Missouri Tigers: A Powerhouse in the Making

mizzou-pillars-running
Photo Courtesy: Flickr

By Tucker Rivera, Swimming World College Intern.

The Beginning of an Era

The 2019 NCAA men’s swim season is surrounded by question marks. Following an off-season of immense shakeups in the sport’s most talented conferences, it seems that every team is clamoring to finally conquer the Reese dynasty at UT Austin. It would be reasonable to expect that a new era of collegiate swimming may be beginning before the end of the current Olympic cycle. Certainly, fans of swimming at the NCAA level should keep their sights locked on squads like Indiana, Cal and Texas. However, one team in the SEC is being overlooked. That school? The University of Missouri.

Consistency and Recruitment

sam-tierney-missouri-ncaa-2015 (1)

Photo Courtesy: Andy Ringgold

The SEC’s losses of Caeleb Dressel and Zach Apple, confounded by its drastic shifts in coaching staffs, have left the conference barren. Hoping to take advantage of this gap, is Mizzou. After an “off-year” at NCAAs, the Tigers enter the 2019 season having added two of Colorado’s best swimmers, a versatile Columbia native, and an Indiana state-champion diver to their already impressive roster.

While the Florida Gators have been widely recognized for obtaining the most impressive recruiting class of the conference, the program’s losses of Dressel and head coach Gregg Troy, alongside its separation of the men’s and women’s coaching staffs, may prove to cause an immense culture shift in Gainesville.

Missouri’s coaching structure seems to be the strongest of all SEC schools. Entering his eighth year as its head coach, Greg Rhodenbaugh has created the Tigers’ first winning culture in school history. In his first seven seasons, he’s helped 20 men earn All-American honors, trained National Team members like Michael Chadwick and Carter Griffin, and has consistently kept the Tigers in the NCAA top-25. Despite the loss of assistant coach Christine Mabile to Boise State, it appears that Missouri’s coaching staff is among the most stable in the SEC.

This year, the crucial addition of Colorado standouts Danny Kovac and Kyle Leach implicate the team’s potential for drastic improvements throughout the coming season.

danny-kovac-

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Without a doubt, Kovac is one of the most talented swimmers in the entire United States. An athlete for a USA Swimming Gold-Medal club, the Fort Collins Area Swim Team (FAST) out of Fort Collins, Colo., Kovac had an absolutely ridiculous senior season.

At the 2018 Colorado Long Course State Championships, Kovac raced unshaved and untapered, swimming his off events. That being said, he still broke a nearly 25-year-old LSC record in the 100-meter breaststroke (1:03.54). Despite the longevity of the mark, nobody seemed shocked to see Kovac topple the decades-old record. Why? Well, after his legendary 43.0 100-yard free split at the 2018 CHSAA State Championships, 46 second 100 fly, 20 second 50 free and his spot on the 2018 Junior Pan-Pac National Team, people had come to expect excitement when Kovac was in the water.

His raw talent is nearly unmatched. Grossly underrated and unknown for his talent, Kovac will bring a fantastic spark to the Tigers’ team and should be considered a favorite to win freshman of the year in the SEC.

Leach, from CSST in Colorado Springs, Colo., is one of the most talented freestylers to ever hail from the Centennial State. His depth is impeccable; ranging from a 20.9 in the 50 free to a 4:26 in the 500 free, Leach could fight for a spot on any one of Mizzou’s freestyle relays and surely adds depth to the Tigers’ conference team.

Mizzou also added a fantastic talent in Dane Florea. Hailing from the NCSA’s Columbia Swim Club, Florea’s durability and diversity is nothing short of stellar. Swimming a 15-minute mile, a 3:52 400 IM, and a 2:03 200 breast, Florea can surely help this team compete at a high level.

Another important addition will be that of IHSAA state champion and national 10-Meter platform finalist Ike Khamis. In an era where diving is becoming increasingly important in national rankings, Khamis could provide much-needed depth in Mizzou’s diving department. Don’t forget – Texas won the 2018 National Championship largely because of its talented diving core.

Looking Forward

Undoubtedly, Mizzou’s recruiting classes are only going to continue to improve. With a consistent coaching staff, excellent facilities and a top-rank education, Missouri is going to have massive appeal to individuals from around the world.  However, the school’s efforts haven’t stopped – Missouri is already building upon this year’s potential with next season’s recruit class.

will-goodwin-missouri-mizzou

Photo Courtesy: Lisa Goodwin

Yet again, they’ve begun by tapping into Colorado Swimming’s often neglected reservoir of talent.

With the addition of swimmers like Will Goodwin from TOPS in Denver, Colo., the University of Missouri is soon going to have one of the most well-rounded teams in the entire country. Goodwin, a USA Swimming Scholastic All-American, boasts a 1:59.85 200 breaststroke and a 3:52.89 400 IM after finishing his junior year of high school. Helping lead TOPS to consecutive Speedo Sectionals Championships and the Regis Jesuit Raiders to their first CHSAA 5A State Championship (2018) in three years, Goodwin understands what it takes to win at the highest levels. His commitment indicates the talent and appeal already present at Mizzou and might suggest that stronger recruiting classes are going to follow suit for the Tigers.

Missouri is a dark-horse candidate, and admittedly so. It would be inappropriate to claim that they’ll win nationals this year, shake up the top-10 rankings, or even surpass schools like Florida and Georgia at this year’s SEC championships. Yet, the Missouri Tigers are undeniably better than people are giving them credit for—they’ll certainly place higher than twenty-third at the 2019 NCAA Championships.

Few schools truthfully peak the interests of major swimming culture. It has remained clear in recent years that the allure of this sport’s long-tenured powerhouses is hard to avoid. The University of Missouri, however, should make it easier for fans to divert their focus. A powerhouse is brewing in Columbia, Mo.; it’s time to start paying attention.

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

2 comments

  1. avatar
    Hmm...

    Is this a Mizzou press release?

  2. avatar
    Hmm....

    Is this a Mizzou press release?