Recruiting class has men’s swim team eager to dive in to 2022-23 season
Rounding out Liberty University’s men’s swim team’s 15-man Fall 2022 recruiting class are nine student-athletes from as near as Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Georgia and as far away as New Mexico and Oregon.
“That is the same number of recruits that we had in my first recruiting class,” Flames fifth-year Head Coach Heath Grishaw said of the 2019 class that is now mostly rising seniors. “Times-wise, it is definitely a deeper, more talented class.”
Three sprint freestylers — David “Trey” Williams III, from Stafford, Va., who swims for the Rappahannock Area YMCA Stingrays (RAYS) and is also adept at the 100 fly; Brock Adams, from Flowery Branch, Ga., who swims for Lanier Aquatics; and Nathaniel Dyer from Charlotte, N.C., who competes for Team Charlotte Swimming — reached out to Grishaw to express their interest in joining the Flames.
Grishaw recruited fraternal twin brothers Aaron Jr. and Alex Sandoval, who swim distance and sprint freestyle events, respectively, for the Roadrunners of Albuquerque (N.M.) Aquatic Club, as well as Benjamin Bizeau, a distance freestyler on the Chehalem Swim Team in Newburg, Ore., who can compete from 500 yards to one mile in the event.
Jonah Black is a butterfly specialist from London, Ky., where he swims for the KCEOC Aquatic Club. Two primary breaststrokers who also swim butterfly — Ezekiel Coley from Lake Wylie, S.C., who competes for the Upper Palmetto YMCA Stingrays, and Luke Douglas, who races for the Seahawks’ Christian Community Swim Team in Raleigh, N.C. — will give the Flames more flexibility in those two strokes.
With only one swimmer, Robert Boehme, graduating from last season’s 20-man team, the 15 recruits will bring the Flames’ 2022-23 roster to 34 student-athletes in all.
“That is, by 10 or 11 swimmers, the most we have ever had,” Grishaw said. “We’ll cover every event and be able to enter multiple swimmers in just about every event, which is exciting. We haven’t had that in the past, when it has been really hard for us to enter multiple relays.”
He said Liberty’s relay lineups will look quite different from last season’s.
“There’s five relays, and we placed in the top 10 in all of them (at College Club Swimming (CCS) Nationals in Atlanta in April), including second in the 800 free,” Grishaw said. “I think we’ll go top-five in all of them next year and probably win one or two, including the 800.”
He believes that depth will translate to an even higher team showing than the Flames’ all-time-best fifth-place finish in Atlanta. This will be the team’s best shot to contend for a national championship with that first recruiting class now rising seniors.
“I think we’ll definitely be in the top three,” Grishaw said. “The goal is to win it with this group here. It is our best chance, our window to win it all, if we’re going to do it. We would have to recruit some big guys next year, too, (to claim the title in 2024) after losing this senior class.”
He is looking for all of the seniors to emerge as leaders and examples for the incoming freshmen to follow.
“We only have three or four returning guys more than who we’re bringing in, so we want to make sure our returners are louder and have a good presence, and be accountability (resources) for the freshman,” Grishaw said.
“These guys are going to not replace (the seniors), but to take the torch and carry on the legacy of this group that will be graduating this year,” he added. “That is why we really recruited hard with this class to take on the load for years to come. We’re raising that bar.”
Grishaw expects to test the returning swimmers and newcomers alike with a challenging regular-season schedule that could include NCAA Division III opponents such as the University of Lynchburg, Roanoke College, Virginia Wesleyan University, VMI, as well as CCS foes Clemson and Virginia.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer