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NCAA

NCAA Men's Gymnastics Week 5 Recap

Everything that happened in Week 5 of the NCAA Season

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By Kensley Behel  ND Editor-in-Chief

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Photo: Inside Gymnastics/ Llyod Smith

February 5, 2024



Recap of Week 5 of the 2024 NCAA Season

The 2024 NCAA season continues with another exciting week of collegiate gymnastics. The Oklahoma Sooners are once again top of the rankings and Stanford drops to fourth place after a rough dual with Cal. (Note: Nebraska and Air Force were unranked as of February 5 when we recorded. These rankings below have now been updated to reflect the changes put into effect by the NCAA on February 6)

National Rankings - 05 Feb, 2024


1. Oklahoma

2. Michigan

3. Nebraska

4. Stanford

5. Illinois

6. Ohio State

7. Penn State

8. Navy

9. Air Force

10. California

11. Greenville

12. Army

13. Springfield College

14. Simpson

15. William & Mary



Gymnastics Podcast Transcript


This week was one for the record books and one of the craziest weeks of NCAA Men’s gymnastics I’ve ever seen. Stanford put in its lowest score of the season and dropped from first to fourth, Oklahoma had record breaking crowds, Illinois upset the Michigan Wolverines, Paul Juda had a no good very bad week, and we explain why Air Force and Nebraska have dropped from the rankings. 


For those new here, I’m Kensley the host of Neutral Deductions a Podcast all about men’s gymnastics 


Here’s everything that happened in Week 5 of the NCAA season. 


Illinois vs. Michigan

Illinois: 413.800 Michigan: 410.350


We have to start with Illinois’ takedown of the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan’s highs were high but there lows were very low and that opened the door for the home team to take another win.  According to Men's Gymnastics Ramblings - a new men’s gymnastics website, Illinois overcame a 7 point difficulty gap to win by 3.45 points. This is a huge testimony to their consistency.


In the past 10 years, only three teams have won the NCAA team title - Michigan, Oklahoma, and Stanford; and Illinois just took down Oklahoma and Michigan back to back. If this is not a statement that they are here to not only improve upon their 3rd place finish last year, but that they are also seriously looking for that title, I don’t know what is. 


Head coach Daniel Ribiero said, “I knew going into this meet we needed some major improvements to take down Michigan. We focused on consistency and sticks last week, and the boys showed up today! Last week we went 23/30 on sticks, this week we improved to 29 for 30. The guys focused on their control today, they followed the plan laid out for them and they came out on top! This is another massive victory for us. I am beaming with pride."


Their three event titles all came from the first half of the meet. Connor McCool won floor, Brandon Dang won pommel horse by almost a point, and reigning national champ Ashton Anaya took the win over Michigan’s Javier Alfonso by a tenth. 


Brandon Dang’s 15.2 is the highest score in the nation, though his three-score average has him in third. Dang’s difficulty is tied for the highest in the NCAA this year and he will be a favorite for the NCAA title 


While Michigan had the highest D score of the meet, they were unable to capatilize on that advantage from the beginning. With two falls on floor from the Wolverines, Illinois was able to start the meet in the lead and kept the lead throughout all six rotations. 


While this will be a tough loss for the Wolverines, they are very much still in the national title fight. They were nowhere near full strength. In an article from the Michigan Daily, Madison Auchincloss detailed the struggles graduate student, Paul Juda had faced. Quote “Graduate gymnast Paul Juda had a very bad week. Why did Juda have a bad week? Well, he got the flu, got in a car crash, and was in the emergency room at 3:30 A.M. on Saturday morning with a kidney stone. And while he battled through and performed exceptionally, the up and down performance from the No. 4 Michigan men’s gymnastics team didn’t improve his week.” 


Despite Juda having a bad week, the 2022 NCAA all-around champion competed all six events for the first time since that title and won the all-around in the dual meet with an 82.800. Juda also took the vault title. Fred Richard took home titles on parallel bars and high bar. His 14.9 leads the nation on high bar. 


Overall this is the first loss of the season for Michigan. With this loss, only Stanford remains undefeated. The Wolverines will face Nebraska at home this coming weekend and Illinois will take on Simpson in the Mikulak Invitational. 


Oklahoma vs. Ohio State

Oklahoma: 411.500

Ohio State: 400.600


Oklahoma continues their impressive streak of home wins and now sits as the #1 team in the nation. In front of a record-breaking crowd of 2,111 fans, a baby kangaroo, and several snakes the Sooners beat Ohio State and Arizona State. 


Of their win, head coach Mark Williams said, I'm pleased with the bounce back from last weekend. Our parallel bars team was awesome. They did a really great job. It certainly looks like we got back on track there. We were maybe a little slow getting started at the beginning, but the last half of the meet we had great energy in the building and guys had really great performances. I was really happy with the job that they did today. We still haven't hit our full stride yet, but I'm pretty happy with the overall performance."


