The recruiting world is changing. It’s time we changed too.
Top recruits are verbally committing earlier and earlier, and our old gameplan of ranking high school recruits on July 1 after their junior years (when recruiting season used to officially open) is just too slow. So we’re adding a layer to our recruiting coverage this spring. After moving up our junior recruit ranks more than two months, we’re also producing early rankings for the current crop of sophomores – the ones who will likely start verbally committing over the next year or so.
Before we run over our traditional ranking methodology, we should head off a few counterarguments at the pass:
- Isn’t this too early to have a good read on talent? Aren’t 16-year-old kids still improving? Sure feels that way. On the other hand, coaches are clearly finding roster spots for kids who verbally commit this early. And if we and our readership want to have the most accurate picture of how the recruiting season is playing out, it’ll be useful to have some sort of ranking – even one still very much in flux – to refer to as big-name swimmers commit.
- But recruiting ranks don’t matter. It’s the fast-dropping swimmers and diamonds in the rough that really have the biggest NCAA impact. Not true. There are always fast-rising swimmers who quickly develop into NCAA stars. But there are far less of them than there are elite high school prospects that become high-impact NCAA swimmers. We all love the Cinderella stories, the unranked recruits who flourish into dominators. But even those rags-to-riches stories aren’t as fleshed out if they don’t have a clearly-defined “rags” setup. These ranks help show us who is most likely to become NCAA standouts… but also contextualize where the eventual breakout stars originally rated compared to peers.
- How accurate can these be with two plus years of development to go before any of these swimmers compete in the NCAA? Who knows? This is as new to us as it is to you. For these ranks, we’re a little less concerned with actual NCAA scoring times than we are in our junior/senior ranks, and probably marginally more interested in “ceilings” – wide event ranges, versatility, etc. But as with any ranking, these are ultimately nothing more than a snapshot in time: what the top of this recruiting class looks like in the moment, with full admission that a lot of these ranks can and will change by the time they finish their senior years.
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 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 studs. 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 a 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. Think Breeja Larson.
- Short Course over Long Course – we recognize that some programs, many programs, put their focus with their high school aged swimmers on long course, especially depending on when the high school championships may fall. That said, college swimming is short course, so a swimmer who is great in short course but struggles in long course will have the advantage over the reverse.
- 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.
- Potentially historic backstroke class
- Great IM class, great versatility
- Very deep in all freestyle events
- Thin at breaststroke, thin at butterfly
- Range still developing
This is a great class at the top, with a spirited battle for the #1 spot. Both of the swimmers in the mix for that title have great backstroke times, and with good depth behind them, this could be a historically impactful backstroke class if the top names continue to develop.
As only a sophomore, Carson Foster is already the best IMer we’ve ranked since Andrew Seliskar (then a junior) in 2014. We’re finding more and more that the IM events typically require development, with very, very few NCAA scoring options coming out of high school. Foster isn’t quite there yet in either IM, but is under NCAA invite time in the 200 and three tenths off in the 400.
In general, there are some great IMer in this class, though that feels more a product of a lot of versatile talents rather than pure IMers. There aren’t that many true IMers in our top 20, but a lot of swimmers who can excel in multiple strokes along with good IM times as support events.
In addition, this class feels loaded in every distance of freestyle. We had at least five freestylers between 20.3 and 20.5 in the 50 and at least four between 44.4 and 45.3 in the 100 who didn’t make our top 20, and that’s in addition to seven other comparable swimmers who did make our list. That’s some serious depth. With relay value, any of those guys could easily rank their way onto this list, but figuring out which of the bunch rated higher was a tough exercise this early in their high school careers. The good news is that teams looking to bolster their relay depth will find plenty of options in this class.
There are also at least six distance swimmers not on this list stacked up at 4:24 in the 500 and ranging from 15:10 to 15:33 in the mile. There are really two great options at the top of the distance ranks in this class, but also a ton of depth to keep an eye on as it develops.
