2023 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics & GymACT preview: Stanford looks to fend off OU, Michigan and claim four-peat

2023 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics & GymACT preview: Stanford looks to fend off OU, Michigan and claim four-peat

Almost five years ago in Chicago, Oklahoma men’s gymnastics made history by becoming the first team in the modern era to win four-consecutive NCAA titles. A thrilling high bar rotation led by Levi Anderson capped the Sooners’ winning night and cemented Oklahoma’s status as one of the best men’s gymnastics programs to ever exist. 

But OU’s sole claim to that title is at serious risk. If Stanford wins another national championship this season, as it’s expected to, the Cardinal will become the second program in the modern era to complete the four-peat – a new juggernaut is in the making. 

Who can stop them? There’s Michigan, who boasts a deep roster of senior talent and the leadership of NCAA defending champ Paul Juda, but injuries are an early concern. The Sooners are strong contenders too: head coach Mark Williams told GymNow the team has boosted D-scores enough to compete for a title. Whether OU can hit as consistently as last year with the added difficulty, though, remains to be seen. 

Nebraska and Penn State round out the top five and will no doubt be gunning for a title themselves. 

Read on for a detailed breakdown of the top 5 teams and coaches’ quotes from around the country. 


The Cardinal dominated throughout the 2022 season with Olympian and world high bar champion Brody Malone leading the squad. Malone returns for a fifth season this year, and his worlds teammate Asher Hong will be a new face in the lineup.

Brody Malone competes on parallel bars at the 2022 U.S. Classic. (© Lloyd Smith)

Stanford has spent the offseason beefing up routines across the board, coach Thom Glielmi told GymNow. Sets in the early part of the season will feature big skills and high difficulty among the first seven to eight counting elements of routines but A’s for the remaining two to three skills, Glielmi said. That will help the Cardinal gymnasts adjust to new, harder skills in routines that, on the whole, carry roughly the same D-scores as last season. 

Once — and, I suppose, if — the Stanford gymnasts adjust to those harder elements, the team will look to increase overall difficulty by replacing the two to three easier skills in routines.  

“The start values will be roughly the same, but the routines will look bigger,” Glielmi said. 

Stanford also returns 2022 world team member Colt Walker, defending NCAA still rings champ Riley Loos, and many, many All-Americans. 

Another returning talent is Brandon Briones, who was sidelined in 2022 with an injury. He’ll be back competing this season, Glielmi said, with solid difficulty that should help him impress on a few events. Stanford also expects a strong season from Ian Lasic-Ellis, who has improved on most events and could contend in the all-around this season.

Glielmi also noted that some gymnasts who had been making good progress ahead of the season have been hampered by minor injuries. It’ll be worth following how the Cardinal deal with the squad’s overall health throughout the season. 

Stanford kicks off its 2023 campaign on Saturday in a dual meet against Cal in Berkeley. 


The Sooners may not be the unstoppable force they were from 2015 to 2018, but they’ve been runners-up at every championship since then. That’s no small feat considering the amount of talent the team graduated in 2018.

2022 Winter Cup champion Vitaliy Guimaraes (Oklahoma) competes on pommel horse during the senior men’s all-around competition. (© Amy Sanderson)

It’s also a testament to Williams’ ability to shape gymnasts into reliable hitters. The team’s consistent execution has helped account for a sometimes lower overall difficulty, and if the squad can continue hitting with harder routines this year, we could be in for an upset. 

As far as difficulty goes, Williams hopes to “lose the gap that existed last year in that area,” he told GymNow. “If we can maintain the level of consistency as last year, this will make us more competitive for a chance to contend for a national championship again.” 

The Sooners have a number of reasons to be hopeful. Each of their top five overall contributors from last season returns. Fifth-years Vitaliy Guimaraes and Spencer Goodell as well as senior Jack Freeman bring rich experience to a lineup that includes younger talents Fuzzy Benas, Raydel Gamboa, and Zach Nunez. OU appears to have the right mix of seasoned competitors and hungry up-and-comers. 

The Sooners’ Morgan Seyler will return to competition on four to six events this season after having recovered from an Achilles tendon injury, and freshman Ignacio Yockers is expected to turn in big scores on pommel horse, where OU ranked first last season. Freshman Adriel Perales is getting healthy after suffering a pectoral injury. 

