Cal’s Noah Newfeld competes on high bar during the 2023 Winter Cup. (© Amy Sanderson)
New Big Ten, MPSF, and ECAC winners will be decided on Friday and Saturday as the NCAA men’s gymnastics postseason kicks off in earnest.
On Friday, Michigan, Illinois, Nebraska, Penn State, and Ohio State will compete in Columbus for the team title. An event finals competition will follow on Saturday.
Also on Saturday, Oklahoma, Stanford, Air Force, and Cal will meet in Colorado Springs for MPSFs, while six teams face off for ECACs in Annapolis.
Here’s what to watch for at each of the three conference championships.
Michigan looks to defend at Big Ten Championships
The regular season and reigning Big Ten champions enter Friday’s team competition in Columbus as favorites to win for a third-consecutive season.
Michigan last competed Week 11, defeating Illinois to claim the regular season conference title. At that meet, the Wolverines, competing without standout freshman Fred Richard, scored a season-high 411.25 after mounting a comeback over the Illini, who led by more than three points halfway through the meet. Michigan outshined Illinois on vault, parallel bars, and high bar to ultimately capture a more than five-point win.
The Wolverines have the top potential score in the conference by a more than five-point margin and the best four-score average by almost four points.
Still, the conference’s four other teams all have a real shot at the title, and the contest for second and third could be especially close. Both Illinois and Nebraska have defeated Michigan at separate meets this season, and Penn State has the second-highest potential score in the Big Ten. Ohio State, meanwhile, beat Illinois at a dual meet in Week 6.
Team finals will start Friday at 8 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on Big Ten Network. Event finals will follow on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.
Routines to watch from each of the five teams are below.
- Richard’s high bar. Richard hasn’t competed in the NCAA since before Winter Cup, but the Wolverine freshman will be critical to the team’s effort on Friday. Richard had the best Day 1 high bar score at Winter Cup by more than a point and ranks No. 1 in the NCAA on the event.
- Evgeny Siminiuc’s parallel bars. Siminiuc is tied with Stanford’s Asher Hong for No. 1 on parallel bars by four-score average. The reigning Big Ten champ on the event competes clean peaches, a Bhavsar, and a straddle front one-and-a-quarter and has a top score of 14.95.
- Markus Shears’ horse. Shears helped Michigan survive horse during its dual with Illinois in Week 11, scoring a 14.4 for second place. He’s scored as high as a 14.6 this year.
- Ian Skirkey’s horse. Skirkey is ranked No. 2 in the country on the event and competes a 6.5-difficulty set replete with intricate elements.
- Connor McCool’s floor. McCool hasn’t missed a single floor set this year. The No. 1 gymnast nationally on the event is known for his uncanny ability to stick difficult passes, and he’s tied for the top score in the country on floor (14.9).
- Ashton Anaya’s rings. The reigning Big Ten rings champ won the event against Michigan in Week 11 with a score of 14.65 – his second-best result of the year.
- Taylor Christopulos’ floor. The Big Ten Gymnast of the Year has had an outstanding season on floor, notching a season-best 14.65 to beat McCool in Week 10. He’s one of the only gymnasts in the country competing a layout double-double on the event.
- Cooper Giles’ horse. Giles is Nebraska’s best horse man, and the Huskers will need a strong set from him if they’re going to vie for the title on Friday. Giles has a top score of 14.5 this year.
- Donte McKinney’s and Zachary Tiderman’s high bar. McKinney and Tiderman have traded the top spot on the event at meets throughout the year, and they’re ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in the country, respectively. Both perform floaty release elements and clean inbar and Tak work.
- Josh Karnes’ parallel bars. Karnes is No. 3 in the country on the event with a top score of 14.7. He performs one of the nation’s best Bhavsars and a double front dismount.
- Matt Cormier’s floor. No. 3 on floor nationally, Cormier has a graceful style that makes difficult elements look effortless. He’s scored as high as a 14.65 this year.
- Ian Raubal’s rings. Raubal had one of his best routines of the season at Penn State’s last meet, scoring a 14.2 for a first-place finish. He’s scored as high as a 14.5.
