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

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Andy Ross.

Last week, Swimming World dropped the pre-season rankings for the top 25 best NCAA women’s swimmers for the upcoming 2018-19 season. This week, we are dropping the men’s list.

Unlike the women’s meet in 2018, the men’s meet came down to the final day with Texas winning its fourth straight team title. The Longhorns won by 11.5 points over Cal, who was 15.5 points ahead of Indiana — all three had a title shot on the final day. NC State and Florida also both won relays at the meet for one of the most competitive NCAA meets in recent years.

Diving played a big role in Texas’ and Indiana’s final team scores in 2018. 1m champion Michael Hixon graduated for Indiana and Texas returns all of their divers. As we approach closer to the beginning of the season, it looks like it could come down between Texas, Cal and Indiana once again.

The field looks a little different this year with NCAA champions Caeleb DresselJan Switkowski and Anton Ipsen out of the picture, as well as other big names like Joseph SchoolingRyan Held and Blake Pieroni. This isn’t quite a prediction of the upcoming season, rather a guide for where everyone is coming into this season.

Swimming World’s Top 25 – Men’s NCAA DI

25. Tommy Cope, Junior, Michigan

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 200 breast, 1:51.87 (NCAA); 200 IM, 1:42.74 (NCAA)

Cope had a nice breakout sophomore year by reaching the A-Final in the 200 breast after not even making the meet in 2017. Cope is a part of a Michigan team that has not won a Big Ten title since 2016 and he will be looking to change that in his junior year.

24. Evgenii Somov, Sophomore, Louisville

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 100 breast, 52.07 (NCAA); 200 breast, 1:53.05 (ACC)

Somov is coming off a strong freshman season with a Louisville team that seems to be improving every single year. The Cardinals finished ninth as a team in 2018 and return a lot of pieces that could see them challenge the top five. Somov, a native of Russia, will be a key piece to the Cardinals team this season.

23. Marcelo Acosta, Senior, Louisville

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 500 free, 4:11.61 (NCAA); 1650 free, 14:38.22 (NCAA)

Acosta, a 2016 Olympian for El Salvador, rebounded from a disappointing 2017 NCAA meet with a fifth place finish in the 1650 in 2018. The 1650 got a lot more stacked this season with incoming freshmen Robert FinkeVictor Johansson and Michael Brinegar added to the mix, but the senior Acosta will not go down without a fight.

22. Mohamed Samy, Senior, Indiana

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Photo Courtesy: Dan D’Addona

2018 times: 200 free, 1:31.73 (NCAA); 100 free, 41.98 (NCAA)

Samy is a part of an Indiana team coming off its highest finish since 1975 when they were second. The Hoosiers were third in 2018 and 27 points away from a national title. They took a lot of people by surprise in 2018 by placing that high but all eyes will be on them to see if they can repeat in 2019. With a lot of talent back in Bloomington, a guy like Samy, who represent Egypt internationally, will be a key piece if the Hoosiers can return to the top four.

21. Grant Shoults, Junior, Stanford

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 500 free, 4:10.02 (NCAA); 1650, 14:39.59 (Texas Invite)

Shoults had a solid sophomore season with a fourth place finish in the 500 in 2018. Only one guy ahead of him graduated so he will have his hands full if he wants to grab his first NCAA title. But Shoults made his first National team trip this summer at the Pan Pacs which got him a spot on the 2019 World Championship team. With that spot at Worlds secured, Shoults could be due for a big junior year for Stanford.

20. Javier Acevedo, Junior, Georgia

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Photo Courtesy: Thomas Campbell/Texas A&M Athletics

2018 times: 100 back, 44.74 (NCAA); 200 back, 1:39.06 (NCAA)

Despite not reaching the A-Final in either of his best events last year, Acevedo won the B-Final in both backstroke events in 2018. His best time last season in the 100 back came from leading off the medley relay in the prelims at NCAA’s and that time would have put him third in the individual final. Acevedo swam at the 2016 Olympics for Canada, and is one of the favorites this season in the wide open 100 back.

19. Zheng Quah, Junior, California

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 200 fly, 1:40.24 (Pac-12); 100 fly, 45.48 (NCAA)

Zheng adjusted well to short course yards in 2017 after coming over from Singapore in January that year. He took a bit of a step back in 2018 though by only managing sixth place in the 200 fly after getting runner-up the year before. Zheng is a part of a Cal team that returns a lot of pieces for the 2018-19 season. They were second last year, only 11.5 points out of first. That has to be on the minds of all the Golden Bears this season, who are chasing their first national title since 2014.

18. Ryan Hoffer, Sophomore, California

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Photo Courtesy: Photo Courtesy: Cal Athletics/KLCFotos.com

2018 times: 100 fly, 44.93 (NCAA); 50 free, 18.97 (NCAA)

Hoffer had one of the most highly anticipated college debuts last year when he came out of high school as an 18.71/41.23 sprint freestyler. However, his debut was overshadowed by Caeleb Dressel‘s college finale in 2018. With Dressel out of the picture, the sprint free events are wide open and Hoffer could be due for something big with a year of college under his belt. But it is the 100 fly where Hoffer’s best chance at an individual title comes from, as he is the third fastest man returning this season.