The key for OU will be managing a higher overall difficulty. Their top potential team score from last season was more than 10 points less than Stanford’s. Considering that no team is willing to bet on the Cardinal underperforming at NCAAs, OU will need those greater D-scores to give themselves a chance. 

We’ll get a look into the OU-Stanford matchup soon. The Sooners open their season on Jan. 21 against the Cardinal, Michigan, Nebraska, and Air Force at the Rocky Mountain Open. 


After Stanford, the Wolverines have arguably the most potential entering 2023. They return the defending NCAA champion Juda and have a highly experienced roster of eight juniors and seven seniors, in addition to star freshman Fred Richard.

Michigan’s Paul Juda salutes before mounting the pommel horse during the 2022 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships. (© Amy Sanderson)

Michigan’s season opener last weekend was somewhat underwhelming; while it’s not a perfect science to compare scores from different meets, it’s worth noting Michigan’s 400.6 trailed the 402.9 Penn State put up the same day. But the Wolverines also rested Juda, Crew Bold, David Willett, Javier Alfonso and others, so it’s probably wise not to read too much into the first week. 

Still, a couple of Michigan’s top gymnasts are currently dealing with injuries. Juda tweaked his ankle earlier this month, and while a full recovery is expected, the Wolverines will rest him for now, assistant coach Jordan Gaarenstroom told GymNow. Bold suffered an injury to the hand/wrist area in early December and is training on events again, but Michigan is in no rush to return him to competition.

Like the Cardinal and others, Michigan spent the offseason working hard to increase their D-scores, and the team has been executing the tougher routines well so far, Gaarenstroom said.

“We put a large emphasis on start value and new skill development during the offseason,” he said. 

One clear weakness for Michigan in 2022 was pommel horse, where the team ranked fifth, but there are early signs the Wolverines will be stronger there this year. Richard is excellent on the event — he put up a 14.1 on Saturday — and his addition to a lineup featuring Markus Shears, Landen Blixt, Juda and others should buoy Michigan’s pommel results. 

Gaarenstroom also expects freshman Zachary Granados to make big contributions on the event and compete for an All-America honor this year. A strong pommel horse rotation would seriously increase Michigan’s chance at contending for a title, so we’ll be watching the Wolverines’ performance there closely.

Sophomores Lais Najjar and Logan McKeown may also have breakout seasons after being on the cusp of line-up spots throughout 2022, Gaarenstroom confirmed. 

Michigan will take on Illinois, Ohio State, and Greenville at the Windy City Invitational on Saturday. 

Penn State

The Nittany Lions opened 2023 with the best team score in the country, a performance led by Michael Artlip, Matt Cormier and Michael Jaroh. Penn State has good depth across all six events, largely thanks to those three. Yet in total, the team has nine strong all-arounders, including the promising sophomore Josh Karnes and Swiss freshman Ian Raubal. Penn State had a disappointing finish to the 2022 season, placing fifth at Big Tens and missing NCAA team finals, but they look to be in a much better position at the start of 2023.

Penn State’s Michael Jaroh competes on pommel horse during the 2022 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships. (© Amy Sanderson)

The Nittany Lions added five freshmen to the roster this year who are expected to have an immediate impact, head coach Randy Jepson said. The team has increased its difficulty scores over last year and improved significantly on vault, high bar, and rings, where Nate Warren is supposed to make big contributions this season, Jepson added. 

Defending NCAA pommel champ Chase Clingman also returns with his sights set on defending his title. 

“Our upperclassmen are well seasoned and experienced and our freshman class is clean and solid,” Jepson said.

The Nittany Lions face off against Nebraska, Navy, Springfield, and Army at the West Point Open on Friday. 


The Huskers’ strategy this season resembles Oklahoma’s: they want to remain true to form as steady competitors while also upping overall difficulty.

Nebraska’s Sam Phillips performs on floor during the 2022 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships. (© Amy Sanderson)

“This offseason we put an emphasis on increasing our difficulty while maintaining our identity as a high hit percentage team,” assistant coach John Robinson told GymNow. He believes doing so will help close the gap between Nebraska and other top teams this season and in seasons to come. 

To do so, expect Nebraska to rely on seniors Sam Phillips, Donte McKinney and Liam Doherty-Herwitz, as well as junior Taylor Christopulos, who Robinson thinks will continue breaking out this year. McKinney earned an All-America honor on high bar last season. Phillips was first-team all-Big Ten. 

