It’s that time of year again where we at SwimSwam rank out the top 20 high school swimming prospects in the upcoming NCAA recruiting class.
As college recruiting has reached earlier and earlier into high school classes, we’re continually expanding our recruiting ranks and coverage. Last spring, we ranked out the then-sophomore class. This is essentially a re-rank of that class, taking into account a year of improvements. Stay tuned to our recruiting channel for more additions to our yearly recruiting coverage:
- Girls & boys ranks for current juniors – high school class of 2022 (updated rankings from our “Way Too Early” rankings last spring)
- Way Too Early ranks for current sophomore girls & boys – high school class of 2023
- Re-Rank of outgoing senior girls & boys – high school class of 2021
So without further ado, let’s take a look at this class as a whole, then review our ranking methodology (please read it before you get upset about how low the top miler is ranked!) and get into our rankings.
2021 addendum: This year more than ever, we’re all working with only partial information. Plenty of these swimmers missed potential taper meets amid the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s difficult to determine whose times have stagnated and which swimmers merely haven’t had enough chances to rest up and race in the past year. Beyond that, pool access for both training and competition has been very uneven based on local coronavirus restrictions. (Of course, swimming opportunity has always been inherently uneven – it’s just being talked about more now because those who have always had opportunities aplenty are just now experiencing what it’s like to struggle for pool access and competition opportunities. But that’s an argument for a different day.)
With that in mind, we’re putting a little less emphasis on time progressions this year – at least, we’re trying not to knock athletes too badly for not progressing much. As always, it’s a factor we consider – but it’s a more complicated consideration this year.
- A pretty deep class, but no huge names at the top
- Lots of huge time drops
- Lots of good IMer and versatile types near the top
- Great mile group has developed, but 200-500 range is still wanting
- Deep backstroke group, slanted towards the 200
- Deep butterfly group, slanted towards the 100
- Breaststrokes are pretty thin
This class has the misfortune of following a couple of really star-studded classes into the NCAA. The downside is that there’s no Carson Foster/Luca Urlando (class of 2020) or Aidan Hayes/Anthony Grimm/Joshua Matheny (class of 2021) in this mix, at least on true name value. But this 2022 group has taken a big step forward as juniors, even amid the pandemic.
Where we saw a lot of our top girls recruits didn’t see big junior-year time drops (leading to a top 10 that didn’t look all that different from our sophomore ranks), the boys dropped time in droves. Almost our entire top 10 had at least one huge time drop since our last ranks, and there is some major upheaval in our list. Half of our top 10 weren’t even ranked a year ago, and our #1 recruit from last year got bumped to outside our top 20 this year.
What’s weird is that a lot of swimmers in this class seem to have one event well ahead of the rest. Maybe that’s the impact of the pandemic (and limited competition opportunities), and we’ll see secondary and tertiary events rise more as these guys become seniors.
Into specifics: this is a great group of IMers, just like it is on the girls side. There’s plenty of versatility, and a fair number of swimmers who are still hard to classify into one specific event discipline.
Distance swimmers were the standouts in our last ranks, and that remains a strength. The milers have made major strides, and this might be the best mile class we’ve seen in years. But as of now, at least, the distance group’s range doesn’t extend down into the 200 or 500 very well, so the standout milers are kind of one-trick-ponies as far as NCAA scoring is concerned.
This class has gotten extremely deep with butterflyers and backstrokers. Oddly enough, the backstrokers are mostly 200 specialists in the 1:44-1:46 range, with 100 speed a little harder to come by. The butterflyers are the exact opposite, with tons of 47-point speed but not a lot of strong 200s to match.
Breaststroke is the odd stroke out. This is a pretty thin class of breaststrokers, and even the top few are mostly 100 types with still-developing 200s.
|Top Times in the Class of 2022|
|50 Free||Dawson Joyce||19.76|
|100 Free||Dawson Joyce||43.59|
|200 Free||Michael Cotter||1:34.35|
|500 Free||Liam Custer||4:18.49|
|1000 Free**||Liam Custer||8:51.37|
|1650 Free||Liam Custer||14:37.86|
|100 Back||Josh Zuchowski||46.96|
|200 Back||Josh Zuchowski||1:41.68|
|100 Breast||Zhier Fan||53.36|
|200 Breast||Baylor Nelson||1:56.01|
|100 Fly||Landon Gentry||46.41|
|200 Fly||Landon Gentry||1:43.03|
|200 IM||Baylor Nelson||1:44.46|
|400 IM||Baylor Nelson||3:45.67|
**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 carry the most weight by a longshot. But we also keep an eye on a swimmer’s trajectory, especially in deciding between two swimmers with relatively even times.
