We continue our traditional spring recruiting coverage with our “Way Too Early” ranks of the current high school sophomore class. As top recruits continue to give verbal commitments earlier and earlier, we’re moving up our rankings to help give better context to big recruiting announcements.
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? Maybe. 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 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. If you, your favorite swimmer or your son/daughter isn’t ranked, don’t get mad – see it as the starting point for your/their rise to stardom.
- How accurate can these be with two-plus years of development to go before any of these swimmers compete in the NCAA? Who knows? Predicting the future never has a 100% hit rate. 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 United States, when they’ll come to the States and with what graduating class they should be ranked. Projecting international recruits often becomes more of 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.
- Deep sprint class – could be a game-changer for relays
- Also deep in fly/back, but mostly still in development
- Thin IM & breaststroke groups
- Big dropoff after top few 200/500 guys
As with most sophomore classes, this group is very much still in development. And a year of inconsistent training and racing opportunities only makes projecting individual athletes that much trickier.
On the flip side, we can make some bigger-picture observations of this class, even as we fully expect the top 20 to undergo a pretty dramatic shift in order by next year. (That’s what we saw with last year’s sophomores, too).
There’s no clear-cut #1 sprinter in this class, but as a whole, sprinters might be the strength of this class. There’s a good number of 20-point/44-point type guys, and a deep group just outside of our top 20 in the 21./45./1:39. range. The sprints usually reward size and strength, and we usually expect to see more improvements as swimmers move from high school sophomores towards college freshmen. So with this group being as deep as it is, the NCAA could be getting an all-around relay infusion, if the improvement curves hit for most of these guys.
The butterfly and backstroke groups are also pretty deep. They’ve got a little more definition at the top, with a few 46/47 types, and then a big dropoff to the high 48s and 49s. There aren’t a ton of two-distance standouts in either fly or back yet, but that’s something that probably comes along with more racing opportunities.
Overall, it’s a very thin IM group. The top time in the class is better in both IMs than last year’s sophomores, but the depth really drops off, and the IMs aren’t at the levels of the classes of 2021 or 2020 as sophomores. Breaststroke is also relatively thin, though there’s a decent amount of 54-second guys working on developing 200 speed.
Once you get beyond the top 10 or so, there’s a big dropoff in the 200/500 frees, too, so the top few swimmers in those events will be especially valuable for the time being.
|Top Times in the Class of 2023|
|50 Free||Simon Lins||20.11|
|100 Free||Will Modglin||43.82|
|200 Free||Rex Maurer||1:35.91|
|500 Free||Rex Maurer||4:19.57|
|1000 Free**||Andrew Taylor||9:05.00|
|1650 Free||Andrew Taylor||15:13.87|
|100 Back||Will Modglin||46.60|
|200 Back||Keaton Jones||1:42.81|
|100 Breast||Will Heck||53.73|
|200 Breast||Will Heck||1:57.16|
|100 Fly||Scotty Buff||46.59|
|200 Fly||Mitchell Ledford||1:46.32|
|200 IM||Will Modglin||1:45.14|
|400 IM||Roberto Bonilla Flores||3:48.83|
**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 20 SWIMMERS FROM THE CLASS OF 2023
1. Will Modglin – Zionsville Swim Club – Zionsville Community High School – Zionsville, IN **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best Times: 200 IM – 1:45.14, 100 back – 46.60, 100 free – 43.82, 100 fly – 47.56, 50 free – 20.13, 200 free – 1:37.54, 200 back – 1:45.24
Modglin should be a very valuable NCAA swimmer, with excellent sprint speed across all four strokes. He’s the best in the class in the 100 back, 100 free, and 200 IM, with plenty of other events to develop over the rest of his high school career. Modglin is almost a second faster than any other backstroker in this class, and is the only freestyler under 44. One early comparison for Modglin: Destin Lasco, who was the #1 swimmer in his sophomore class in the 100 free (43.6) and 100 back (45.9) back in 2018. Keep an eye out for Modglin at next week’s Wave II Olympic Trials, where he’ll try to improve long course bests of 54.1 in fly, 55.0 in back and 2:03.1 in IM.