The flip side is that this class is thin in breaststroke and butterfly at the moment. There’s one real standout breaststroker (Ethan Dang) with a couple of good secondary options later on the list, but behind them were mostly developmental types with intriguing 100s but 200s times not at all comparable. Gianluca Urlando is an excellent two-distance butterflyer, but after him are mostly one-distance specialists with potential to improve fast.
That’s the story for a lot of this class, and is probably a result of ranking high school sophomores, particularly on the boys side where so much physical development happens between sophomore year and senior year. Most of the swimmers left off the list (and even some on the list) have one really intriguing event but haven’t developed the range around it yet to project as a true multi-event NCAA contributor. Maybe the most fascinating part of ranking recruits this early will be seeing how the class shuffles around and develops when we revisit these ranks next year. Odds are it’ll be a pretty drastic change on the boys side.
|TOP TIMES IN THE CLASS OF 2020|
|50 Free||Matt Brownstead||20.08|
|100 Free||Destin Lasco||43.62|
|200 Free||Carson Foster||1:33.76|
|500 Free||Jake Magahey||4:16.88|
|1000 Free**||Jake Magahey||8:55.33|
|1650 Free||Jake Magahey||14:52.85|
|100 Back||Destin Lasco||45.93|
|200 Back||Carson Foster||1:41.66|
|100 Breast||Ethan Dang||53.65|
|200 Breast||Ethan Dang||1:55.56|
|100 Fly||Gianluca Urlando||46.93|
|200 Fly||Gianluca Urlando||1:43.55|
|200 IM||Carson Foster||1:43.79|
|400 IM||Carson Foster||3:44.16|
**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.
With that out of the way, let’s get to our rankings.
Disclaimer: there are a lot of high school sophomores in the country, and no really good, complete, 100% accurate listing of them all. If you don’t see your favorite swimmer on the list, feel free to politely point them out in the comments. There’s a chance that we disagree with your assessment of their spot in the top 20, and so long as it’s done civilly, there’s no problem with differences of opinions. There’s also a chance that we’ve simply missed a no-brainer (we’ve taken every precaution to avoid that), and if that happens, we want to make sure we correct it.
TOP 10 SWIMMERS FROM THE CLASS OF 2020
1. Carson Foster – Mason Manta Rays – Sycamore High School – Cincinnati, OH **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best Times: 200 IM – 1:43.79, 400 IM – 3:44.79, 200 free – 1:33.76, 100 free – 43.98, 50 free – 20.28, 200 back – 1:41.66, 100 back – 47.07, 200 fly – 1:46.87
The younger Foster brother has the best 200 IM we’ve ranked since Andrew Seliskar (ranked as a junior). He’s got the best 200 free in the class by a wide margin and would already be a plug-and-play prospect for almost any 800 free relay in the NCAA. Foster has strong times in literally every event – he’s a 56/2:02 breaststroker and a 4:20/15:29 distance swimmer. He projects as a blue-chip IMer who can also contribute on all three free relays and perhaps eventually lead off some medleys.
2. Destin Lasco – Pleasantville Aquatics – Mainland Regional High School – Pleasantville, NJ **Verbally committed to Cal**
Best Times: 100 back – 45.93, 200 back – 1:41.77, 100 free – 43.62, 200 IM – 1:44.59, 400 IM – 3:48.22, 200 free – 1:37.00, 50 free – 20.72
With Foster probably focusing on IMs, Lasco is the best primary backstroke option in this class. His 200 is comparable than the last crew of elite backstrokers in recruiting (Michael Taylor/Austin Katz) and his 100 blows that duo out. Lasco also has the best 100 free in the class, which should eventually transfer over better to his 50 and 200 frees. Though it’s the 200 IM that seems like a natural third event, already just a half-second out of 2018 NCAA invite range.