- 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.
TOP 20 SWIMMERS FROM THE CLASS OF 2022
1. Baylor Nelson (Previous Rank: #2) – SwimMAC Carolina– Community School of Davidson – Charlotte, NC **Verbally committed to Texas A&M**
Best Times: 400 IM – 3:45.67, 200 IM – 1:44.46, 200 back – 1:43.25, 100 back – 47.91, 200 fly – 1:46.43, 100 fly – 47.50, 200 free – 1:36.24, 200 breast – 1:56.01
Last year, we noted that improvement curve was the best argument for Nelson as the class’s #1 – and he just hasn’t stopped dropping time. Here’s a quick look at his improvements over the past three years in just three of his many events:
Nelson is clearly taking over as the top swimmer in the class, now leading all 2022 grads in the 200 IM, 400 IM, and even 200 breast. Race videos of Nelson’s best times are hard to come by, but this long course 400 IM (lane 1 at the top) from early 2020 does show all four of his strokes. He’s got especially good leg strength and is pretty kick-driven across all four strokes – that includes solid underwater kicking which should play in even more to short course.
2. Josh Zuchowski (Previous Rank: #3) – Flood Aquatics Swim Team – Kings Academy – Jupiter, FL **Verbally committed to Stanford**
Best Times: 200 back – 1:41.68, 100 back – 46.86, 400 IM – 3:48.49, 200 IM – 1:46.66, 200 fly – 1:46.62, 100 fly – 48.10, 100 breast – 55.81
Zuchowski has firmly taken over as the fastest backstroke in this class, keyed by a massive drop from 1:45.4 to 1:41.6 in the 200 back. That’s one of the rare time in this class that would have earned an NCAA invite in 2021. Zuchowski is also a very solid IMer and clear versatility in all four strokes. His backstroke isn’t the smoothest, but Zuchowski has really top-notch arm speed (lane 5, gold cap), and his aggressiveness into his flip turns is a pretty rare trait in a high schooler. That race video is just a brilliant final 30 yards or so, and you get the sense Zuchowski has more speed than he knows what to do with yet in a 100 – that should make him a high-ceiling prospect and a great 100/200 backstroke at the college level.
3. Liam Custer (Previous Rank: Unranked) – Sarasota Sharks – Riverview High School – Osprey, FL **Verbally committed to Stanford**
Best Times: 1650 free – 14:37.86, 1000 free – 8:51.37, 500 free – 4:18.49, 400 IM – 3:48.41, 200 IM – 1:47.41, 200 free – 1:36.22, 200 back – 1:45.91, 200 fly – 1:47.04
Custer has maybe been the breakout story of this entire class over his junior year. Custer dropped nearly a full minute – you read that right – in the 1650 free, from 15:36 as a sophomore to 14:37 as a junior. Not only does that give him the only NCAA scoring time in this entire recruiting class, it also would have put him 7th at the 2021 NCAA meet. Compared to previous junior classes we’ve ranked, Custer is almost identical to now-American record-holder Bobby Finke, who was 14:37.7 as a junior. Custer matches up very favorably compared to Jake Magahey (14:51 as a junior) and Ross Dant (14:50 as a junior). Custer doesn’t quite come down to the 500 the way eventual NCAA champ Magahey did (Magahey was 4:14 as a junior), but Custer is still the best 500 freestyle in this class by a sizable margin, and he’s only about two seconds out of NCAA invite level there. Here’s that massive mile from Custer (lane 6). His efficiency is incredible – he looks like he’s taking half as many strokes as anybody else in the field even as he’s steadily swimming away from everyone else. Custer may have to develop a second gear to be a high-impact 500 freestyle, but he’s already got the chops to be one of the NCAA’s best milers from day 1.