2. Rex Maurer – Rose Bowl Aquatics – Loyola High School – Pasadena, CA
Best Times: 500 free – 4:19.57, 200 free – 1:35.91, 100 free – 44.40, 50 free – 20.93, 1000 free – 9:33.55, 1650 free – 15:23.91
We mentioned the steep dropoff in the 200/500 free – well, Maurer is the top of the class, with a steep cliff behind him. 4:19 in the 500 is far better than the best time in last year’s sophomore ranks (Morrissey’s 4:24.1) or the year before that (Frandson’s 4:23.1), though it’s not quite in line with Jake Magahey’s 4:16.8 from the class of 2020. In the same vein, Maurer’s 200 free is the best sophomore time we’ve ranked since Carson Foster (1:33.7) in that class of 2020. Maurer also has great range down to the 50 free and up to the 1650, so it’s worth keeping an eye on which end of that range he develops most over the next two years.
3. Nate Germonprez – Inspire Swim Team – Westside High School – Omaha, NE **Verbally committed to Texas**
Best Times: 200 IM – 1:45.41, 200 free – 1:36.16, 100 free – 44.73, 50 free – 20.83, 100 back – 47.72, 200 back – 1:45.14, 100 breast – 54.52, 200 breast – 2:00.43, 400 IM – 3:56.01
Germonprez probably just jumped onto a lot of fans’ radars with some outstanding long course swims at Wave I Olympic Trials. (2:02.5 in the long course 200 IM is most impressive, and actually six-tenths of a second faster than Modglin’s long course best, though Modglin will compete next week). Germonprez has no class-best times in short course, but is just 0.3 seconds away in the 200 IM and 0.1 seconds away in the 200 free. He’s very impressive through the 100s of all four strokes, with great range up to the 200, and could very easily jump to #1 in this class with a few moderate time drops.
4. Scotty Buff – Greater Toledo Aquatic Club – Saint Francis de Sales High School – Maumee, OH **Verbally committed to Florida**
Best Times: 100 fly – 46.59, 100 back – 47.48, 50 free – 20.24, 200 back – 1:48.61
The top four in this class seem to be in their own tier for the time being. Buff is the best 100 flyer in the class – in fact, his fly speed matches up favorably compared to previous top sophomore recruits Aidan Hayes (46.6) and Luca Urlando (46.9). Buff is much more of a versatile sprinter right now than a two-distance butterflyer, though we’ve seen plenty of swimmers make big strides in the daunting 200 fly as they get older – just look at Hayes, who went from 1:47.0 as a sophomore to 1:41 as a junior. Buff is also 54.6 in the long course 100 fly.
5. Keaton Jones – Swim Neptune – Higley High School – Gilbert, AZ **Verbally committed to Cal**
Best Times: 200 back – 1:42.81, 500 free – 4:22.66, 200 free – 1:38.00, 400 IM – 3:51.97, 100 back – 48.67, 1000 free – 9:18.11, 1650 free – 15:22.83, 100 free – 45.32, 50 free – 20.70
Jones is the best 200 backstroker in the class, and it’s not close. 1:42.8 is just a second off what it took to earn an NCAA invite in 2021 and within two seconds of an NCAA scoring time. Jones has excellent versatility, so much so that it’s not totally clear yet if backstroke should be his main event. We tend to see big 500 free drops late in high school and early in college, so 4:22 in the 500 carries more weight that it appears to. Jones is also 3:51.9 in the 400 IM, and based on his long course speed (4:24.8) and the fact that his short course best comes from pre-pandemic, he might be in line to drop in that event and challenge the best IMers in the class. Jones will also compete at Wave II Trials next week.
