Ranking the Best Men’s NCAA Division I Swimmers From 1-25

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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The NCAA swimming and diving season has gotten off to a good start as the Division I landscape is starting to heat up as teams begin having serious dual meets in the month of October. Swimming World has ranked the 25 best men’s and women’s swimmers returning in Division I for the third straight year as this year will be a unique one since a lot of these swimmers will have long course in the back of their minds as the Olympic Trials approach.

This year’s NCAA Division I men’s swimming and diving championships will be in Indianapolis, Indiana as Cal aims to repeat as champions after snapping Texas‘ four-year winning streak in their home pool last year. Cal may have lost CSCAA swimmer of the meet Andrew Seliskar but is returning a lot of pieces this season that will make them tough to beat come March.

Interestingly enough, only two of last year’s champions return to defend their titles with Michigan’s Felix Auböck (1650) and Cal’s Ryan Hoffer (50 free) coming back for their senior and junior seasons respectively. There will be a lot of new champions this year since last year’s winners Townley HaasAndrew SeliskarAbrahm DeVineVini LanzaIan Finnerty, John Shebat and Andreas Vazaios all graduated and Dean Farris is taking an Olympic redshirt year.

This isn’t quite a prediction of the upcoming season, rather a guide for where everyone is coming into this season.

Note: No data from the early parts of the 2019-20 collegiate season was put into account.

Swimming World’s Top 25 – Men’s Division I

Just missed the cut:

30. Zachary Poti, Senior, Arizona State
29. Kieran Smith, Sophomore, Florida
28. Drew Loy, Senior, Ohio State
27. Cameron Auchinachie, Junior, Denver
26. Ryan Harty, Senior, Texas

25. Robert Finke, Sophomore, Florida

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Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

2019 times: 400 IM, 3:40.94 (SEC); 1650 free, 14:23.01 (SEC)

Finke had a good first season with Florida, winning the SEC title in the mile and the 400 IM, the latter being a part of a 1-2-3 finish for the Gators. But he had a disappointing NCAA showing, falling all the way down to 12th in the 1650 after coming in as the top seed. But he followed that up with a very impressive summer, winning three national titles in the 800 free, 1500 and 400 IM. Finke was the fastest American in the long course mile this summer, which should give him confidence to take a crack at Zane Grothe’s American record in the 1650 of 14:18.

24. Nyls Korstanje, Sophomore, NC State

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Photo Courtesy: NC State Athletics

2019 times: 50 free, 19.03 (NCAA); 100 free, 41.91 (NCAA)

Korstanje had a nice freshman campaign with the Wolfpack as the team had its fourth straight fourth place finish at NCAAs. He was in the B-Final in both the 50 and 100 last season but it was also his first year swimming short course yards after coming to Raleigh from the Netherlands. A lot of NC State sprinters made big jumps in their sophomore seasons, notably Ryan Held and Justin Ress, and Korstanje could follow in that path.

23. Camden Murphy, Junior, Georgia

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Photo Courtesy: Steve Colquitt

2019 times: 100 fly, 45.03 (NCAA); 200 fly, 1:40.62 (SEC)

Murphy was great for Georgia last season, winning the SEC title in the 200 fly and also placing in both butterfly A-Finals at NCAAs. Not bad considering he didn’t score in either event as a freshman in 2018. Murphy is still flying under the radar going into this season as he will be looking to win Georgia’s first butterfly NCAA title on the men’s side since 2011.

22. Ricardo Vargas, Junior, Michigan

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2019 times: 500 free, 4:11.45 (Georgia Invite); 400 IM, 3:40.24 (B1G); 1650, 14:31.76 (B1G)

Michigan’s Vargas played a nice sidekick role to Felix Auböck last season in the distance events, finishing second at Big Tens in the 500 and third in the 1650. The Michigan distance groups continues to look lethal this season and Vargas is a big part of that. He also has a solid 400 IM, finishing tenth in the B-Final at NCAAs last year.

21. Charlie Swanson, Senior, Michigan

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2019 times: 400 IM, 3:39.58 (Georgia Invite); 200 breast, 1:52.09 (NCAA)

Swanson was the top seed in the 400 IM coming into NCAAs but faded to 20th, missing out on scoring altogether. It was a bit confusing for Swanson, who was sixth the year before in 2018. But Swanson rebounded with an impressive gold medal at the Pan American Games (4:11), moving him up to fourth in the world rankings. Michigan has a long line of great 400 IM’ers, but haven’t won the NCAA title since Tyler Clary in 2010, and Swanson has the potential to change that this season.

20. Paul DeLakis, Junior, Ohio State

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2019 times: 200 IM, 1:42.67 (B1G); 200 free, 1:32.01 (NCAA); 200 breast, 1:52.05 (NCAA)

DeLakis has mastered the rare 200 free-200 breast double that Andrew Seliskar should patent. DeLakis reached both of those A-Finals last year for the Buckeyes as he is one of the dark horses in the wide open 200 free field this year. Ohio State has been in the top three in the Big Ten each of the last nine seasons, but the Buckeyes haven’t been top ten nationally since hosting in 2010. They return a lot of pieces this season and will be relying on a guy like DeLakis to get in as many A-Finals as he can.

19. Grant Shoults, Senior, Stanford

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Photo Courtesy: Andy Ringgold / Aringo Photos

Best Times: 500 free, 4:10.02 (2018 NCAA); 1650, 14:35.82 (2017 NCAA)

Grant Shoults is back after sitting out last season for an injured shoulder. He got back into training in the middle of the summer and still swam at the World Championships, finishing 25th in the 400. How will he be with a full year of training fully healthy? He was fourth in the 500 free at the 2018 NCAAs and was a national title favorite last year before the injury.

18. Drew Kibler, Sophomore, Texas

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2019 times: 50 free, 19.08 (NCAA); 200 free, 1:31.76 (NCAA)

Kibler adjusted well to life in Austin last year as he had a shocking third place finish in the 200 free as a freshman in his home pool, out-touching record holder and Longhorn teammate Townley Haas. Kibler is all of a sudden the man to beat in the 200 free in his sophomore year, coming in this year with the fastest time from last season. And the best part for Kibler is he will be swimming NCAAs in basically his home pool at the IU Natatorium in Indianapolis.

17. Cameron Craig, Junior, Ohio State

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Photo Courtesy: Dan D’Addona

Best times: 200 free, 1:31.71 (2017 Pac-12); 100 free, 41.95 (2017 Pac-12)

Craig is back in NCAA swimming pictures after stepping away from Arizona State after two seasons. Craig has found a new home in Columbus, Ohio, and is joining a red hot Ohio State team searching for a top ten finish for the first time in 10 years. If Craig is on his form from his freshman year at Arizona State, then Ohio State has an underrated 800 free relay with three guys under 1:33 from a flat start. The Buckeyes were tied for tenth last year in that relay, but Craig provides unprecedented relay depth for Ohio State that could push them to a top ten finish.

16. Reece Whitley, Sophomore, Cal

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Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

2019 times: 100 breast, 51.11 (NCAA); 200 breast, 1:50.62 (Pac-12)

Whitley had a solid freshman season for the Golden Bears in helping them win the national title for the first time since 2014. He was fourth in the 100 breast and fifth in the 200 at NCAAs as a freshman, so how will he fare in his sophomore year? Whitley had a nice jump this summer in winning the 200 breast at US Nationals and breaking 2:10 for the first time in long course. A lot of great swimmers made their big break in their sophomore year so will Whitley follow in that path?

15. Zheng Quah, Senior, Cal

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Photo Courtesy: McKenna Ehrmantraut

2019 times: 100 fly, 45.06 (NCAA); 200 fly, 1:39.29 (Georgia Invite)

Zheng has been good for Cal but not as good as he was his freshman year when he was the NCAA runner-up in the 200 fly with a 1:38.8. The Singapore native is the top returner this year in the 200 fly after getting third last year, sixth in 2018, and second in 2017. Will Zheng be able to finish out his college career atop the podium in the 200 fly?

