Comparing Cal’s 2017 Men’s Recruiting Class to History’s Best

Ryan Hoffer Winter Junior Nationals 2014
Photo Courtesy: Melissa Lundie

By Lander Eicholzer, Swimming World College Intern

Dave Durden and The University of California, Berkeley have put together a massive recruiting class for the men’s class of 2017. It includes nine athletes, highlighted by the best recruit to enter the college ranks since David Nolan (Stanford). By the time he suits up for the Golden Bears, Ryan Hoffer may be the best male recruit ever, but a group of this magnitude could also be the best men’s recruiting class in history.

Cal was due to redistribute a large chunk of its scholarship money this year with the likes of Ryan Murphy and Long Gutierrez entering their senior seasons. It also helps that several of the incoming recruits (Jarod Hatch, Nate Biondi, Bryce Medford, Trenton Jullian and diver Jackson Gabler) are in state recruits, reducing scholarship costs. Other swimmers include Daniel Carr, James Daughtrey and Sean Grieshop.

It is no secret that the Cal program had an outstanding summer as they put six men on the U.S. roster in Rio. All six of those men left the 2016 Olympics with gold medals. Durden and his staff carried this momentum into the fall recruiting period to assemble this marque class, which has the potential to compete with some of the NCAA’s strongest rosters in history.

Past and Present Powerhouses

A number of teams have developed rosters that rival this one, though few could bring in so many strong swimmers in the same year.

In 2004, the University of Texas had a roster that included Aaron Peirsol, Ian Crocker, and Brendan Hansen. All three men won NCAA titles and would go on to become some of the best American swimmers of their era, though Peirsol did not come to Texas until 2002, two years after Crocker and Hansen arrived.

A similar situation developed at Auburn from 2003-2007, when the Tigers won five consecutive NCAA team titles. The convergence of talent at Auburn in that span was immense; it included NCAA champions Eric Shanteau, Frederick Bousquet, George Bovell, Matt Target, and Cesar Cielo. Few of these men belonged to the same graduating class, however.

The current men’s roster at Texas bears some investigation, but its strongest class internationally is perhaps its group of seniors that include Will Licon and Jack Conger. However, these men have only competed on the senior international level for a few years and only Conger holds an Olympic medal. It’s ultimately too early to predict their long-term career prospects.

Cal’s Outlook

Hoffer will enter college with excellent underwaters and working with Durden should provide him the opportunity to play an important role for the U.S. internationally, much like Tom Shields blossomed in Berkeley. Hoffer’s best times in the sprints (19.06 and 41.23) already make him one of the best sprinters in the country, and he has yet to graduate high school.

Additionally, Grieshop, the world junior record holder in the 400 IM, looks like he may be next great American medley swimmer. He possesses significant credentials in the distance freestyle races as well, covering a major area of need for the Golden Bears.

With appropriate coaching and some luck a swimmer like Mefford could develop into a strong backstroker, similar to the likes of Jacob Pebley, by the time his eligibility is exhausted.

The strength of this class lies in its broad base. Cal can afford to miss on several of these swimmers and still produce multiple men that should contend for NCAA individual titles. The group is ripe with strong bloodlines as both Julian and Biondi have parents that have significantly impacted the sport.

If there’s one thing this class lacks it’s an ace breaststroker. Daughtrey is quick at 54.26 and 2:00.60, respectively, but both of those times will need to improve to move into NCAA scoring range. Still, he provides a potential Pac-12 scoring threat in both distances. Cal’s recent success with swimmers like Josh Prenot and Chuck Katis provides hope, but any addition to the teams breaststroke group from this class would be a luxury.

Cal has responded brilliantly to the clinic put on by Texas at the last two NCAA Championships with some incredibly timely recruiting. Cal’s pitch could be bolstered by the opening of its new aquatics complex, but its broad appeal can ultimately be found in its results in the pool. This is how programs are sustained and a tradition of excellence is built. Durden and his staff now appear to have ample athletes to add to the Cal legacy.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.


  1. avatar
    Bill Bell

    Cal’s incoming recruiting class is mist impressive. But oing back a few decades before the “aughts” SC didn’t t have too bad a recruiting class in 1972-’73 when it landed ( among others) John Naber, the Bottom brothers, Brucr Fhrniss (his brother Steve was already a Trojan by then) and several other top guys who I can’t recall the off top of my head.

    All SC did from ’74-’77 was win NCAAs four- consecutive years and all Naber, Brucr Furniss and Stdachan did @ Montreal Olympics was win four individual golds among themselves and set four world records — two by Naber (who also won golds in the 400 medley -800 free relay with Furniss picking up golds in the 400-800 freestyle relays too.)
    And before that in ’69 Doc Counsilman brought in a couple of guys named Spitz and Hall and they helped Hoosiers continue NCAA winning streak from ’68 through ’73,
    Stanford had some great recruiting classes too in ’80s/’99s.
    It’s all relative but if Stanford women don’t go four- for- four starting next March there’ll be a bigger investigation than Warergate!