4. Landon Gentry (Previous Rank: Honorable Mention) – Nation’s Capital Swim Club – Patriot High School – Bristow, VA **Verbally committed to Virginia Tech**
Best Times: 200 fly – 1:43.03, 100 fly – 46.41, 200 IM – 1:46.73, 400 IM – 3:53.59, 100 back – 48.66, 200 free – 1:37.87
Yet another guy who has had a meteoric senior rise, Gentry moves from our honorable mentions into our top five. The drops have been outstanding: from 1:46.0 to 1:43.0 in the 200 fly, from 48.4 to 46.4 in the 100 fly, and from 1:49.4 to 1:46.7 in the 200 IM. The butterfly events are definitely Gentry’s strongest point right now, but this 200 IM race video gives a good look at all four of his strokes (lane 4, blue cap). His open turns are excellent, low in the water and very quick. Gentry uses his legs well in all strokes, but especially in fly and free. He’s also got enough freestyle speed (20.5/45.1/1:37.8) to have some relay upside down the line, too.
5. Michael Cotter (Previous Rank: #17) – TAC Titans – Green Hope High School – Cary, NC **Verbally committed to NC State**
Best Times: 200 free – 1:34.35, 500 free – 4:19.93, 100 free – 43.70, 50 free – 20.19, 200 IM – 1:46.52, 400 IM – 3:53.18, 1000 free – 9:26.32, 1650 free – 15:28.50
Welcome back, Cotter – the TAC Titans freestyler rises way up our ranks with a set of key time drops of his own: from 1:36.9 to 1:34.3 in the 200 free and from 4:29 to 4:19 in the 500 free. He’s also had major long course drops, and is probably going to gain a lot of name value this summer if he can keep dropping from 50.6/1:49.6 speed in meters. A lot of his best times come from the same North Carolina Sectional as Nelson, and that’s making race videos somewhat hard to come by. This is quite a ways from Cotter’s current best time, but was nearly a second drop in long course last October (lane 6, yellow cap). Cotter doesn’t have an elite start or underwater yet, but what immediately jumps off the screen is his awesome flutter kick. That’s going to make him a powerhouse of a 200/500 type swimmer at the college level. He’s the fastest 200 freestyler in this class, and closing in on the 500, too.
6. Sebastien Sergile (Previous Rank: #13) – SwimAtlanta – Centennial High School – Alpharetta, GA
Best Times: 200 free – 1:35.13, 200 fly – 1:44.05, 200 IM – 1:47.71, 400 IM – 3:49.25, 100 fly – 48.35, 200 back – 1:46.98, 100 free – 44.31, 500 free – 4:23.30, 1650 free – 15:32.55
Sergile looked more like a distance swimmer in our rankings last year. But he’s built up his speed and really transitioned into one of those 200-specialists we’re seeing more and more of at the college level. A three-second drop in the 200 free is one thing. A five-second drop in the 200 fly is quite another. And Sergile also took more than three off his 200 IM. Long course is another great boost – Sergile has been 2:00.9 and 55.4 in the long course butterfly, which is outstanding. What’s interesting is that Sergile is really good at one element that his top two races (200 fly/200 free) don’t have in common: he’s got outstanding turns, both flip turns and open turns. Here’s a 200 free (lane 4, fifth lane from the top) where Sergile really shows off some nice flip turns and carries his speed really well through breakouts. In this 200 fly from the same meet (lane 4, fifth from the top), his aggressive open turns really pop.
7. Dawson Joyce (Previous Rank: Honorable Mention) – Seminole Aquatics – Seminole High School – Sanford, FL **Verbally committed to Florida**
Best Times: 50 free – 19.79, 100 free – 43.59, 100 fly – 48.52
Joyce is our first true sprinter on the list. He’s the best 50/100 guy in the class, having dropped from 20.1 to 19.7 in the 50 free and from 44.7 to 43.5 in the 100 free. He’s got the 100 fly developing as a decent third event, though he’s still got some work to do there to get into NCAA scoring range. Still, the 50 free and 100 free by themselves can provide up to six total events at the NCAA level, so Joyce should carry plenty of recruiting value. Here’s his lifetime-best long course 50 free (lane 8, bottom of the screen). We get a good angle on his explosive start, and you get a good sense of Joyce’s power, even as he works to clean up his breakout a little.