- Kameron Nelson’s floor. Nelson has competed a triple back on floor and has a top score of 14.4 this year.
- Caden Spencer’s high bar. The freshman ranks No. 7 nationally on the event and competes excellent Taks and explosive Tkatchevs.
- Parker Thackston’s horse. Thackston has one of the conference’s best swings on horse and ranks No. 7 nationally with a top score of 14.3.
Stanford, OU to meet for MPSF Championships with Cal, Air Force
The top two teams in the country will battle on Saturday for the MPSF Championship.
No. 1 Oklahoma has defeated Stanford once this year and fallen to the Cardinal once as well. The Cardinal triumphed at the Rocky Mountain Open early this season, while Oklahoma captured a five-point win at home over Stanford in Week 6.
Though Stanford and OU are closely matched on paper — the teams are within a point by four-score average — Stanford has a higher potential score by roughly seven points, and its top score of 423.55 compares with an OU best of 418.9. Stanford will be without Brody Malone at the meet and for the rest of the season after the Olympian suffered a lower-body injury following a terrifying fall on high bar at the DTB Pokal.
Both teams will be focused on building momentum ahead of NCAAs by securing an important conference victory. Stanford, with its superior difficulty scores, can emerge on top with a high hit percentage. But OU, ever clean and consistent, can sneak by Stanford if the latter is forced to count misses.
Air Force and Cal are also closely matched. The teams’ top scores are within two points, so expect a tight competition for the third-place spot on Saturday. The Falcons competed last week at the USAG Championships, performing well but falling to Navy by roughly a point. Cal last competed against OU at home in Week 11.
The competition kicks off at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday. A stream will be available here.
Routines to watch from each of the four teams are below.
- Spencer Goodell, Vitaliy Guimaraes, and Emre Dodanli’s floor. OU’s floor lineup is stacked, and each of these three has scored 14.75 or higher this season. Goodell holds the top score of 14.9, while Dodanli ranks highest at No. 2.
- Ignacio Yockers’ horse. The freshman is one of few gymnasts competing a 6.5-difficulty routine on horse this season, and he’s almost untouchable when he hits as well as he usually does.
- Jack Freeman’s high bar. Like horse, high bar is an event that often decides a team’s overall result, and OU will need a strong routine from Freeman this Saturday if it intends to score a victory over Stanford. Freeman has a top score of 14.4 this year and ranks No. 4 on the event.
- Asher Hong’s rings, vault, and parallel bars. The standout Cardinal freshman ranks No. 1 on rings and parallel bars and holds the country’s highest score on vault. Hong’s overall difficulty is unparalleled, and his Ri Se Gwang vault is clear proof of why.
- Khoi Young’s vault and horse. Young has competed a handspring Rand and Yurchenko half-on double full this year. He’s hit his stride on horse over the past couple meets, scoring a season-high 14.65 against Illinois and Cal in Week 9.
- Riley Loos’ rings. Loos put up one the best rings routines in the country early this season, scoring a 14.85 and showing off excellent Maltese and planche positions.
- Patrick Hoopes’ horse. Hoopes is another pommel man who competes a 6.5-difficulty set, and the competition between him and Yockers should be intense this Saturday. Hoopes’ top score of the year is a 15.3.
- Garrett Braunton’s high bar. Braunton won USAG event finals on the event last weekend, catching a Cassina, Kolman, Tkatchevs, and landing a layout double-double to score a 14.4. He’s scored as high as a 14.85 this season.
- Erich Upton’s parallel bars. Upton won the event at USAGs with a score of 13.9, performing a peach handstand, healy, and clean double pike dismount. He has a top score of 14.2 this year.
- Jasper Smith-Gordon’s vault. Smith-Gordon broke a modern school record earlier this season after landing a Kas double full to score a 14.85.
- Noah Newfeld’s parallel bars. Newfeld has a top score of 14.3 on parallel bars and competes a whip-it, healy, peach half, and double front dismount.
- Aidan Li’s horse. Li has notched three scores of 14.0 or higher this season. His set includes an E flop, D flop, Wu, and triple Russian.