17. Austin Katz, Sophomore, Texas

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 200 back, 1:37.53 (NCAA); 100 back, 44.99 (NCAA)

Texas’ Austin Katz had a superb season by claiming the NCAA title in the 200 back as a freshman, something few have done, including American backstroke legends Ryan Murphy (2014), Aaron Peirsol (2003) and John Naber (1974). Katz is coming off a solid summer where he won the bronze medal in the 200 back at Pan Pacs, and he could continue that momentum into his sophomore year for a Texas team that has won four straight NCAA titles.

16. Reece Whitley, Freshman, California

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Best Times: 100 breast, 51.16 (EISC); 200 breast, 1:51.43 (Winter Nationals)

Whitley was easily the number one recruit in the class of 2018 and he is joining a Golden Bears team that is returning a lot of talent in pursuit of their first National title since 2014. Despite having yet swum in an NCAA Championships, Swimming World’s two-time reigning High School Swimmer of the Year is the second fastest 100 breaststroker in the country based off of 2018 alone. If he can adjust to college quickly, he could be looking to be the first freshman to win a breaststroke title since Kevin Cordes in 2012.

15. John Shebat, Senior, Texas

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 100 back, 44.59 (NCAA); 200 back, 1:37.94 (NCAA)

Shebat was second the last two years in both the 100 and 200 back. Will he be able to go out with a Cinderella story and finally win his first individual NCAA title in his senior year? He is the second fastest returning swimmer in both the 100 and 200 back.

14. Felix Auböck, Junior, Michigan

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 500 free, 4:09.03 (NCAA); 1650, 14:29.42 (NCAA)

Auböck has also finished second the last two years in the 1650 and was second last year in the 500. It won’t be easy for the Austrian junior who will have his hands full with Texas senior Townley Haas in the 500 and incoming freshman Robert Finke of Florida in the 1650. Michigan will need everything they can out of Auböck if they want to get their Big Ten title back from Indiana that they have not won since 2016.

13. Bowen Becker, Senior, Minnesota

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Photo Courtesy: Andy Ringgold / Aringo Photos

2018 times: 50 free, 18.69 (B1G); 100 free, 41.61 (B1G)

Becker was third last year in his home pool in the 50. He comes back in 2019 for his senior year with the number one time in the country in the 50 free, but his best time last year came from prelims at Big Tens, also in his home pool. Will he be able to go faster on a second rest at the NCAA Championships outside of Minnesota?

12. Tate Jackson, Senior, Texas

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 100 free, 41.27 (Big XII); 50 free, 18.95 (Big XII)

With no Dressel, no Blake Pieroni and no Ryan Held, the sprint free events are wide open for 2019. But in comes senior Tate Jackson. He has the number one time coming back in the 100 free and he also had a great summer by winning the B-Final at Nationals with a 48.20, a time that would have placed him second in the A-Final. Jackson will also be swimming NCAA’s as a senior in his home pool, so he will definitely not be taken lightly this upcoming season.

11. Coleman Stewart, Junior, NC State

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 100 back, 44.54 (ACC); 100 fly, 44.84 (NCAA)

NC State’s Coleman Stewart had a huge sophomore season in 2018 with an NCAA crown in the 100 back. Stewart returns for more for his junior year but will have his hands full with a 100 back field that only lost two seniors, and they only finished seventh and eighth.

10. Justin Ress, Senior, NC State

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 100 free, 41.34 (NCAA); 50 free, 18.96 (ACC); 200 free, 1:32.66 (ACC)

Justin Ress was pivotal on NC State’s two winning relays last season that set American Records in both the 800 free and 400 free. Ress could be used in any number of events for the Wolfpack as he easily has the best long course 100 back time of anyone in the country. But Ress swam the 50 (10th) and 100 (3rd) free last year and he is equally as dangerous in those.

9. Dean Farris, Junior, Harvard

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Photo Courtesy: Dan D’Addona

2018 times: 200 free, 1:31.12 (Ivy); 100 back, 44.81 (Ivy); 200 back, 1:38.99 (Ivy)

Harvard has not had an NCAA champion since David Berkoff won the 100 back in 1989. Junior Dean Farris is entering this season as the second fastest 200 freestyler in the nation behind three-time reigning champion Townley Haas of Texas. Although Farris’s best time the last two seasons in the 200 free came from the Ivy League meet. Will he be able to go a best time on the national stage? If he can, he could challenge the almighty Haas in his home pool.