The Huskers’ biggest crux this year will be preparing their young team for the pressures of postseason. Nebraska starts the season with only 13 of the 30 routines they put up at last year’s NCAA championships. That means the team might “fly under the radar” for the first part of the season, Robinson said, as its younger members develop their mettle. Nebraska has three freshmen — including 2022 Pan-Ams team member Toby Liang — and six sophomores on the roster.

Nebraska faces Penn State, Navy, Army, and Springfield at the West Point Open on Friday. 

The rest of the country: 

Illinois spent the offseason focused on mental training in addition to physical preparation, and first-year head coach Daniel Ribero expects “a group of confident men that thrive under pressure” this season. The Illini will rely on strong leadership from a group of seven seniors (or fifth-years) that includes Michael Fletcher, Connor McCool, Ian Skirkey, David Pochinka, Dylan Kolak and Evan Manivong. Junior Ethan Boder is expected to make strong contributions, too, after injuries sidelined him in his first two years. Says Ribero: “Boder has a dynamic vault and strength and a beautiful line on rings.  He should have a great chance at excelling in his junior season.” Illinois opens their season at the Windy City Invitational on Saturday. 

Ohio State’s lineup will be around 30% freshmen this season, head coach Rustam Sharipov said. Kazuki Hayashi, Justin Ah Chow, Donovan Hewitt and other members of the senior class have been working throughout the preseason to help get those new members ready for competition and adjusted to the team. Still, the Buckeyes will no doubt feel the absence of Jesse Tyndall this season. Ohio State will face Michigan, Illinois, and Greenville at Windy City on Saturday. 

Navy looks ready to dominate the ECAC once again this season and vie for a spot in NCAA finals. They were right on the cusp in 2022 — finishing seventh, their best-ever result — but the Midshipmen will need better scores on parallel bars and pommel horse this season to get there. Sophomore Isaiah Drake and junior Syam Buradagunta should continue to turn heads in 2023. Navy adds eight freshmen to the lineup this year and kicks off its season at the West Point Open on Saturday.

Navy’s Isaiah Drake holds an L-sit on rings during the 2022 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships. (© Amy Sanderson)

California’s Darren Wong is slated to return this season for a senior campaign. Wong and his fellow seniors will be aiming for the NCAA team finals this year, and the Bears will need to show improvements on rings and vault to get there. Higher D-scores should help, too, and head coach J.T. Okada said the team kept busy in the offseason, working to boost difficulty. Okada thinks freshman Theodor Gadderud is due for a breakout season. Gadderud should display some “consistent and unique gymnastics,” Okada said. Cal hosts Stanford on Saturday to get the season started. 

Air Force will be looking for a mid-season upset of Navy to claim the All-Academy title. Sophomore Garrett Braunton will be integral to that effort, but he’ll need help from classmates Erich Upton and Bryan Woffinden, as well as junior Oliver Zavel, all of whom had strong 2022 seasons. The Falcons struggled on rings and high bar last season. We’ll be watching how the team manages lineups on those two events throughout the year. Air Force starts the season on Jan. 21 at the Rocky Mountain Open. 

Army’s Achilles heel last season was pommel horse, according to assistant coach Evan Eigner. The Black Knights have recruited with the event in mind, and this season’s freshmen are expected to help turn around the team’s fortunes on the ever delicate apparatus. 

“With a reconstructed pommel horse lineup entirely comprised of underclassmen, we expect both constant development and growth throughout the season, with the potential to significantly improve on the event,” Eigner said. 

On pommel, Eigner expects Gabe Almeida to have a breakout season and prove himself one of the country’s best on the event. The team will miss Mathew Davis’s contributions, but we can expect big routines from multi-event gymnasts Jacob Nauman and Zachary Mitchell. Army hosts the West Point Open on Friday.

William & Mary will have a greater number of difficult routines to showcase this season after focusing on boosting D-scores in the offseason. “We placed a heavy emphasis on developing strength and difficulty in the offseason,” associate head coach Bo Morris said, “so hopefully you’re going to see some bigger, harder skills from William & Mary.”

William & Mary’s Aidan Cuy and Director of Gymnastics Mike Powell high five during the 2022 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships. (© Amy Sanderson)

Tribe sophomore Samuel Smith is expected to break out this year with lineup spots on at least four events. He brings a “clean, exciting, and dynamic style” to his gymnastics, Morris said. He’ll help lead the team alongside senior Aidan Cuy and fifth-year Christian Marsh. William & Mary opens the season Jan. 15 at home against Simpson. 