Distance swimmers don’t usually rank this highly, but Magahey is special. He’s already among the best distance prospects we’ve ranked, a year earlier than any other class we’ve ranked. He’s already under NCAA invite level in the mile and not far off of scoring pace in the 500. Magahey is also rising rapidly. In the past year or so, he’s dropped his 500 from 4:26 to 4:16. His 200 is also dropping fast, and is already fast enough to give him potential relay value down the road.
4. Gianluca Urlando – Davis Aquadarts Racing Team – CK McClatchy High School – Sacramento, CA **Verbally committed to Georgia**
Best Times: 100 fly – 46.93, 200 fly – 1:43.55, 200 IM – 1:46.69, 400 IM – 3:49.58, 200 back – 1:43.37, 100 back – 47.38, 200 free – 1:37.50
Urlando’s ranking is equal parts production and relative value to the class. Urlando is the best flyer of the bunch and really the only flyer in the class who right now excels at both distances. Both of his butterfly lifetime-bests came from March of this year, and constituted significant drops from his best times as of early 2017. Urlando adds in some great IM potential, but could also be a fly/back type in the NCAA. His 200 free shows good potential, though his sprints (21.2/45.7) haven’t quite caught up yet.
5. Ethan Dang – King Aquatic Club – Hazen High School – Seattle, WA
Best Times: 100 breast – 53.65, 200 breast – 1:55.56, 200 IM – 1:49.9, 100 fly – 49.85, 50 free – 20.8
Dang has very similar value to Urlando, checking in as the best two-distance breaststroker in the class by a wide margin. Breaststrokers seem to develop later, so Dang looks to have a huge ceiling in the NCAA. His 200 is improving by leaps and bounds, going from 1:58.0 in early 2017 to 1:55.5 this past March. Dang doesn’t have a great third event yet, but there’s certainly potential there in fly and IM. We’ve seen plenty of high-level teams struggle through breaststroke weaknesses in past years, so expect demand for Dang to be high.
6. Ethan Heasley – Hillsboro Heat Swim Team– Faith Bible High School – Hillsboro, OR **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best Times: 400 IM – 3:45.56, 200 IM – 1:47.86, 1650 free – 15:06.12, 1000 free – 8:59.64, 500 free – 4:19.82, 200 free – 1:38.19, 200 fly – 1:45.93
Heasley has impressive range between his strokes and his freestyle. He’d rank as the second-best pure distance swimmer in the class, but he’s probably a better prospect as one of the class’s elite IMers. His 400 has cut from 3:53 to 3:45 in the last year, and he only broke 1:50 in the 200 IM for the first time in March. In terms of freestyle, a sub-9:00 1000 is nothing to sneeze at, and he’s also had huge drops in his 500.
Davis heads the next tier of backstrokers in this deep class, with 100 back speed that would make him one of the best non-Ryan Hoffer recruits in years. He’s had great time improvements, and those excellent 200 IM and 200 free times are just bonus. A 1:37.0 in the 200 also feels a lot better than 21.0/47.0 sprint speed, so keep an eye on Davis there for some potential big drops coming to make him a multi-distance relay prospect.
8. Rick Mihm – Allegheny North Swim Club – North Allegheny Senior High School – Wexford, PA
Best Times: 200 IM – 1:46.09, 100 fly – 48.74, 50 free – 20.64, 100 free – 45.04, 200 free – 1:38.35, 500 free – 4:24.02
It’s hard to say where Mihm projects best long-term. That 200 IM is easily his best event, and is among the best in the class. But he doesn’t yet have the 400 (4:03) to be a pure IMer. He’s good in sprint butterfly and very rangy in the freestyles, so he’ll certainly find some place to fit in a college lineup. Mihm should be way better relay prospect than his individual times suggest, having split at least 19.5 and a blazing 43.0 before. If he can back up those times individually, he’ll be in the mix to be the best sprinter in the class to pair with his high-caliber 200 IM.
