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NCAA Week 1 Preview

Preview of Week 1 of the 2024 NCAA Season

January 5, 2024

Photo: Inside Gymnastics/Jessica Frankl

Penn State vs. army

The 2024 season kicks off this weekend with two teams from the Big Ten playing host to three team from the ECAC. Penn State takes on Army in the first match of the season tonight (January 5, 2024) at 7:00 pm ET. Led by seniors, Michael Jaroh and Matt Cormier, the Nittany Lions are expected to take the win over Army; however, Army is bringing a rejuvinated team under new leadership in former Iowa head coach, J.D. Reive. 

Sophomore, Josh Karnes, has already been named to the Big Ten watch list and was named the MVP in the College Gymnastics Association’s East versus West meet a month ago. The National Team member can put up big scores on vault and parallel bars. In addition to Karnes on the parallel bars, Penn State is also returning all of their top scorers from 2023 except their top scorer on pommel horse. Seniors Matt Cormier (FX/VT), Michael Jaroh (SR), and Michael Artlip (HB) are expected to make significant contributions for their team. 

While it would be unsurprising if Penn State swept the event titles, Army’s Maddox Pabellon may upset Penn State’s charge for a clean sweep. As a freshman, Pabellon earned a high score of 14.45 and was one of three gymnasts from Army to advance to event finals at the NCAA national championships. 

You can watch the meet live on the Big Ten Network at 7:00 pm ET.

Michigan vs. Greenville vs. Simpson

Like Penn State, Michigan is expected to handedly take the victory ahead of newcomers Simpson and Greenville. Though Simpson is returning significant portions of their line-ups from last year, they are still in a period of growth that is unlikely to challenge a powerhouse like Michigan. Greenville is returning only 50% of its line-up and have committed to a zero all-around line-up to maximize their scores.

Host, Michigan will return 80% of their routines from last season including key routines from 2023 World Bronze Medalists, Paul Juda and Fred Richard. Last season, Michigan had a slow start to the season and it would be unsurprising if they don’t choose to show their full hand at this opening meet. While Michigan may choose to rest Juda and Richard ahead of a long collegiate and elite season, expect sophomore Landen Blixt to contribute heavily to the team score. His 15.100 on vault at the Maize & Blue meet was the best of any gymnast and his personal best score. During the intrasquad, freshman, Pierce Wolfgang won the all-around title ahead of junior, Rithik Puri and both are expected to challenge for the all-around title this weekend.

Photo: Michigan Gymnastics

For Greenville and Simpson, they will be looking to challenge for second place as teams and for spots on the podium as individuals. Throughout their first NCAA season, each team demonstrated significant growth. Last season, Greenville opened their season again Michigan with a 373.100 and ended their season with a high score of 384.750. Simpson also opened their first season at Michigan with a 341.350 and improved their season total to a 360.500. 

Simpson is bringing a trio of freshman who all made the ECAC Preseason Gymnasts to Watch List. The debut of Sterling Pariza, William Bacus, and Jake Smith, will provide more insight into what to expect from Simpson this coming season. While Greenville won't be fielding an all-arounder this weekend to challenge the likes of Wolfgang and Puri from Michigan, they are bringing in a huge set of new talent. Landon Benas, brother of Oklahoma's Fuzzy Benas, was also named to the ECAC Preseason Watch List and is expected to contribute big scores for Panthers' vault and parallel bars line-up.

You can catch the action live on the Big Ten Network. The meet will air on Saturday, January 6, 2024 at 1:00 pm ET.

Article by: Kensley Behel


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