Springfield is looking to build on its historic season in 2022, when the Lions became the first Division III program in history to qualify for the NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships as a team. The Spirit return star all-arounder Dominic Ramalho and add five freshman to its roster. Increased difficulty – as well as significant improvement on parallel bars and rings – will be key in 2023 if Springfield wants to build on its impressive 2022.

Greenville made its NCAA debut last Saturday against Simpson and Michigan. While the squad is loaded with freshmen eager to make their mark, head coach Zach Peters thinks they’re one of the most prepared teams in the country for competition. Peters expects strong seasons from up-and-comers Zach Connelly and Major Bain; both have recovered from surgeries that sidelined them during their senior JO seasons. Ryan Barela and Ricky Mays should also impress. 

Simpson is also embarking on its first season in the NCAA. Coach Colin Payne said nerves got the best of the group against Greenville and Michigan last weekend, but the disappointing start had the team fired up in practice this week. Payne thinks Milo Staley, Jake Sweeten and Michelangelo Villani can break out in the all-around this year. Camden Bontempo and Alex Catchpole will stand out on floor and pommel, respectively, Payne added. 


Arizona State enters the season ranked No. 1 in GymACT’s coaches poll after a second-place finish at nationals in 2022. 

Washington was third at nationals last year and enters 2023 ranked No. 2. The team opened their season last Saturday with a score of 301.2. 

Minnesota head coach Mike Burns managed to increase the roster size for this season by about 60% after a strong recruiting haul last year. That should increase competition for lineup spots and give the team depth to fall back on in the event of an injury. Burns sees freshman Jude Norris breaking out this year. Norris is “diligent and efficient in the gym, and he has the potential to put up some big scores for the team this year,” Burns said. 

Iowa put up a clutch performance to win nationals last year. They enter 2023 ranked fourth after losing some of their strongest contributors from last season. Iowa hosts Minnesota on Saturday. 

Temple focused much of its attention on four areas in the offseason: vault, rings, stuck landings, and fulfilling dismount credits on all events, head coach Jesse Kitzen-Abelson said. He expects the team to showcase its best vault lineup in more than five years. Nate Davies should have a strong year, Kitzen-Abelson said, “because he has just upgraded his vault and is powerful on floor.  He could be a candidate for the all-star meet if he can land cleanly.”

The Rocky Mountain Mavericks enter 2023 ranked No. 6. They face off against SC United on the weekend of Feb. 4. 

Southern California United ranks No. 7 and will host the SC United Invitational on Feb. 4 and 5. 

Northern Illinois has worked hard to close the gaps between lead-off gymnasts and event anchors this year, coach Josh Levin said. We should see solid routines from all-arounder Micah Puckett, as well as freshman Jacob Miller. The team will compete at Windy City this Saturday. 

New York Alliance lead coach Karl Jaanimagi has grown his roster to 14 gymnasts this season from six last year. Among the additions is 2022 Level 10 Junior National all-around finalist Ryan Dugan. NY Alliance graduated only one last season and expects to field a full lineup at all GymACT league and championship meets this season, Jaanimagi said.

NY Alliance’s Ethan Rio is in a position to break out this season. “Ethan has significantly increased his difficulty on his primary events (PH, PB, HB) and is also training to compete in the all-around,” Jaanimagi said. “Ethan’s increased training time in the gym and fearlessness across all events have set him up for a breakout season.” 

NY Alliance will face off against Temple on Saturday. 

The Texas Armadillos enter the season ranked No. 10. They compete against Arizona State at the Beach Blast Invite on Saturday. 

Georgia United coach Nikita Zhukov has a roster of six gymnasts who seem committed to staying with the team all four years. Aiden Whitehead could be a big contributor after having recovered from surgery, Zhukov said. GA United will compete virtually for its first meet on Jan. 28. 

UIC has struggled with recruiting following its transition to GymACT, a new training space, and in the wake of the pandemic, coach Charley Nelson said. UIC has three dedicated gymnasts on the roster for 2023. Nelson is optimistic about Levi Boluyt’s chance to become a GymACT All-American this season.

The Bay Area Bandits rank No. 13 to start the season. 

Kansas City United rounds out the GymACT conference, entering 2023 at No. 14.

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