8. Lance Norris (Previous Rank: #14) – TAC Titans – Nash Central High School – Rocky Mount, NC **Verbally committed to NC State**
Best Times: 1650 free – 14:58.94, 1000 free – 9:00.96, 500 free – 4:20.64, 400 IM – 3:47.23, 200 IM – 1:48.37, 200 back – 1:44.83, 100 back – 48.67, 200 free – 1:38.29
Norris is another fast-dropping distance guy – he cracked 15 minutes in the 1650 this year, cutting 23 seconds and hitting a 2021 NCAA invite time. He’s on the cusp of breaking 9:00 in the 1000, which is another key barrier. Norris is part of a trio in the 500 (Custer, Cotter, Norris) who are pretty solidly faster than the rest of the class at this point. And a 3:47.2 in the 400 IM gives him a really nice set of three NCAA events that fit well together. These TAC guys took some serious digging to find race videos – but we managed to find Norris’s career-best in the long course 1500 free. He’s in lane 4 and quickly separates from the field. Norris has long arms, an efficient catch, and a really susprisingly-good flutter kick for a race this long.
9. Sam Powe (Previous Rank: Unranked) – McCallie GPS Aquatics – McCallie School – Chattanooga, TN
Best Times: 200 back – 1:42.39, 100 back – 47.07, 200 free – 1:37.76
Ready for another huge drop? Powe was 48.9 and 1:48.4 in the backstrokes as of our rankings last year. You’re seeing that right. He dropped more than six seconds in the 200 back and is on the cusp of NCAA invite level (it took 1:41.8 in 2021). He also has a very nice 200 free, with decent speed and endurance developing on either side of it (45.3 in the 100; 4:29 in the 500). Powe actually appears in this same NCSA video we linked for Zuchowski above (Powe is lane 3, black cap, two lanes down from Zuchowski). Powe has really good hand drive, and his underwater almost seem to get better as the race goes on. That speaks well to his potential in the 200 back, where the NCSA race video isn’t as readily available.
10. Will Hayon (Previous Rank: Unranked) – Mid Wisconsin Wave Makers – Sheboygan North High School – Sheboygan, WI **Verbally committed to Virginia Tech**
Best Times: 100 fly – 47.21, 100 free – 43.74, 50 free – 20.16, 200 free – 1:38.43, 100 back – 48.10, 200 fly – 1:47.02
Hayon is another guy who smashed his way from well outside our top 20 into the top 10. He was 48.6 in the 100 fly as of last year, and just 1:59.1 in the 200 fly. He still projects best as a 100 fly/100 free type, but cutting more than 12 seconds in the 200 fly as a junior suggests Hayon could continue to develop into a true two-distance butterflyer. He’s also great through the relya-distance freestyles, including a 100 free that is just tenths behind the best in the class. Hayon actually appears in that same 100 back video we linked for Zuchowski and Powe, but here’s Hayon’s best event, the 100 fly (lane 5, black cap). He’s got a very natural butterfly with an outstanding up-kick behind him – you see his feet drive upwards with every stroke. Maybe most exciting for Hayon is that he’s got one of those butterfly strokes that is so natural and smooth that he can breathe basically every stroke without sacrificing his body-line. It’s sacrilege in swimming to make Michael Phelps comparisons, so we won’t. But that’s one of those big-league traits that lead us to believe Hayon could grow into an elite 200 flyer with time. A bonus video, if only because Hayon really feels like one of our favorite breakout candidates the more film we watch. Here’s Hayon’s 100 free – he’s clearly got a lot more work to do here, with a lot of unnecessary bounce to his stroke. But the race is also an absolute masterclass in attacking your flip turns.
11. Zhier Fan (Previous Rank: #4) – Metroplex Aquatics – Plano, TX
Best Times: 100 breast – 53.36, 200 breast – 1:56.99, 200 IM – 1:47.76, 400 IM – 3:57.15, 200 back – 1:45.44
Fan remains the best 100 breaststroker in the class, and the best two-distance breaststroker of the bunch. He’s cut about a second in the 100 and about two in the 200, plus a solid half-second drop in the 200 IM to give him three good college events. Fan is also one of the best long course swimmers in this class. He’s been 1:02/2:17 in long course breaststroke. Here’s his career-best in the 100 short course yard breaststroke (lane 5, fifth from the top, in a dark cap). Fan’s got a really high-tempo breaststroke that should fit well on 200/400 medley relays, too. Right now, it can cause some awkward long or short walls, but that can be cleaned up with time and experience. Fan gets on and off the wall really well on his turns.
