll be 53 low, outside shot at 52.9.

Ol’ Gator

I’m guessing you’re talking about Justin Ress but I think PVDH was talking about Dean Farris



JP input is too short

“I think as a sport, we’re hungry for a new global (undoped) star to come around in the men’s distance freestyles. Yoshida has the potential to move into that gap.”

Hmmm… shots fired. Although… Wellbrock is only 21 and Romanchuk 22…

Ol’ Gator

Who said this

JP input is too short

Um. It’s the second to last sentence in the article.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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