Virginia swimming and diving stunned the collegiate swimming world with their star-studded group of new additions to the men’s team — declaring ‘The Revolution is Here’, the Cavaliers announced a new class that includes four of the nation’s top-15 recruits in the high school class of 2025, with the full group being touted by Virginia as the ‘Savage 7’. Leading the class are No. 1 and No. 2 recruits Thomas Heilman and Maximus Williamson.
This is an incredible development for a Virginia men’s squad that has not performed spectacularly as of late — they fell to 15th place at the 2023 NCAA Championships. But with a men’s recruiting class that will blow its competition out of the water, the three-time national champion women’s team looks like it will be getting company at the top soon.
Both Heilman and Williamson are standout talents, far and away the most impactful recruits in their year — they are two of the fastest American high schoolers in history, and are international-level swimmers. Between them, they share ten of the 14 possible fastest times in the class.
Joining his older brother sophomore Matthew Heilman on the Cavalier men’s squad, the 16-year-old Thomas Heilman is nothing short of a phenom. The Virginia native is the fastest high school 100 and 200-yard butterfly swimmer in history, and his current time would have made the “A” final at the 2023 NCAA Championships in the latter event. He also holds the 15-16 National Age Group record in the 200-yard IM.
Notably, Thomas placed fourth in the 200-meter butterfly at the 2023 World Championships in 1:53.82 to record the fastest 18-and-under time in the event in American history — Thomas is faster over the 200-meter race at 16 years old than Michael Phelps was at 18. He is set to be an asset of epic proportions for the Cavaliers.
Williamson, the No. 2 recruit, hails from Texas and is also an incredible talent with versatility to boot — he holds six of the class-leading times, in events ranging from the 400-yard individual medley to the 100-yard backstroke to the 500-yard freestyle. He also has the second-fastest 50-yard freestyle time in the class, behind only Thomas. His 400-yard individual medley time would have been enough to make the “A” final at the 2023 NCAA Championships, and is the fastest in the 15-16 age group in American history.
Williamson is also the 15-16 National Age Group record holder in the 200-yard freestyle and 200-yard backstroke, and recently won the 100-meter freestyle and the 200-meter IM at the World Junior Championships. The avenues for Williamson to contribute come 2025 are endless — his incredible range can be used by the Cavaliers to dominate a great many events.
The Cavaliers also landed No. 8 Thomas Mercer, a standout individual medley specialist, who holds the third-fastest 200-yard IM and fourth-fastest 400-yard IM times in the class of 2025. Having just completed his high school sophomore season in Kentucky, Mercer possesses a great deal of versatility — he is, uniquely, uniformly talented across all strokes across 100 yards. Like Williamson, there are few events in which Mercer cannot make an impact for the Cavaliers.
The final top-15 recruit Virginia landed is No. 12 Josh Howat, a Virginia native and a sprint freestyle specialist. He holds standout times in the 50, 100 and 200-yard freestyle events, and will add immense value to these events for the Cavaliers. Howat also looks to be a key contributor for Virginia in the relay events.
These new recruits answer long-standing questions concerning the inability of the men's team to measure up to the lofty standards set by the women’s squad. While Coach Todd DeSorbo undoubtedly possesses an incredible ability to develop talent, the women’s team seemed to fare better under his coaching than the men’s.
Make no mistake — it is no reflection on DeSorbo’s ability as a men’s coach. A game-changing recruiting class is just what the Cavalier men have been missing.
Indeed, they are getting a recruiting class much like the women’s team welcomed four years ago — the addition of Kate Douglass, Lexi Cuomo, Ella Nelson and Maddie Donohoe in 2019 paid dividends for the program, contributing enormously to the rise of Virginia women’s swimming and diving. The men now look to chart a similar course.
Virginia swimming and diving has called it “the revolution,” and they could not be more accurate — with swimmers that can propel the Cavaliers from a team that regularly hovers around 15th in the country to a top-five program, it is a revolutionary class indeed.