14. Austin Katz, Junior, Texas

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Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

2019 times: 100 back, 44.94 (NCAA); 200 back, 1:36.45 (NCAA)

Katz had a minor sophomore slump last year after coming in as the NCAA champion in the 200 back as a freshman. He just missed scoring in the 100 back, slipping to 17th. But he had a great swim in the 200 back where he finished second behind senior teammate John Shebat, who won his first NCAA title individually in his home pool. Now with Shebat out of the picture, Katz is two seconds ahead of the next fastest guy in the 200 back, and with his World University Games gold medal this summer that put him fifth in the world, he will be tough to beat.

13. Felix Auböck, Senior, Michigan

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2019 times: 500 free, 4:09.37 (B1G); 1650, 14:23.09 (NCAA)

Auböck came into NCAAs as a big favorite to sweep both distance free events but he had a disastrous 4:18 in the 500 on the first day, falling from top seed to 35th and well out of scoring contention. He came back big time in the 1650 by winning his first NCAA title after finishing second two years in a row. Auböck is just one of two champs from last year returning and if anyone can take down Zane Grothe’s US Open record of 4:07.2, it could be Auböck. Like Charlie Swanson in the 400 IM, Auböck is following an even longer Michigan legacy in the 500, where the Wolverines have won eight titles.

12. Max McHugh, Sophomore, Minnesota

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2019 times: 100 breast, 50.30 (NCAA); 200 breast, 1:49.41 (NCAA)

McHugh had a great first NCAAs, placing second in the 200 breast and third in the 100 and moving up in the top ten all-time rankings in both events. Now he enters his sophomore year, and with no Ian Finnerty he is the top returner in both the 100 and 200. How will he handle having the target on his back? Minnesota has not had a national champion male swimmer since 1964 so there is a lot riding on McHugh this year.

11. Shaine Casas, Sophomore, Texas A&M

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Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

2019 times: 200 IM, 1:42.29 (NCAA); 200 fly, 1:41.31 (NCAA)

Casas didn’t actually appear in an A-Final at NCAAs last year. He was 11th in the 200 fly and 13th in the 200 IM after placing second in the 200 back at SECs and fourth in the 200 IM. This Texas A&M freshman though had a huge summer, putting himself in the top ten in the world in both the 100 and 200 back in long course meters. So what does he have up his sleeve in short course yards after a great long course season? Casas quietly put his name into the mix for an Olympic berth next summer in Omaha.

10. Trent Julian, Junior, Cal

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Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

2019 times: 500 free, 4:11.30 (NCAA); 400 IM, 3:39.83 (NCAA); 200 fly, 1:40.94 (NCAA)

Julian came up huge at NCAAs last year for the Golden Bears, scoring in two A-Finals and winning the B-Final in the 500. Cal was able to win last year’s title in part to their depth in the middle distance events. If Cal is to win back-to-back in 2020, then Julian’s success will be vital as he could potentially be a three-time All-American next year.

9. Pawel Sendyk, Senior, Cal

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2019 times: 50, 18.66 (NCAA); 100 fly, 45.30 (NCAA); 100 free, 41.76 (NCAA)

Cal did have fantastic depth in the middle distance events last year, but had equally impressive depth in the sprint events thanks to the presence of Pawel Sendyk. He was the runner-up in the 50 free and swam the lead-off leg in Cal’s 200 free relay win. He was sixth in 2017 in the 50, fourth in 2018 and second last year. Now in his senior year, he is leading a stacked Cal team that will be tough to beat come March in Indianapolis.

8. Nick Albiero, Junior, Louisville

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2019 times: 100 fly, 45.14 (NCAA); 100 back, 44.88 (ACC); 200 fly, 1:40.08 (NCAA)

Albiero played a big role in the Cardinals placing in the top five for the first time in school history, placing fourth in the 200 fly, sixth in the 100 back and ninth in the 100 fly. He also successfully defended his ACC title last season in upsetting eventual NCAA champion Andreas Vazaios in the 200 fly. Albiero has been good in two seasons for the Cardinals, so what does he have next in his third year? Louisville has quietly risen up the national rankings the last few years, and if they are to get top four, then they will need everything they can get out of Albiero.

7. Sean Grieshop, Junior, Cal

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2019 times: 500 free, 4:10.29 (NCAA); 400 IM, 3:37.03 (NCAA); 1650, 14:35.82 (NCAA)

Grieshop came up big for Cal last year, getting in two A-Finals and also grabbing fourth in the 1650 after swimming in an early-afternoon heat. He was runner-up in both the 500 and 400 IM, finishing behind seniors in both races. But it won’t be easy for Grieshop, who will have to still get by Grant Shoults and Hugo Gonzalez after they both sat out last season.

