Stanford’s Ian Lasic-Ellis salutes after dismounting high bar at the 2023 Winter Cup. (© Amy Sanderson)
Stanford enters this weekend’s 2023 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships as the favorite to win and secure its fourth-consecutive team title – a result that would match OU’s four-win streak that ran from 2015 to 2018.
The Cardinal have held on to the No. 1 spot throughout most of the season, defeating rivals with a combination of strong execution and high-difficulty routines. Stanford is the only squad to have scored above 420 this year, and it’s done so three times — most recently at the MPSF Championships, where it tallied a 423.15 to book a commanding win over Oklahoma.
But Stanford will face stiff competition from OU, Michigan, and other teams with designs on a national title.
Michigan is coming off of a Big Ten victory in which the team set a new season-high and enjoyed a dominant all-around performance from freshman Fred Richard. The Wolverines have momentum on their side.
Oklahoma, meanwhile, is the only team to have beaten the Cardinal this season and boasts the best score (418.9) of any team after Stanford. The Sooners suffered a setback at MPSFs, falling to Stanford by more than 13 points, and have had to contend with late-season injuries, but OU has the ability to hit some of the country’s cleanest routines and score big, even if its overall difficulty lags that of Stanford.
Penn State, Nebraska, and Illinois are contenders, too. The Nittany Lions impressed at Big Tens with a runner-up finish, while both Nebraska and Illinois came within a point of defeating OU at separate points during the regular season.
The competition will kick off with two qualifying sessions on Friday – the first at 1 p.m. ET and second at 7 p.m. ET. Individual qualifiers from William & Mary, Greenville, and Simpson will also be competing Friday. Team, all-around, and event finals start at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday.
Here’s how advancement from each qualifying session to the finals works:
- The top three teams advance
- The top three all-around competitors not on one of the qualifying teams advance
- The top three individuals on each event not already qualified on a team or as an all-around competitor advance
You can watch live streams of the two pre-qualifying sessions on NCAA.com at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. ET. You can find live stats here.
You can watch live streams of the finals on NCAA.com on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET. You can find live stats here.
Here’s what to watch from each of the 12 teams set to compete this weekend.
The Cardinal has scored above 423 at its last two competitions, coasting to the MPSF victory and claiming individual titles on four events. The team ranks first in the country on three apparatus: rings, vault, and parallel bars — and in the top three on floor and horse. Stanford had some consistency trouble on horse earlier this season, recording five-point swings from one meet to the next multiple times, but the team has since cleaned up on the event.
Stanford only has to do what it’s done throughout the season to capture its fourth-consecutive title. It can afford a few mistakes thanks to its higher difficulty scores and rely on competitors who are deeply experienced in high-pressure scenarios. Those include Asher Hong, Ian Gunther, Jeremy Bischoff, Riley Loos, Ian Lasic-Ellis, Khoi Young, and others. Routines to watch from the Cardinal include:
- Hong’s vault and all-around performance. Hong is the only gymnast competing a 6.0 vault with his Ri Se Gwang. If the freshman lands it on Saturday, he’ll likely take the event title. Hong will also be aiming for first in the all-around, and the competition between him and Michigan freshman Fred Richard will be heated.
- Young’s horse. The sophomore put up a season-best 14.75 at MPSFs to take the title, competing a Busnari, two E flops, a Wu, Roth, and handstand dismount.
- Mark Berlaga’s rings. Berlaga tallied a season-high 14.6 at MPSFs to win the event after performing a back uprise inverted cross, back uprise Maltese, and front double-pike dismount.
The Sooners will be focused on hitting five clean pommel horse routines this weekend after struggling on the event at MPSFs. OU is one of the best horse teams in the country — with the nation’s top team score by almost three points — and can gain an edge over Stanford and Michigan by scoring close to 70. The team has strong pommel talent in freshman Ignacio Yockers and Zach Nunez, but, as always, Oklahoma will need to hit.
The story is similar beyond horse: OU has relied on high hit and stick percentages all year to defeat opponents. With lower overall difficulty scores than Stanford, Oklahoma has a smaller margin of error, meaning falls will be difficult to absorb. But OU has plenty of experience performing its best in the biggest moments. Routines to watch from the Sooners include:
- Yockers’ horse. The freshman horse specialist will be integral to OU’s effort to gain an edge on the event. With his 6.5-difficulty routine, Yockers has scored as high as a 15.55 this year.
- Emre Dodanli’s floor. Dodanli has been heating up on floor over the past few weeks, winning at MPSFs and scoring a 14.8 the weekend before.
- Spencer Goodell’s parallel bars. The OU senior has turned in clutch routines from the anchor spot all season, scoring a season-high 14.45 in March.