6. Mitchell Ledford – Treasure Coast Swimming – Sebastian River High School – Sebastian, FL **Verbally committed to NC State**
Best Times: 100 fly – 46.96, 200 fly – 1:46.32, 100 free – 45.37, 200 free – 1:40.54, 200 IM – 1:50.06
Ledford is the best two-distance flyer in the class right now. He’s within about half a second of Buff’s class-leading 100 fly, and has the best 200 fly in the field to boot. He’s an outstanding long course swimmer, with times of 53.5 and 2:01.9 in butterfly. (For what it’s worth, that 100 is better than Buff’s best long course time). Ledford is also pretty solid in the relay-distance freestyles (21.1/45.3/1:40.5) and could develop into a multi-relay threat down the road.
7. Andrew Taylor – Tampa Bay Aquatic Club – Countryside High School – Palm Harbor, FL **Verbally committed to Florida**
Best Times: 1650 free – 15:13.87, 1000 free – 9:05.00, 500 free – 4:22.23, 400 IM – 3:51.51, 200 free – 1:40.58
Our top distance swimmer, Taylor is only about 12 seconds off of NCAA invite range in the mile. He’s also a very solid 500 freestyler, and has a clear-cut NCAA event trio with the 1650 free, 500 free, and 400 IM. Taylor hit a bunch of his lifetime-best times this spring, and appears to be swimming well coming out of the pandemic.
8. Jonny Marshall – Firestone Akron Swim Team – Firestone Senior High School – Akron, OH **Verbally committed to Florida**
Best Times: 100 back – 47.41, 200 back – 1:47.15, 200 free – 1:38.83, 100 free – 45.55
Marshall is a solid backstroker who trends a little more towards the sprints. Compared to Keaton Jones above, Marshall is more than a second faster in the 100, but about four seconds slower in the 200. A promising sign for his developing endurance, though, is that Marshall is already 1:38.8 in the 200 free, not far from Jones’ best there. Marshall is 56.2 in long course back, and adds a 56.9 long course 100 fly to the mix – look for his 200 back and/or 100 fly (49.7 right now) to make strides over his junior year.
9. Roman Jones – Jersey Flyers Aquatic Club – The Pingry School – Chatham, NJ **Verbally committed to Cal**
Best Times: 100 fly – 47.70, 100 back – 48.11, 100 free – 44.87, 200 free – 1:38.87, 50 free – 20.57
Jones projects as an excellent 100-specialist. He’s got outstanding speed through fly, back and free. 47.7 puts him a tick behind the top sprint flyers in the class, and 48.1 is on the cusp of joining the top group of 100 backstrokers, too. His long course 100 fly time (54.6) is a great sign for his development in the 100-/200-yard fly races. Jones has nice speed into the relay-distance freestyles, too.
Heck is the best breaststroker in the class, and his 100 time stacks up pretty well compared to previous sophomore class leaders like Hank Rivers (53.9 in the class of ’22) and Ethan Dang (53.6 in the class of ’20). This class as a whole needs some improvements in the 200 breast, but Heck is starting from the fastest 200 time of anybody in this class. He’s also got a good 200 IM and a sub-50 in the 100 fly that offer solid tertiary NCAA events.
Lins is the best sprint freestyler in this class, but he’s got a huge crowd right on his tail. Whoever emerges from that group will probably surge way up into our top 10 as juniors. Lins is right on the cusp of being sub-20 in the 50 free, and brings pretty good 100 speed with it in both free (44.8) and fly (48.9). Lins made massive drops from 21.0/46.7 in sprint free and 50.5 in fly at a March meet, so the improvement curve is excellent.
12. Hayden Bellotti – First Colony Swim Team – Clements High School – Sugar Land, TX **Verbally committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 200 free – 1:37.44, 100 free – 44.05, 50 free – 20.75, 100 fly – 49.25, 200 fly – 1:49.34, 100 back – 49.37, 500 free – 4:27.99
Bellotti is another strong contender for this class’s best relay-distance freestyler. He doesn’t have the same jets as Lins over the short-range, but he’s quite a bit better up to the 100 and 200 of freestyle. On the flip side, he’s a step behind Lins in the 100 fly at this point, but then brings a bit more versatility up to the 200 fly, 500 free, and into the backstroke.