12. Ryan Branon (Previous Rank: Honorable Mention) – North Baltimore Aquatic Club – Loyola Blakefield High School – Lutherville-Timonium, MD **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best Times: 200 fly – 1:44.00, 100 fly – 47.61, 200 free – 1:39.41
Branon’s 200 fly is among the best in the class, and sits only about half a second off of 2021 NCAA invite level. He’s another outstanding long course swimmer – in fact, his long course times (54.3/2:00.9) are even more impressive than Sergile’s times pointed out above. Branon doesn’t have nearly the versatility of Sergile, but is pretty decent in the relay-distance freestyles (20.9/45.3/1:39.4) and is rising fast in butterfly. Here’s kind of a cool, bird’s-eye angle of his lifetime-best 100 fly (lane 4, white cap). You get a really good view of Branon’s excellent streamline and his powerful kickouts. Here’s his 200 fly from the same meet (lane 4, white cap). It’s encouraging to see him hold a really good tempo in this 200 fly, and his underwater kicks are efficient and never really drop off. Both races could probably use some polishing on wall timing at the next level, but that’s the kind of detail Branon can definitely hone as a college swimmer.
13. Alec Filipovic (Previous Rank: #6) – St. Charles Swim Team – Saint Charles North High School – St. Charles, IL **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best Times: 100 fly – 47.21, 200 fly – 1:45.82, 50 free – 20.00, 100 free – 44.30, 200 IM – 1:48.04, 100 back – 48.36
We profiled Filipovic as more of a sprint freestyler last time around, but his time drops have come in butterfly over his junior year. He cut a full second in his 100 fly to move towards the top of the class, and also went from 56.6 to 54.1 in long course meters. Filipovic moves down our ranks mostly because of the huge time drops among the guys above him, not because of any worries about his improvement curve. Filipovic did make marginal 50/100 free drops this year, and his long course times had good drops from 24.1/52.6 to 23.1/51.5. Here’s a look at his big drop in the 100 fly from just a few months ago (lane 5, right in the middle, dark cap). Filipovic has a ton of power, but he also looks like a guy still dialing in all the details of the short-axis butterfly. His power/tempo combination is awesome on the first 25, but it leads to an awkwardly long wall. Then he almost looks tentative on the second 25, but it does allow him to time the wall better. Then in the back 50, he brings his tempo back up, but the walls get long again. He’s clearly got high-end power, and is also trying to prioritize next-level details like wall timing. It’ll just take more experience to really blend those two things – and when he does, Filipovic is going well under 47.
14. Quintin McCarty (Previous Rank: Unranked) – Pikes Peak Athletics – Discovery Canyon High School – Colorado Springs, CO **Verbally committed to NC State**
Best Times: 50 free – 19.95, 100 free – 43.67, 100 back – 47.40, 200 back – 1:46.77
McCarty shows exactly the type of improvements we hope to project when we rank out sophomores. He had good speed last time around (20.3 in the 50), but hadn’t translated that into a comparable 100 (his best was 46.8). A year later and he’s clearly extended that speed, dropping good time in his 50 while bringing his 100 all the way down to 43.6 – among the best in the class. McCarty also crushed a career-best 22.5 in the long course 50 earlier this month. We’ve got video of that swim – and if it’s helpful to see race video against top competition, well, McCarty is one lane over from a guy who is only the best sprinter on the planet. (McCarty is lane 6, one below Caeleb Dressel). McCarty has great arm tempo and a good flutter kick, and hangs with an awfully good field of sprinters.
15. Andres Dupont Cabrera (Previous Rank: Unranked) – Bolles School Sharks – Bolles School – Jacksonville, FL
Best Times: 200 free – 1:35.60, 100 free – 43.91, 50 free – 20.28, 100 fly – 48.77
Cabrera represents Mexico internationally, but like quite of few of our top class of 2022 swimmers with international roots, he trains out of the U.S. and competes at the club and high school level within the United States. He’s a very good 100/200 freestyler who is close to the top of the class at both distances. He’s put a primary focus on long course lately, and it’s clear why – he qualified for Mexico’s Olympic team earlier this month while cracking 50 seconds for the first time with a 49.9 in the long course 100 free. This video comes from a then-lifetime-best 50.0 Cabrera swam two weeks earlier. He’s in lane 3, third from the top, in the white cap. He really back-halfs the race with great closing speed. There’s a little bit of a gallop to his stroke, but in a good way – Cabrera doesn’t have the wasted up-and-down motion that can make the galloping strokes sometimes less efficient.