The Wolverines are peaking at the right time. At Big Tens, the squad had its best performance of the year and one of the strongest vault rotations of any team in the country. Fred Richard put up a nation-best all-around score to lead Michigan to the win, and Adam Wooten, Javier Alfonso, Crew Bold, and others also performed excellent routines. Michigan did struggle on horse at Big Tens, though, so the team has room to improve and approach the high 410s at NCAAs.
Michigan and Oklahoma have the same potential top team score, according to Road to Nationals, meaning the Wolverines will also need to have a near-perfect competition to challenge Stanford, assuming the latter hits. Fortunately for Michigan, its lineup is composed of competitors with deep experience in pressure situations at NCAAs. Routines to watch from the Wolverines include:
- Richard’s high bar. The nation’s No. 1 high bar worker won the event at Big Tens with a 14.725 after catching a Cassina, Kolman, triple Tkatchev connection, and landing his layout double-double dismount.
- Wooten’s sticks. The senior has built a streak of sticks across floor, rings, and high bar late this season. He stuck his dismounts on all three events at both days of competitions at Big Tens.
- Markus Shears’ horse. Michigan will need a big score from Shears to improve on its event score from Big Tens. Shears has scored as high as a 14.6 this season.
The Illini scored within a point of Oklahoma at a tri-meet early this season and put up their second-best total of the year at Big Tens. The team has relied on clean hits early in its lineups and big routines from the anchors, a strategy that resulted in a 94 percent hit ratio at the Big Ten team finals. Illinois will need to once again capture a high hit percentage to challenge for a spot on the NCAAs podium. All-arounder Michael Fletcher and specialists Connor McCool, Ian Skirkey, Ashton Anaya, Amari Sewell, and others will be essential to the effort.
Routines to watch from Illinois include its winning Big Ten finals sets:
- McCool’s floor. McCool hasn’t missed a routine this season, and the Illini senior stuck four-of-six passes at Big Ten event finals to capture gold.
- Skirkey’s horse. Skirkey won the Big Ten title on the event by a more than six-tenth margin, hitting a 6.5-difficulty routine that included a Sohn, full Stockli, and other intricate elements.
- Anaya’s rings. Anaya defended his Big Ten title after sticking his dismount and scoring a 14.475. The sophomore is the only gymnast in the country competing a butterfly pull to straight planche.
The Huskers came close to upsetting OU earlier this season after posting a season-high 417.65 in February to narrowly fall to the Sooners. Nebraska was also close to capturing its first Big Ten team title a couple of weeks ago, finishing less than two points back from Michigan. The team had a somewhat costly mistake at Big Tens on parallel bars, its first event, and if it hadn’t had that, Nebraska might’ve taken the win. Still, the Huskers put up a strong overall performance with big contributions from all-arounder Taylor Christopulos, Yanni Chronopoulos, Asher Cohen, Liam Doherty-Herwitz, and others. Routines to watch from Nebraska include:
- Christopulos’ floor and vault. Christopulos tied for the best Day 1 floor score at Big Tens (14.5) and has scored as high as 14.65 this season. He also won the vault title at event finals after sticking his Kas 1.5 to claim Nebraska’ second-ever Big Ten event title.
- Donte McKinney’s high bar. The senior hit a beautiful routine at Big Ten event finals to score a season-high 14.475 and place third.
- Zachary Tiderman’s vault. Tiderman stuck his Yurchenko 2.5 at Big Ten team finals for a season-best 14.95.
The Nittany Lions outperformed expectations to place second at Big Tens after hitting 97 percent of their routines. Sophomore Josh Karnes and junior Matt Cormier led the team with strong all-around performances that earned them third and fifth place, respectively, and both scored above 82. Penn State also had the best team score of the competition on parallel bars and set a three-point season-high total of 410.7. The team enters NCAAs with momentum.
Routines to watch from the Nittany Lions include:
- Karnes’ parallel bars. Karnes won a Big Ten title on the event with a score of 14.35, performing a Makutz, Bhavsar, and double-front dismount.
- Cormier’s floor. Cormier stuck his triple-full dismount at event finals to finish second place with a score of 14.45.
- Chase Clingman’s horse. Clingman also claimed a silver medal at Big Ten finals, scoring a 14.15 on pommel after swinging through a Mikulak, Roth, Sohn, triple Russian, and handstand dismount.
The Buckeyes tallied their second-best score of the year at Big Tens with significant contributions from Kameron Nelson, Caden Spencer, Donovan Hewitt, Kazuki Hayashi, and others. Ohio State will be focused on qualifying for the team finals on Saturday, and it will likely need to beat Michigan, Penn State, or OU to do so. The Buckeyes defeated Penn State early this season but fell to the team at a tri-meet in March and at Big Tens. So expect an intense contest for the third and final qualifying spot between Penn State and Ohio State at the evening session on Friday.
Routines to watch from Ohio State include:
- Nelson’s floor and vault. Nelson has competed a triple back on floor this season and could again perform the element at finals. He also finished third at Big Tens on vault after planting a clean front handspring double full.