13. Josh Parent – Bluefish Swim Club – Wilbraham, MA **Verbally committed to Florida**
Best Times: 1650 free – 15:20.71, 1000 free – 9:10.77, 400 IM – 3:50.36, 200 fly – 1:48.43, 200 IM – 1:49.93, 200 free – 1:39.51, 500 free – 4:28.70
Parent is probably one of these guys we see every year who is a better swimmer than he is an NCAA prospect. In fact, he’s one of only a handful of guys on this list competing in Wave II Olympic Trials this week. Parent is maybe most exciting as a 400 IMer, where his 3:50.3 is within striking distance of the best in the class, but his long course 4:23 puts him firmly atop the class. He’s also pretty close to NCAA invite range in the mile, and has lots of opportunity to extend his range down into the 200/500 free or into the 200 IM or 200 fly.
14. Toby Barnett – Rockville Montgomery Swim Club – Rockville High School – Bethesda, MD **Verbally committed to Indiana**
Best Times: 400 IM – 3:49.42, 200 IM – 1:48.53, 200 breast – 1:57.87, 100 breast – 56.35
We’re starting a run of IMers here. Barnett actually outdoes Parent a little in the short course 400 IM, and also carries better times down to the 200 IM. Barnett might not totally have the versatility Parent does yet, but between the IMs and the breaststrokes, he’s got plenty to work with as an NCAA prospect. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Barnett eventually take over as the best 200 breaststroker in this class, buoying his value by next year.
15. Roberto Bonilla Flores – The Woodlands Swim Team – The Woodlands High School – The Woodlands, TX **Verbally committed to Texas A&M**
Best Times: 400 IM – 3:48.83, 200 fly – 1:46.45, 200 IM – 1:49.94, 100 breast – 55.86, 200 breast – 2:01.33
Flores actually has the best 400 IM in the class, though only by about six-tenths over Barnett. Like Barnett, he’s got a pretty solid trio of NCAA events that fit together well in the college meet order: the 200 IM, 400 IM, and 200 fly. Flores needs to improve his speed a little more to drop from 1:49.9 in the 200 IM, but he’s got big-time mid-distance talent, with long course times of 4:26 in the 400 IM and 2:02 in the 200 fly. Flores is also a pretty solid breaststroker who could develop there as well.
16. Sonny Wang – Waterloo Swimming – Westwood High School – Austin, TX
Best Times: 50 free – 20.27, 100 free – 44.28, 100 fly – 50.05
Wang is very comparable to Lins – a great short-distance sprinter who is still trying to develop third event. 20.2/44.2 is great short speed, and would make Wang a valuable relay prospect. But he’ll need to keep improving to get toward NCAA scoring range, which is very fast (19.3/42.4) in the sprints. His 100 fly has potential as a tertiary event, and Wang is also a 57.5 breaststroker.
Wang and Scholl could be interchangeable based on how much you value each swimmer’s third events. Scholl is just a tick behind Wang in both the 50 and 100 frees, though he’s still among the best in the class in both events. His 1:39.1 in the 200 free probably carries a little more value than Wang’s 100 fly, but this far out, it’s really going to come down to who has bigger time drops over the next two years.
18. Bert Najera – Mission Viejo Nadadores – Santa Margarita Catholic High School – Rancho Santa Margarita, CA
Best Times: 200 IM – 1:47.26, 400 IM – 3:55.72, 500 free – 4:26.19, 1000 free – 9:23.99, 1650 free – 15:49.75
Najera’s got a pretty interesting event combo right now – his best two events might be the 200 IM and 500 free, which share a session at NCAAs and aren’t really a workable combo. But being as good as he is at both offers several different routes to college production. We tend to see big IM drops late in high school and early in college, so it wouldn’t take much of a drop from that 3:55 in the 400 IM to make Najera one of the class’s best all-around IMers. Najera is also 1:47.7 in the short course 200 back and 2:02 in the long course 200 fly, showing some rangy versatility.