Crosby mostly improved his sprint freestyle over his high school season in Minnesota, cracking the 20-second barrier with a solid half-second drop. He’s just a tenth off the best in the class there. Crosby also had a great sprint backstroke, where he matched his 47.6 lifetime-best this year. There’s not a great third even yet, but he’s dropping fast in the 200 back, going from 1:50 as a sophomore to 1:46.5 as a junior, and he also cut three tenths down to 45.8 in the 100 free. His backstroke definitely looks like it could translate to the 200 – this is a recent swim only a few tenths off a lifetime-best (lane 4, black cap) where Crosby is efficient enough with his catch that he doesn’t have to really burn the tempo up too high. He’s got great turns and a natural underwater kick. Later in that same video, we get a great look at his distinctive straight-arm freestyle (lane 5, black cap) and how much water he grabs with his arm catch.
Simons is pretty much a pure backstroker at this point, but he’s a very good one. He saw a huge two-second drop in the 200 and about a full-second drop in the 100 to rise from an honorable mention into our top 20. Simons also dropped from 58/2:04 to 55.5/2:00.5 in long course, and his butterfly is improving well, too. This swim is pre-pandemic, and Simons dropped two seconds nine months later. But in this swim (lane 5, black cap), you can see some good power out of his kick and nice hand drive at the top of his stroke.
18. Levi Sandidge (Previous Rank: Unranked) – City of Richardson Swim Team – Richardson High School – Richardson, TX
Best Times: 1650 free – 14:57.96, 1000 free – 8:59.87, 500 free – 4:25.76
You could argue that Sandidge is underrated here – after all, he does have an NCAA invite time in the 1650 free, one of only six swimmers in the class (Nelson, Zuchowski, Custer, Gentry, Norris, Sandidge) with an invite time. His mile is way ahead of his other events, though, and that limits the scoring upside a little. Sandidge dropped 15 seconds off his mile this year, and broke 9:00 for the first time in the 1000. Here’s his sub-15 mile from NCSAs this spring (lane 4, the middle of the three blue caps). Sandidge is as smooth as can be with a really low breath and a robotically-consistent arm tempo. Sandidge swims an incredibly patient race, just wearing down the other top swimmers in this heat (including one of our honorable mention recruits just below him in lane 3). But when Sandidge decides to make his move (about 900 yards in and about 8:30 in this video), the second gear is clearly visible and very impressive.
19. Braeden Haughey (Previous Rank: #18) – TAC Titans – Middle Creek High School – Apex, NC **Verbally committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 200 back – 1:43.86, 1650 free – 15:18.49, 1000 free – 9:05.39, 500 free – 4:25.76, 200 free – 1:39.01, 400 IM – 3:51.61
Another guy with an evolving event focus. Haughey was mostly a distance freestyler in our last ranks, but a 3.3-second drop down to 1:43.8 in the 200 back probably makes that his best event on paper. Haughey had modest drops in distance free, and does have pretty good range from the mile down to the 200 – that’s great for relay potential. Haughey has quite a few interesting long course events, too, including 2:09/4:24 speed in the 200/400 IMs. As with a lot of the TAC Titans on this list, his best events aren’t readily available on video, but this is a decent 200 back that came very early in swimming’s return from the pandemic. Haughey (lane 5, fourth from the bottom) is pretty arm-driven, but without a lot of tempo. He’s got a really smooth backstroke, and it’s no surprise he’s gotten four seconds faster in the 10 months since this swim.
Malicki had a great junior year, dropping 1.5 seconds in the 100 breast to push Fan for the top time in the class. Malicki’s 200 is still in development, but he was 2:03.2 at this point last year, so he’s well on his way to becoming a two-distance college breaststroker. He doesn’t need a third event to justify this ranking, but 20.8 speed in the 50 is interesting, as is a 1:48.3 in the 200 IM. Malicki is also solid in long course breaststroke: 1:03.1/2:20.6,including a three-second 100 breast drop since last year. Here’s that long course 100 (lane 8, all the way at the bottom in the black cap). Malicki has fast hands through his catch, and can probably improve his efficiency by extending his glide just a tick more at the top. He sticks right in with a field of outstanding breaststrokers there, and generates a lot of pulling power.
Two Special Cases Of Note
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a little bit of a shuffling effect on the way we think of academic years. We’re going to see it next year with a lot of fifth-year super-seniors and deferred freshman enrollments. In this class, in particular, we’ve got two swimmers who took gap years and/or reclassified into this class. We’re not including them in our ranks, but we do want to quickly note them here, as their times would probably make them top-20 type recruits.