- Hewitt’s rings. Hewitt finished second on the event at Big Ten finals with a routine that scored a 14.175 and included a back uprise to straight planche, back uprise Maltese, and 1.5-twisting double back dismount.
- Spencer’s high bar. Spencer finished just off the podium at Big Tens after scoring a 14.275 with a set that included a layout connected to straddle Tkatchev, pike Tkatchev, straddle Piatti, Tak half, and a stuck full-twisting double layout dismount.
The Falcons finished third at the MPSF Championships and narrowly fell to Navy the week prior at USAG Nationals after leading halfway through the meet. Air Force has posted three scores of 397 or above this season and had one of its best overall results at MPSFs, setting up the team for a successful competition. Air Force would likely need to upset Illinois or Nebraska this Friday to sneak into team finals, but Patrick Hoopes and Garrett Braunton are in good position to vie for individual event titles on pommel horse and high bar, respectively. Routines to watch from the Falcons include:
- Hoopes’ horse. The sophomore competes a 6.5 set and has one of the cleanest swings in the country. He’s scored as high as 15.3 this year.
- Braunton’s high bar. Braunton nabbed titles on the event at MPSFs and USAG Nationals after hitting his 6.1-difficulty routine. He’s scored as high as 14.85 and posted a 14.45 at MPSFs.
- Erich Upton’s floor. Upton has competed a triple-double and scored as high as 14.2 this year. The sophomore is a contender for an All-American nod on the event.
The Mids have had a strong postseason, winning both USAG Nationals and ECACs. At the latter, Navy posted its eighth score in the mid 390s to outpace Springfield and William & Mary. Navy has relied on Isaiah Drake’s contributions across four events this season, and Giovanni Gambatese, Connor Van Loo, Syam Buradagunta, and Matthew Petros have also helped underpin the team’s lineups. Navy will face rivals Air Force and Army in addition to Stanford, Illinois, and Nebraska at its Friday session. Routines to watch from the Mids include:
- Ronan McQuillan’s horse. McQuillan won the event with a season-best 14.45 at ECACs.
- Gambatese’s high bar. The Navy senior finished first on the event at ECACs with a 13.4 after catching a Kovacs, Kolman, and sticking his full-twisting double layout dismount.
- Drake’s floor. Drake competed floor for the first time this season at ECACs and won the event with a 14.35.
The Bears finished fourth at MPSFs, with Khalen Curry earning the team’s best individual result with a seventh-place finish on floor. Cal has scored as high as a 399.35 this season, and the team will need a score in that range or higher to contend for a place in the team finals. Cal is set to face Oklahoma, Michigan, Ohio State, and Springfield on Friday. Routines to watch from the Bears include:
- Curry’s floor. Curry’s 13.7 on the event at MPSF was a career-best. The freshman has also notched a score of 14.7 on vault this season.
- Noah Newfeld’s parallel bars. Newfeld has scored above 14 on the event twice this year. He went 14.3 in March during a meet against Army and William & Mary after sticking his double-front dismount.
- Aidan Li’s horse. Li has posted three scores of 14 or higher this year, with a top score of 14.1. Li is a contender for an All-American nod on the event.
Springfield’s second-place finish at ECACs was an impressive result for the Pride, marking just the third time in about 50 years that the team has finished runner-up and the first time it has done so in consecutive seasons. The Pride’s Dominic Ramalho, Sam Kaplan, David Handron, Jakarie Williams, and others have recorded strong postseason routines, lifting Springfield to scores in the mid-to-high 380s at both USAGs and ECACs. Routines to watch from Springfield include:
- Williams’ floor. Williams scored a season-high 14.15 at USAG Nationals to win the floor title. He also finished top 5 on the event at ECACs.
- Handron’s rings. Handron also won a title at USAGs, sticking his dismount to score a 13.25, and tied for third on the event at ECACs.
- Owen Carney’s high bar. Carney was runner-up on the event at ECACs with a score of 13.25 for Springfield’s best individual finish at the meet.
The Black Knights underperformed at ECACs, finishing fourth behind Springfield and William & Mary with a score of 377.65, and the team will enter Friday’s competition raring to prove it’s more competitive than that result would suggest. Army will look to Joseph Buselmeier, Jacob Nauman, Gabe Almeida, and others to lead the team against Academy rivals Navy and Army, as well as Stanford, Illinois, and Nebraska. Army has a top score of 396.8 this season. Routines to watch from the Black Knights include:
- Almeida’s floor. The sophomore has a top score of 14.1 this season and competes a front layout to double full and flare elements.
- Maddox Pabellon’s horse. Pabellon has notched three scores above 14 on horse this season, turning in a 14.45 against Ohio State in March for his season-high.
- Jonathan Pinc’s vault. Pinc was runner-up on the event at ECACs with a score of 14.25.
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