Colin Flores took the all-around with an 80.300 and won parallel bars. Emre Dodanli continues his consistency on floor and picked up another title there. Ignacio Yockers won Pommel Horse, Adriel Perales-Valencia won still rings, and Max Bereznev tied Ohio State’s Zach Snyder on vault. 


Ohio State took second with a season-high of 400.600. They become the 7th team to break the 400 barrier. In addition to their season high as a team, they also set a new season high on vault with a 72.7 which is the 3rd highest vault total behind Illinois and Nebraska. 


In addition to Snyder’s win on vault. Caden Spencer took the top spot on high bar. 


Head Coach Rustam Sharipov said: "We had a few season-highs, which were the highlights, but we're still missing a lot from our full potential. We'll get back in the gym to grind away before we are back on the road next weekend at Penn State."


Gymnastics always offers moments of comedy - this time, the high bar broke and both Ohio State and Oklahoma had to use a piece of white board to fix the high bar. Next week, OU will face Cal at home and Ohio State will travel to take on Big Ten rival, Penn State. 


Before moving on to Navy vs. Army, I want to take a moment to talk about why OU consistently has the highest attendance at their meets. I’m talking in the thousands when most teams can barely scrape together a few hundred fans. It’s because they are out there in the community. Their athletes are volunteering at an elementary school every week. Their athletes are visiting sorority houses seranading them and bringing them flowers. All of this it makes a difference and if you think otherwise, you are dead wrong. 


When Jordyn Wieber got to Arkansas, she went around visiting the sorority houses personally. She called donors. The personal interaction is critical to growth. Almost every women’s team understands the work that is required to get people in the stands and build relationships with them. And in my experience, most MAG coaches and athletes are unwilling to go the extra mile. There is a general lack of understanding of how much work is required to build an audience. 


If NCAA men’s gymnastics programs want to save their sport, they have to be willing to do the work to be in the community. Go to the sorority and fraternity houses. Vist elementary schools. Give tickets to local gyms and offer a free clinic. Personally invite people in you classes. Go to the music school and support their performances and invite them to yours. 


This is how you make a difference. 


Navy vs. Army

Navy: 390.100 Army: 377.500


It’s always and exciting meet when Navy and Army go head to head, but this time the drama started early. According to Navy Gymnastics, “The drama of Army-Navy got keyed up early when 2023 NCAA All-Around All-American Isaiah Drake (Jr., Los Angeles, Calif.) was scratched from the starting lineup on multiple events as he suffered an injury during Friday's practice and was unable heal up in time for Saturday's meet.”


Drake is Navy’s leading scorer on rings vault and parallel bars and with him out of the lineup, many younger athletes came into the lineup. 


The meet was dramatic as the Midshipmen heald a strong lead through the first four events, but a strong performance by Army on parallel bars pulled the Black Knights closer into contention. In their own house, Navy remained confident pulling a dominant 7.3 point victory on highbar totaling a 12.6 point victory win over their closest rival. 


Head Coach Kip Simons said,"Today really showed the blue-collar grit of this program,"Today was a complete team effort from top to bottom. We fought for our team, our program, our alumni, our institution and our fans. We got great energy from our fans, who packed Halsey Field House this afternoon. We hit some road blocks early in the day, but this group just found a way; we clawed, scratched, did whatever we needed to do to get this win. It was a gritty performance."


In the end, Navy took four of the event titles outright. With Syam Buradagunta continuing his floor titles, Riley Rose took still rings, Caleb Hickey took High Bar and Matthew Petros took parallel bars. Petros also tied Army’s Jonathan Pinc for the vault title and Maddox Pabellon of Army won pommel horse. 


The Midshipmen and the Black Knights will meet again this weekend against Air Force in the All-Academy Championships. 


Nebraska vs. Penn State

Nebraska: 406.800 Penn State: 403.200


Nebraska finally had their home opener in the first week of February. They hosted Penn State in a Big Ten Match-up where the Huskers won the meet by about 2.5 points. 


In the head-to-head format, both teams started on floor. Nebraska’s first gymnast, Toby Liang, and Penn State’s final gymanst Michael Artlip tied with a 14.000 and the top score of the meet. Nebraska had the highest score on floor, pommel horse, still rings, and vault, but a less than ideal performance on parallel bars. They then rallied as a team to finish the day with five of the six best events as a team. 


In addition to Liang’s title on floor, Alex Nitache took vault with a 14.85, Zac Tiderman won high bar with a very competitive 14.45 and Sam Phillips had a much better all-around than the season opener. He won the title with an 80.050. 