6. Daniel Carr, Junior, Cal

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2019 times: 200 IM, 1:42.35 (NCAA); 100 back, 44.86 (NCAA); 200 back, 1:38.56 (NCAA)

Carr was famously granted a second prelim swim in the 100 back after controversially flipping onto the backstroke wedge in his prelim swim causing him to lose momentum and finish out of scoring position. In the re-swim, he moved himself up into the A-Final and it seemingly granted Cal the national title. Now he returns for his junior year after sweeping the backstroke gold medals at the Pan American Games for the United States.

5. Caio Pumputis, Junior, Georgia Tech

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Photo Courtesy: Danny Karnik

2019 times: 200 IM, 1:41.04 (NCAA); 100 breast, 51.38 (NCAA); 200 breast, 1:50.79 (NCAA)

If there was a most improved swimmer award given last year, then it probably would have gone to Pumputis, who made three A-Finals at NCAAs after not even scoring in 2018. Pumputis was fourth in the 200 breast and sixth in the 200 IM and 100 breast. The 200 IM is notable because the top five from last year have all graduated, suddenly leaving Pumputis as the man to beat. Georgia Tech has not had an NCAA Champion since 1927 when Dave Young won the 150 back, so Pumputis could go down as a Tech legend if he is able to win any of his three events in Indianapolis come March.

4. Maxime Rooney, Senior, Texas

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Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

2019 times: 100 fly, 44.99 (NCAA); 100 free, 41.74 (SEC); 200 fly, 1:40.87 (SEC)

After three years at Florida, Maxime Rooney decided to make a change for his senior year in transferring to the University of Texas. The change has already shown positives for Rooney, who moved into the top ten in the world in the 100 free and 100 fly this summer at US Nationals, including swimming faster than the silver medal winning time in the 100 fly at the World Championships. Rooney provides a huge boost to a Texas team that is looking to take back the national title from Cal after winning four straight from 2015-2018.

3. Ryan Hoffer, Junior, Cal

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2019 times: 50 free, 18.58 (NCAA); 100 fly, 45.04 (NCAA); 100 free, 41.76 (NCAA)

Hoffer’s sophomore year seemed to be just a glimpse into his potential. Remember, he came out of high school as an 18.6/41.2 freestyler and was a 45.4 in the 100 fly. He improved two of his best times last season and it resulted in an NCAA title in the 50, and he still has room to improve. It may be a stretch, but does he have potential of eventually getting under 18 from a flat start?

2. Hugo Gonzalez, Sophomore, Cal

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Photo Courtesy: Kelley L Cox

Best times: 200 IM, 1:40.67 (2018 SEC); 400 IM, 3:35.76 (2018 SEC); 200 back, 1:39.05 (2017 Georgia Invite)

Gonzalez had a phenomenal freshman year at Auburn two years ago, swimming some of the fastest times ever at SECs in both IM’s. He was nowhere near those times at NCAAs in Minnesota, finishing outside scoring position in two of his three events. Then he transferred to Virginia Tech, but left the school to go back to Spain. Now he is back in the US and swimming for the defending champs the Cal Bears. If he is anywhere close to what he swam two years ago, then he could make this Cal team even stronger than it was before, which could spell bad news for any team trying to catch them in the future years.

1. Coleman Stewart, Senior, NC State

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2019 times: 100 fly, 44.46 (NCAA); 100 back, 43.98 (NCAA); 200 back, 1:38.81 (NCAA)

NC State lost a lot of pieces from its fourth straight fourth place team last season but will be returning one of the most versatile swimmers in Stewart, who was the national runner-up in the 100 fly and 100 back. He missed out on two NCAA titles by a combined 0.41 seconds on that Friday night. Regardless, he moved up to third all-time in the 100 back and seventh all-time in the 100 fly. Does Stewart have a chance at taking down Ryan Murphy’s American record of 43.4 this year? Stewart is one of just three men to break 44 in the 100 back and also won his first international medal this summer with a bronze in the 100 fly at the World University Games.