Nov. 2, 2009
Heading into the 2009-10 season, the Arizona men’s swimming and diving team is primed to make another run at the NCAA title behind several veteran leaders, a nice group of rising sophomores and a few key transfers.
“Behind a very strong senior class, I believe our men’s team is just as talented as any in the country,” said head coach Frank Busch.
With Arizona’s team-first mentality and tremendous amount of talent, it would be no surprise if the Cats are picked to finish amongst the top four in the nation. Last season, the men were sixth overall, a year after winning the 2008 NCAA crown and graduating two NCAA individual champions.
Co-captain Jean Basson is back for his senior season and leads the middle and distance freestyle group. The Johannesburg, South Africa native won the 500 free Pac-10 and NCAA individual titles and will be favored to defend his crown. Sophomore Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or will team with Basson in the 200 free while Bobby Koubratoff will provide depth in both the 500 and 1650 free. In 08-09, Shapira Bar-Or finished 11th in the 200 free.
In the sprint freestyle group, senior Jordan Smith will look to follow up on his top eight finish in the 50 free last year at NCAA’s. Sophomore Adam Small and transfer Craig Jordens both will be instrumental in the freestyle relays as well as individual events.
Perhaps Arizona’s biggest strength this year is its breaststroke corps. Seniors Jack Brown and Marcus Titus both earned U.S. National Team nominations for their performances this summer. Brown, a co-captain, set the school record in the 200 breast while Titus has held the school record in the 100 breast for over a year. The Wildcats also received a boost when Clark Burckle transferred from Florida. Burckle, also a U.S. National Team member, had two top eight finishes at the NCAA’s last year.
UA’s backstroke group very well could be just as strong as the breaststroke team. Senior Jake Tapp finished runner-up in the 200 back at NCAA’s last year and will be favored to finish in the top eight again. Cory Chitwood, who missed all of the 2008-09 season with a shoulder injury, is back and ready to reclaim his freshman form. In his first year Chitwood was runner-up in the 200 back and had two other top 16 finishes at NCAA’s. Senior Bryan O’Connor also will look to be among the fastest in the backstroke in the country in 09-10. Giving the Cats depth in backstroke are Pete Stacy, Ivan Tolic and freshman Matt Hurko.
Sophomores A.J. Tipton and Jordan Slaughter lead the contingent of butterfly swimmers for Arizona. As a freshman, Tipton broke the school record in the 200 fly and had two top 16 finishes at the NCAA’s. Tapp and Ivan Tolic also provide depth to the team along with Bryan O’Connor.
With the number of standout breast and backstroke swimmers at UA, the men will look to be just as dominant as an Individual Medley group. Jack Brown and Clark Burckle are certainly capable to have a top eight finish in the 400 I.M. as they finished fourth and fifth last season at NCAA’s. Others leading the charge will be sophomore Austen Thompson, redshirt sophomore Cory Chitwood, and senior Bryan O’Connor.
Junior Ben Grado leads the Wildcat divers heading into 09-10. Last year Grado finished in the top 16 in both the one-meter and platform events. The Conifer, Colo. native looks to put up top numbers in all three dive events this season. Grado is aided by returnees Matt McCahill, Andres Guerra and Phil Morehouse along with freshmen David Austin and Cody Montgomery.