Penn State was not happy with their performance overall. Head Coach, Randy Jepson said:"Disappointing performance today. We were primed and ready to make some decent improvements, but that didn't show today. We let it get away from us here with Nebraska, so we'll have to sharpen up to be more competitive in the Big Ten. Hopefully our guys are up for the challenge."


Despite the disappointing performance as a whole, there were some individual highlights. Penn State took the majority of the individual event titles. As I mentioned earlier, Artlip won floor.  Michael Jaroh took the pommel horse title and made his season debut on vault after battling some injuries. Luke Esparo posted a career high 14.00 for the still rings win and Josh Karnes won parallel bars, in fact, Penn State swept the entire parallel bar titles with Matt Cormier taking second and Ian Raubal taking third.


Nebraska will travel to Michigan for a BIG ten rivalry and Penn State will host Ohio State. 


Simpson vs. Greenville

Greenville: 392.950 Simpson: 376.350


Both Greenville and Simpson posted program records this week as Greenville bested Simpson in a dual meet. Greenville continues to impress as the edge closer and closer to that coveted 400 mark. For comparative purposes, their 392.950 was even better than reigning National Champs Stanford’s score this week. 


In addition to the team win, Greenville also took 5 of the six event titles. Zach Connelly continues to impress with another first place on floor and Greenville took the top five places on the event. Jacob Foster took first on pommel horse and Landon Benas took second. Beau Bice won vault - and a fun fact is that he is the fist MAG gymnast from Arkansas to ever win an event title. And Donovan Diviney took the top scores on parallel bars and high bar. 


Just because Greenville took the win doesn’t mean Simpson didn’t also have a record-breaking performance. Against Greenville, Simpson improved their highest ever team score by nearly 10 points and also set new program records on three events. 


Simpson’s lone event win came from Brian Rollison who won his first ever title on still rings. Milo Staley also won the all-around title with a career high 73.650. 


Coach Colin Payne said, “This was the performance I've been waiting for. The team had a real presence on the floor and owned their gymnastics. I couldn't be more proud of what this team did today, and there is still more room for them to grow this season too."


Simpson will face Illinois in a dual meet this Friday at the Mikulak Invitational in Sarasota, FL. 


Stanford vs. California

Stanford: 392.850 California: 391.850


Stanford had a very, very off week and barely beat California whom they have beaten by handedly in their previous two meets. A lot of people are very concerned but I don’t think there is reason to be… yet. Stanford has done this at least once for the last several years. There’s usually one meet where they rest their top guys and try some new talent and they get a much lower score. This time, they rested Asher Hong, Khoi Young, and Colt Walker and four freshman had their collegiate debuts. 


What I would say is that this meet maybe reveals that Stanford doesn’t have as much cultivated depth as they have had in previous years. With their top guys, they are still the top team, but if one of them has an off day there is definitely room for them to be beaten. 


While Stanford did pull out the win, the road to that win wasn’t easy or straight forward. Stanford led the first three rotations but had a disaster on vault. Their first vaulter, Kaien J-Spencer ended up messing up his steps and instead of his intended vault, just did a tucked front handspring. Brandon Nguyen fell and just a combination of other less than their normal execution led them to be about seven points down on their vault average. Still, after vault they barely held the lead over Cal. 


On parallel bars, Stanford ended up having to count an 11 from JR Chou - someone who is usually VERY strong on parallel bars and Cal took the lead by a tenth and a half. As you know, Stanford came back on high bar and won by a point. Stanford took the all-around and four event titles. Cal’s Jasper Smith-Gordon took the vault title while Theodor Roald Gadderud took the high bar title. While Cal will certainly have missed the opportunity to take down the reigning national champs, this will hopefully provide motivation for the rest of the season. 


Normally when a team has an off-week, you expect them to bounce back. But I’m not expecting that from Stanford and here’s why. Next week, They will split their team again as some will compete as Team USA and they will also compete against GymACTS Bay Area Bandits. In the past several years, they have only fielded partial line-ups for this meet so if you see a score in the 200’s all is normal. After that week is Winter Cup, and then they have a quad meet against Cal, Nebraska, and Air Force. If at that meet we don’t see a score at 410+, then there might be cause for concern. 


Speaking of Nebraska and Air Force, there have been some questions as to why Air Force and Nebraska have dropped out of the rankings. The NCAA rules state that from January 29 - February 25, the average of the three highest scores regardless of competition location is how the rankings are determined. To date, both Air Force and Nebraska have only competed twice. Next weekend Air Force will compete at the All Academy Championships and Nebraska will take on Michigan. Both should have enough scored to get back into the rankings. 


[NOTE: As of February 6, 2024, the NCAA has changed the requirements for the rankings and Air Force and Nebraska have been re-ranked. ]



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If you have questions, comments or insider tips,  you can email Kensley at neutraldeductions@gmail.com That’s all for this week. We’ll see you next time! 


Article by: Kensley Behel


 

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