Five American Men on the Verge of International Breakthrough

Luke Hobson -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Five American Men on the Verge of International Breakthrough

This year marked a transition period for the U.S. men on the international stage, and plenty of Americans established themselves as key figures to watch in the coming years. Carson Foster won silver medals in both individual medley events at the World Championships, and Shaine Casas won bronze in the 200 backstroke at Worlds before posting top-three times in the world in the 100 butterfly and 200 IM at U.S. Nationals. Hunter Armstrong became a world-record holder in the 50 back, and at Worlds, he swam under 52 for the first time in the 100 back while securing four medals. Teenager Matt Fallon swam the world’s third-quickest time in the 200 breaststroke. And the U.S. men’s 800 freestyle relay finished on top of a global podium for the first time since Michael Phelps retired.

Given their performances in previous seasons, it was not a huge surprise to see these men elevating their swimming in 2022. All had established themselves as key names to follow moving through the entire 2021-22 campaign, and they followed through on that promise. Now, who’s next? Here are a few swimmers now on the radar heading into this college season and the ensuing 2023 long course season.

Coby Carrozza and Luke Hobson

The American squad that reclaimed the world title in the 800 free relay included two Texas Longhorns, Foster and Drew Kibler. Here are two more Texas swimmers on the verge of becoming centerpieces for the U.S. in the 200 free. Coby Carrozza was also a member of the Worlds team, and he earned a gold medal after swimming a prelims leg of the relay. Carrozza was relatively unknown on the national level before emerging during his sophomore season at Texas, but Carrozza’s teammates were not at all surprised with his impressive results.

“That was a matter of when he was going to show up,” Foster said. “I saw Coby train, and I was like, ‘How is this kid not making the Olympics the way he’s training?’ He’s another person who’s just scratching the surface, and I think he’s starting to get his confidence from making that [World Championships] trip. He’s got huge goals and very realistic goals based on how he trains.”

Carrozza swam a mark of 1:46.86 in the 200 free at the U.S. International Team Trials in April, good enough for fifth place, and then he split 1:46.22 on the prelims relay at Worlds. The next Longhorn 200 freestyle specialist to keep an eye on is Luke Hobson, whose initial college season included numerous eye-popping relay splits, including a 1:30.84 in the 200-yard free at the NCAA Championships, and a third-place finish at the national meet in the 500-yard free.

Hobson missed making the Worlds team as a relay alternate by one spot, but later in the summer, he beat out a deep field at U.S. Nationals to win the title in 1:46.14, good enough to make Hobson the fourth-fastest American this year in the event. A few weeks later, Hobson swam for the U.S. team at the Duel in the Pool in Sydney, and he dropped his best time even further to 1:45.59 (although that time will not be recognized as official). Those swims will put Hobson in a strong position to contribute to U.S. relays at major competitions as soon as next year.

Gabriel Jett


Gabriel Jett — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Very quickly, Gabriel Jett has emerged as a top U.S. hope in the 200 butterfly. Upon his arrival at Cal, Jett quickly became a contributor for head coach Dave Durden’s squad in its national-title run, and he finished sixth at the NCAA Championships in the 200-yard fly. A little over a month later, Jett was sixth in the meters version of the event at the International Team Trials, dropping his best time from 1:57.82 to 1:56.58.

But by the end of the summer, Jett had skipped to a completely different level as he crushed the competition at U.S. Nationals with a mark of 1:54.37, a time that only six other American men had ever beaten. In that swim, Jett showed tremendous belief in his training and his own abilities as he got himself out quickly and was able to hold tough down the stretch. Fellow Americans Foster, Luca Urlando and Trenton Julian also swam elite times in the 200 fly this year, but Jett, still a teenager and on a rapid track of improvement, must be considered a contender.

Matt King

Matt King exploded during his first season at Virginia after transferring from Alabama. After topping out with a seventh-place finish in the 100-yard free at the NCAA Championships, King lowered his lifetime best in the meters version of the race from 49.98 to 48.33 in one summer, and in July, he tied with Olympic gold medalist Zach Apple for the national title in the event before winning the 50 free on his own.

“That was the best [100 freestyle] I’ve had in a long time,” King said after the 100 free final. “These guys pushed me to do my best. I have to thank [Virginia coach Todd DeSorbo]. He really overhauled my training and it’s been working out.”

With six 100 freestylers selected to represent the U.S. at most international competitions, King is not far away from jumping into that mix and becoming a real contributor to an American 400 free relay squad undefeated in international competition since 2016.

Josh Matheny


Josh Matheny — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

This year, Nic Fink and Michael Andrew were the U.S. representatives in the men’s 100 breaststroke at World Championships, but there was not a ton of speed behind them. Maybe Josh Matheny is the guy poised to step into that void. The Indiana sophomore has hovered on the fringe of contention for years, as he swam in the 1:00-low range six times between 2019, when he was the World Junior Championships silver medalist, and 2021. Matheny finally broke through at U.S. Nationals in prelims, and later that day, he won the national title in 59.44.

“I’ve been stuck at 1:00 for a really, really long time. It was kind of a never-ending kind of thing. I thought I was just a pro at going 1:00,” Matheny said that day. “To look up and see a 59 gave me an explosion of confidence coming into tonight.”

The 19-year-old Matheny struggles with underwater pullouts, so his college results have yet to match up to his long course success. In fact, he ended up 29th in the 100-yard breast at the NCAA Championships last season. But Matheny finds himself in a really strong position in long course entering 2023, so whatever improvements Matheny can make this college season will be a bonus.