9. Adam Chaney – Mason Manta Rays – Bishop Fenwick High School – Mason, OH
Best Times: 50 free – 20.21, 100 free – 44.26, 200 free – 1:39.67, 100 back – 48.73
Chaney leads a mob of high-ceiling sprinters. He’s got one of the best 50s in the class with a very good 100, and so part of this rank hinges on the idea that he can improve his 200 as he develops. Chaney has had good drops in the sprints, and his 200 cut from 1:46 to 1:39 in early 2017, though he hasn’t been close to that time since. That 48.7 backstroke is some insurance if he never develops much endurance – he’s dropped from 51.8 to 48.7 in the past year. Chaney also split 19.2 on a NAG record-setting relay – that was at the TYR Cup meet where a timing error subtracted .3 seconds from some swims. The error, though, appeared to only affect lead-off legs, and a look at race video definitely shows Chaney in the 19-mid-to-low range.
10. Preston Forst – Enfinity Aquatic Club – Northern Guilford High School – Greensboro, NC
Best Times: 200 free – 1:37.33, 100 free – 44.85, 50 free – 20.87, 100 fly – 48.37, 200 fly – 1:48.43, 200 back – 1:46.82, 100 back – 49.16
Forst is almost the inverse of Chaney, more slanted toward the 200 with slightly less speed. We’ll rank them in this order for now given how much the NCAA format values the 50 and 100, but Forst has more versatility and would leapfrog Chaney with good improvements in his 50 or 100. He’s improving well – his first sub-1:40 in the 200 free came last December and he’s already well under that mark. He dropped almost two full seconds in his 100 over the past year along with nearly a full second in his 50. Those butterflys are also decent value in a thin class, though they aren’t central to his event spread right now.
11. Matt Brownstead – State College Area Y Aqualions – State College Area High School – Port Matilda, PA **Verbally committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 50 free – 20.08, 100 free – 45.23, 200 free – 1:39.42, 100 fly – 49.25
If you value pure speed and think endurance can come around with training, this is the prospect for you. Brownstead has the class’s best 50 and dropped about half a second in the past year there. He’s got work to do in the 100 and 200, though. His 100 didn’t drop much last year, but his 200 went from 1:42 to 1:39.
12. Harrison Lierz – Front Range Barracudas – Broomfield High School – Westminster, CO **Verbally committed to Tennessee**
Best Times: 200 back – 1:43.76, 100 back – 48.61, 100 fly – 49.23, 400 IM – 3:57.98
Lierz has got one of the best 200 backs in the class, but his 100 speed hasn’t come around quite as much. He’s had a very steady improvement curve in both and looks like a great prospect reminiscent of two of the last Coloradoans to make this list: Gavin Olson (48/1:43, class of 2019) and Daniel Carr (48/1:43, class of 2017, All-American as a freshman at Cal).
13. Ethan Hu – Peak Swimming – Harker School – Cupertino, CA
Best Times: 100 fly – 47.14, 200 fly – 1:46.71, 100 free – 45.85
Not a lot of range yet, but the only flyer in this class that can challenge Urlando in either distance. His 100 is right around the best in the class, with great natural speed and relay potential. He’s a very fast riser who hadn’t broken 50 seconds or 2:00 in the butterflys heading into the year 2017. He dropped his 200 fly from 2:02 to 1:46 in November, so it’s safe to say his range is still improving by leaps and bounds.
14. Coby Carrozza – Longhorn Aquatics – St. Stephen’s Episcopal High School – Austin, TX **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best Times: 200 back – 1:45.59, 100 back – 48.81, 100 fly – 48.50, 200 free – 1:37.04, 100 free – 45.28, 50 free – 20.93
Good at a lot of things, not great at any one. The 200 back is probably his best event right now after a drop from 1:50.2 to 1:45.5 in March. He also broke 50 in the 100 back for the first time in February and broke 50 in the 100 fly for the first time in November. Carrozza has an awesome event range and tremendous potential in a bunch of events. One big breakthrough in any of them and he’s a top-10 guy instantly.