19. Gibson Holmes – Mason Manta Rays – Indian Hill High School – Cincinnati, OH
Best Times: 100 fly – 47.97, 200 IM – 1:48.20, 400 IM – 3:57.07, 100 breast – 55.35, 100 back – 50.09, 100 free – 45.22, 200 free – 1:39.38
47-second flyers are usually quite valuable, especially among high school sophomores. That’s the clear standout event for Holmes, who has been 55.7 in long course fly. He’s also got a very good 200 IM, and like Najera, we’d keep an eye out for big drops in his 400 IM moving forward.
Scholtz projects into that 200 IM/400 IM/200 breast type of NCAA lineup, although he could end up being mainly a breaststroker, too. His long course times would support the breaststroker route: Scholtz went a blistering 2:16.4 in the 200 breast at Wave I Olympic Trials, and added a 1:03.0 in the 100 long course breaststroke earlier this spring.
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.
Caleb Maldari – SwimMAC Carolina – Cornelius, NC **Verbally committed to Florida**
Best Times: 200 back – 1:44.65, 100 back – 48.74, 200 IM – 1:49.29, 400 IM – 3:54.85, 200 free – 1:40.16
Maldari is a great 200 backstroker who could break into the top 20 if he can bring that 100 down into the 47s. He’s also a good IMer, and went 55.8 in long course 100 back in May and 2:01.1 in a long courses 200 back at Wave I Olympic Trials.
Joe Hayburn – Annapolis Swim Club – Saint Marys High School – Pasadena, MD
Best Times: 200 back – 1:45.81, 100 back – 48.41, 100 fly – 50.41
Hayburn is another guy who has a great 200 back, and he’s actually got a little more 100 speed than Maldari. Hayburn cut down to 55.9 in the long course 100 back at Wave I Trials.
Logan Brown – First Colony Swim Team – Clements High School – Sugar Land, TX **Verbally committed to Texas A&M**
Best Times: 100 breast – 54.74, 200 breast – 1:59.21, 200 IM – 1:49.16, 400 IM – 3:56.73, 100 fly – 49.63, 100 free – 45.76
Brown kicks off a long list of good breaststrokers who couldn’t quite fit into our top 20 – you’ll see plenty more in our Best of the Rest section. Brown is sub-2:00 in the 200 breast, and also brings good IM potential.
Hudson Williams – New Albany Aquatic Club – Olentangy Liberty High School – Powell, OH **Verbally committed to NC State**
Best Times: 200 IM – 1:48.34, 100 back – 49.48, 50 free – 20.91, 100 free – 44.97
It’s a pretty interesting event spread for Williams. His 1:48 IM is probably the headliner, but with some drops in sprint freestyle, he might actually surge up our list better as a relay guy.
Bobby Dinunzio – Tide Swim Team – Virginia Beach, VA **Verbally committed to Virginia**
Best Times: 1650 free – 15:23.09, 1000 free – 9:18.31, 500 free – 4:27.86, 200 free – 1:41.43
In the 500/1000/1650 range, Dinunzio is a step above the other distance freestylers not on this list. He’s also been 3:59 in the long course 400, which is a solid mark, and he’s got enough intrigue in the 200 to eventually grow into a distance swimmer with one relay option.
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. Verbal commitments are listed where they’ve been reported. Each of these athletes is still an extremely high-level recruit:
- Sprint free:
- Distance free:
- Zachary Larrick (21.7/45.6/1:37.9/4:28/15:44) **Virginia**
- Kayden Lancaster (21.5/45.7/1:38.0/4:28/15:43) **Louisville**
- Henry McFadden (1:38.8/4:25.1/15:51, 1:48.2FL)
- Isaac Fleig (4:33/9:27/15:29, 3:56IM, 1:49.0FL) **Kentucky**
- Jack Hendrick (1:41/4:28/9:31/15:42)
- Ethan Wang (1:40.5/4:31/9:31/15:42)
- Craig Bohlman (1:41/4:31/9:24/15:40)
- Keller Morgan (1:42/4:29/9:33/15:51, 1:48.6IM) **USC**
- Diego Nosack (49.2/1:47.1, 3:55IM)
- Andrew Billitto (48.4/1:49.8, 48.9BK, 45.1/1:38.9FR) **Aubutn**
- Jack Stokvis (48.3)
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||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|