Six teams to battle at ECACs after Navy claimed USAG win
Navy is favored among six teams set to compete for a title at Saturday’s ECAC Championships.
The Mids earned a comeback win over Air Force last weekend to finish first at the USAG Championships. Three of the teams Navy defeated there — Springfield, William & Mary, and Simpson — will be opponents again this weekend.
Navy will face new opposition from Army and Greenville on Saturday, and the Black Knights might have the best shot at unseating the Mids. Army came within a point of Navy during a dual meet earlier this season and holds a top score (396.65) that’s within two-tenths of a point of the Mids’.
Springfield has also broken the 390 barrier, so the contest for second and third place could be tight. William & Mary, meanwhile, has a comfortable lead over Greenville by four-score average, but the two teams’ best scores of the season are within 1.5 points.
The competition starts at 2 p.m. ET and will be streamed live on Navy Gymnastics’ Facebook page.
Routines to watch from each of the six teams are below.
- Connor Van Loo’s floor. Van Loo had the top score on floor at Day 1 of USAGs last weekend, sticking a double-double and landing his triple full dismount to tally a 14.35.
- Isaiah Drake’s vault. Drake performed one of his best Kas 1.5s of the season last weekend to score a 14.55.
- Will Champagne’s parallel bars. Champagne posted a season-best 14.0 at USAGs with a routine that included a peach handstand, healy, and stuck double pike dismount.
- Maddox Pabellon’s horse. Pabellon is Army’s best pommel worker and boasts a top score of 14.45 this year.
- Gabe Almeida’s floor. Almeida posted a season-high 14.1 at the Black Knights most recent meet to win the title.
- Joseph Buselmeier and Patrick Armstrong’s rings and parallel bars. Buselmeier and Armstrong have led Army’s lineups on both events throughout the season. Buselmeier’s best respective scores on rings and parallel bars are 13.7 and 13.6, while Armstrong’s are 13.6 and 13.7.
- Jakarie Williams’ floor. Williams won USAG event finals on floor with a season-best 14.15. His routine includes a front double pike and double-double.
- David Handron’s rings. Handron also won a title at USAGs, taking first on rings with a score of 13.25 after sticking his full-twisting double back dismount. Handron has scored as high as a 13.95 this year.
- Dominic Ramalho’s parallel bars. Ramalho tied for the top score (14.0) on parallel bars at Day 1 of USAGs, notching a season high to advance to event finals.
William & Mary
- Aidan Cuy’s parallel bars. Cuy took bronze on the event at USAGs after winning the all-around on Day 1. He has a top score of 13.8.
- Christian Marsh and Sam Smith’’s pommel horse. Both Marsh and Smith advanced to USAG event finals on horse, placing fourth and fifth, respectively. They’ve led the horse lineup throughout the year
- Trenton Peazant’s vault. Peazant has had a strong season on the event, scoring a 14.35 at Day 1 of USAGs after sticking his Tsuk double full.
- The entire vault lineup. Greenville competes five vaults of 4.8-difficulty or greater, with Major Bain and Ricky Mays competing Kas 1.5s and Michael Avery performing a clean Yurchenko double full.
- Zach Connelly’s floor. Connelly hit a season-best 13.5 during a dual meet with Simpson and has scored above 13 three times this year.
- Kevin Laurino’s parallel bars. Laurino holds Greenville’s top parallel bars score of 13.45, awarded after he performed a clean routine against Michigan in Week 1 and stuck his double back dismount.
- Sterling Pariza and Kyle Kincade’s floor. Both gymnasts qualified to USAG event finals on the event last weekend, placing sixth and seventh, respectively. Pariza has a top floor score of 13.5, while Kincade has gone 13.35 on the event.
- Alex Catchpole’s parallel bars. Catchpole posted Simpson’s best parallel bars score of the year (13.3) against Nebraska and OU.
- Michelangelo Villani’s vault. Villani is the only vaulter to have scored 14+ for Simpson. He went 14.05 at the Navy Open with his layout Kas half.
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