15. Luke Maurer – NASA Wildcat Aquatics – Loyola Academy – Wilmette, IL
Best Times: 50 free – 20.67, 100 free – 45.14, 200 free – 1:38.08
Good range across the free relay distances, and an excellent improvement curve. Went from 22.5/49.8/1:46.0 in November 2016 to 21.4/46.2/1:39.6 in November 2017 to 20.6/45.1/1:38.0 already in 2018. None of his times really light up the list yet, but one more year with anywhere near those improvements and he’ll be a massively valuable prospect.
Another great relay prospect centered more around the 200, where he hadn’t broken 1:41 until last November. He’s dropped about a full second in his 50 since late 2016 as well, so the improvement trajectory is very good.
Breaststrokers and IMers seem to develop a little bit later, so there’s a good chance Dillard makes strides in his best events over the next few years. He’s the clear-cut #2 breaststroker in the class and dropping fast (56.1 to 54.3 since May 2017, 2:02.8 to 1:58.0 since March 2017).
18. Forrest Frazier – Eastern Iowa Swim Federation – Iowa City High School – Iowa City High School, IA **Verbally committed to Cal**
Best Times: 100 breast – 54.16, 200 breast – 2:00.03, 200 IM – 1:49.67, 100 fly – 49.10
Another good breaststroker, a little sprintier than Dillard. He’s got some talent into the IM and butterfly, too, though it’ll take a lot of development to be at an NCAA level. Great drops in his 100 over the last year (57.1 in March 2017, 55.3 in December 2017, 54.1 in February 2018).
Conley has a great 200 back that gets crowded out in a really good backstroke class, and he just doesn’t have the 100 speed yet to stand out. His 200 dropped from 1:49 to 1:44 from March 2017 to March 2018, though, while his 100 went from 53.2 to 50.0, so there are probably drops still to come. His IM times are good and also dropping fast.
Rose is an interesting prospect, because the record of his times in USA Swimming’s database seems to show more focus on long course than short course, which is opposite of most young swimmers. Rose doesn’t have a single short course swim logged in the SWIMS database before October 2016 despite long course times back to May of 2013 (though it’s certainly possible he has previous yards swims that, for whatever reason, aren’t appearing). In that brief time, he’s become one of the better sprinters in his class through the 50 and the 100 free. His 100 and 200 dropped almost a full second in the last year, and he’s also dropped about two seconds in that time in the 100 back.
Ones to Watch
We’re throwing in one more short list – a handful of swimmers who piqued our interest. They didn’t yet have the full complement of times to make our top 20, but seemed to have enough intrigue that we’ve earmarked them as names to keep an eye on over the next year, where they could develop into top threats for one reason or another.
- Dare Rose (Scarlet Aquatics / Piscatawny, NJ) –
Rose is really good at a lot of things, but not good enough at one thing in short course to make this list. On the other hand, he’s far, far more accomplished in long course, so there’s chance his short course makes a big leap to catch up throughout high school. He’s a 48.5/1:46.5 butterflyer and a 1:48.8/3:55 IMer short course, compared to 54.7/1:59.7 in the long course fly races. But his 21.8/46.0/1:38.1/4:24.5 short course freestyles are nowhere near his excellent 24.0/50.8/1:51.0/3:57.6 prowess in long course meters.
- Kyle Adams (Munster Swim Club / Munster High School / Munster, IN) – **Verbally committed to Iowa** – Adams is one of two breaststrokers just off our list with great 100 times and a lot of work to do in the 200. He’s 54.7 in the 100 but only 2:05 in the 200, though he cut that from 2:12 since last November.
- Antonio Octaviano (Radnor Aquatic Club / The Haverford School / Downington, PA) –
Another 54.5 breaststroker who only has 2:05.0 range. Octaviano doesn’t have as much versatility as Adams and has plateaued in his 200 breast since 2016. But he does have great natural speed and is one to watch moving forward.