8. Michael Thomas, Senior, California

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 200 fly, 1:39.95 (NCAA); 400 IM, 3:37.75 (NCAA); 200 IM, 1:42.51 (NCAA)

Michael Thomas came up big for the Golden Bears last season by being one of the three Cal swimmers in the 200 fly A-Final, although it was not enough to catch Texas in the end. Thomas returns this season as the second fastest 400 IM’er and third fastest 200 flyer and he could come up big for the Golden Bears at the national meet.

7. Andrew Seliskar, Senior, California

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 200 IM, 1:40.40 (NCAA); 200 free, 1:31.28 (NCAA); 200 breast, 1:50.42 (NCAA)

Seliskar was Swimming World’s high school swimmer of the year in 2015 and was coming into college with a lot of momentum. However, he has yet to capture an individual NCAA title. He was the top seed after prelims in both IM’s in 2018 but ended up fifth (200) and third (400) at finals. This past summer, Seliskar finally broke through and won his first national title in the 200 free of all events. With that momentum and a secured spot on the World Championship team, he could be in for a big senior year.

6. Zach Apple, Senior, Indiana

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 50 free, 18.82 (NCAA); 100 free, 41.36 (NCAA); 200 free, 1:31.18 (NCAA)

After three years at Auburn, Zach Apple made the decision to transfer to Indiana after Auburn’s Brett Hawke resigned at the end of the season. Apple fills the void left behind by Blake Pieroni as Apple is basically a carbon copy of him. Apple will try to win his first individual NCAA title in 2019 as well as try to carry the Hoosiers to their first national title since 1973.

5. Abrahm DeVine, Senior, Stanford

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 400 IM, 3:35.29 (NCAA); 200 IM, 1:40.35 (NCAA); 200 back, 1:39.22 (NCAA)

DeVine won his first national title in 2018 in the 400 IM after coming off a great summer where he made the World Championship team in 2017. In his senior year, DeVine will be a big favorite in both IM events as he has also secured his spot on the Worlds team for 2019. He will be leading a Stanford team searching for its first top four finish since 2012 when they were third.

4. Vini Lanza, Senior, Indiana

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 200 fly, 1:39.75 (NCAA); 100 fly, 44.50 (NCAA); 200 IM, 1:40.82 (NCAA)

The Indiana team does not have the depth to match Cal or Texas but they are top heavy and will benefit from the presence of a guy like Vini Lanza from Brazil. He finaled in all three of his events at NCAA’s in 2018 and swam the butterfly leg on the winning 400 medley relay team for the Hoosiers, their first relay national title since 1977. With three of those four relay members back, and with the addition of Zach Apple, the Hoosiers will be heavy favorites to repeat in that event in 2019.

3. Andreas Vazaios, Senior, NC State

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 200 fly, 1:38.60 (NCAA); 200 IM, 1:39.97 (NCAA); 100 back, 44.81 (NCAA)

Now in his senior year, Greece native Andreas Vazaios is one of the most versatile swimmers in the country, able to put up nationally ranked times in a number of events. He won the 200 fly NCAA title a year ago, and is also coming back this season with the number one 200 IM time in the country. NC State lost Ryan Held last year, but they are returning a lot of pieces this season that can challenge for a top four finish for the fourth straight year.

2. Ian Finnerty, Senior, Indiana

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 100 breast, 49.69 (NCAA); 200 breast, 1:50.17 (NCAA); 200 IM, 1:42.08 (NCAA)

Ian Finnerty had a huge junior year with a new American Record in the 100 breast, becoming the first man to break 50 seconds in the event. He followed that up the next night with an NCAA title in the 200 breast, and also reached the A-Final in the 200 IM. Not bad considering before that, he had only reached the B-Final at NCAA’s once in his career, and that was in 2016 in the 100 breast. But after not finaling in any event at the US Nationals this summer, can Finnerty continue his short course success?

1. Townley Haas, Senior, Texas

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 times: 200 free, 1:29.50 (NCAA); 500 free, 4:08.60 (NCAA); 100 free, 41.67 (NCAA)

Texas has won four straight NCAA titles and will be hosting the 2019 meet in its home pool. Senior Townley Haas has won three straight 200 free titles and two of the last three 500 titles, and is the big favorite coming back in both. If Texas has any chance of winning its fifth straight, they are going to need everything out of Haas.

Others receiving votes: 26. Jacob Montague, Junior, Michigan; 27. Zach Yeadon, Sophomore, Notre Dame; 28. Robert Howard, Senior, Alabama; 29. Ricardo Vargas, Sophomore, Michigan; 30. Sam Pomajevich, Sophomore, Texas; 31. Nick Albiero, Sophomore, Louisville; 32. Victor Johansson, Freshman, Southern Cal; 33. Jack Saunderson, Senior, Towson; 34. Sean Grieshop, Sophomore, California; 35. Charlie Swanson, Junior, Michigan

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Author: Andy Ross

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Andy Ross is the new man on board at Swimming World. He is based out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida at the International Swimming Hall of Fame. He is a 2017 graduate of Southern Illinois University where he graduated cum laude.

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