Kamal Muhammad – Spartans Aquatic Club – Lakeside High School – Atlanta, GA **Verbally committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 200 IM – 1:45.96, 100 free – 43.48, 50 free – 20.03, 100 fly – 47.84, 100 breast – 55.65, 100 back – 48.60
Muhammad would probably rank in the top 10 in this class by virtue of a 1:45.9 in the 200 IM. He would also be the best 100 freestyler in the class. Muhammad has really nice versatility and his best event of all might be a 2:02 in the long course 200 IM. He reclassified into the class of 2022, but really isn’t significantly older than this group – his lifetime-bests in the 100 free and 200 IM both came this spring at age 17, the same age as class leaders Dawson Joyce (17 when he went 43.5 in the 100 free last fall) and Baylor Nelson (17 when he went 1:44.4 in the IM this spring).
Holden Smith – Race Pace Club – Saint Xavier High School – Louisville, KY **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best Times: 100 fly – 47.18, 200 fly – 1:46.08, 200 IM – 1:47.62, 100 back – 48.91, 200 free – 1:38.65, 100 free – 45.11
Smith would be one of the best 100 flyers in the class, and probably would sit somewhere between #10 and #20 in this group. He’s also got a nice 200 IM and a very good long course 100 fly (54.0) and 200 IM (2:06). Smith has already turned 18 this spring, but was 17 like all the above-mentioned swimmers when he hit his short course bests in the 100 fly and 200 fly. He took a gap year and will enroll with the class of 2022.
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.
Matthew Lucky (Previous Rank: Unranked) – Sailfish Aquatics – Concord High School – Harrisburg, NC
Best Times: 200 breast – 1:57.73, 100 breast – 54.57, 200 IM – 1:48.95, 100 fly – 48.80
Lucky is a very good all-around breaststroker, and there’s probably an argument to slide him in at #20 instead of Malicki, depending on how much you want to weigh the relay implications of Malicki’s superior 100 vs Lucky’s much-better 200. Lucky is also dropping very fast, from 56.2/2:01.1 as of last year. He’s 2:18 in the long course 200, which is among the best in this class.
Zachary Tan (Previous Rank: #1) – DART Swimming – Davis, CA **Verbally committed to Cal**
Best Times: 400 IM – 3:48.84, 200 IM – 1:47.23, 200 breast – 1:58.17, 100 breast – 55.43, 200 back – 1:46.56, 100 back – 49.74
Tan was our #1 overall recruit a year ago, and remains an extremely versatile and impactful talent. His drop in the rankings is less an indictment of his junior year as a testament to just how many other swimmers had massive time drops to move into the top 20. Tan didn’t see a lot of personal-bests in short course or long course as a junior, but he’s also from California, which was locked down about as much as any state during the pandemic. 3:48.8 in the 400 IM still carries tremendous weight, and Tan is really, really good through all four strokes. He’s 2:03/4:25 in the long course IMs and 1:04/2:16 in the long course breaststroke, and a couple of big swims this summer would probably be enough to vault him right back into top 20 consideration.
Gio Linscheer (Previous Rank: Unranked) – City of Richardson Swim Team – Plano East Senior High School – Richardson, TX **Verbally committed to Florida**
Best Times: 400 IM – 3:48.08, 1650 free – 15:10.03, 1000 free – 9:06.79, 500 free – 4:25.04, 200 breast – 1:59.81
Like Tan, Linscheer’s 3:48 in the 400 IM is just too hard to ignore, even in this IM-heavy class. Unlike Tan, Linchseer had incredible time drops as a junior. He was 3:53.8 in the 400 IM as of last year’s rankings and has cut nearly six full seconds. He also dropped 26 seconds in the mile and is on the cusp of NCAA invite level there.
BEST OF THE REST
Some more names that came up in our research. 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:
- Sprint free:
- Distance free:
- Hank Rivers (53.9/2:05) **Verbally committed to Cal**
- James Pan (54.1/1:59.8, 1:47.9IM) **Verbally committed to Princeton**
- Collin McKenzie (55.1/1:59.2, 1:47.6IM) **Verbally committed to NC State**
- Justin Bender (54.3/1:59.7)
- Matthew Kroll (55.0/1:58.6) **Verbally committed to Michigan**
- Tom Caps (55.1/2:02.0 – but a long course 1:03.1BR)
Feeling nostalgic? Here’s a look back at our historic recruiting class rankings, plus our retrospectives of those classes after four NCAA seasons:
|High School Class of 2022||Way Too Early Ranks As Sophomores|
|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|