NCAA Week 3 Recap
Results and Review of Week 3 in the 2024 NCAA Season
Week three of the 2024 NCAA season proved to be more exciting than anyone could have predicted. One team hit a hundred percent of their routines, another imploded in an arena that was too cold, another meets results may become entirely null and void and that’s just the beginning. For those new here, my name is Kensley and I’m the host of Neutral Deductions a podcast all about men's gymnastics.
Here’s the breakdown of everything that happened in week 3.
Rocky Mountain Open
We’re going to start at the Rocky Mountain Open because that’s where I was on-site this weekend.It was a quad-meet between Oklahoma, Nebraska, thehost Air Force and GymACTs Rocky Mountain Mavericks. I do need to make a correction from last week because I said that ASU was going to be competing here and they were not actually scheduled.
This was a meet I was really looking forward to because Nebraska was the final team to open the NCAA and they have so many exciting and talented gymnasts on their team. I think they are often overlooked by many news outlets and I honestly can’t understand why because they have athletes performing unique gymnastics at a high level. I was also really looking forward to seeing the rematch between Air Force’s Patrick Hoopes and OU’s Ignacio Yockers, both of whom have some of the most difficult pommel horse routines in the world. Just for comparison, at last year’s World Championships, the only person who competed a routine with more difficulty was Max Whitlock. And finally, I was eager to see what Oklahoma was going to be able to do in terms of performance. They were only two tenths behind Stanfords score last week and I was sure that they would be motivated to overtake the top score. But to be honest they completely blew Stanford’s score away.
Oklahoma led the meet from start to finish…well sort of til the finish. Originally, when the final scores came up at the end of the meet, we thought that Nebraska had won. They had a 409 and Oklahoma was at a 408. But you could see that Daniel Simmons had a 0.000 counting for still rings. I hadn’t actually seen his routine so I wasn’t sure what had happened but he was sitting with an ice pack on and it was decided by the medical staff that he would be able to be replaced in the line-up and that OU would ultimately need to take a 1.0 deductions. Once the judges were able to figure out how to input everything properly in the system, the final score of 420.350 popped up and there was a gasp throughout the audience.
I was able to grab an interview with head coach Mark Williams at the end of the meet and he shared that this was the first time his team had a 100% hit rate since 2013. It would be impossible to highlight everything from the Sooners so I’ll just pick two routines that were absolutely world class and that was the floor routine from Emre Dodanli and the pommel horse routine from Ignacio Yockers. Dodanli stuck over half of his passes for a massive 15.25 which would have been higher than any score at the floor event finals at worlds last year. The floor scoring here was a bit more generous than at worlds last year but don’t let that undermine how absolutely incredible this routine was. Should Dodanli make the Turkish Olympic Team later this year, he is going to be a favorite for that Olympic floor final.
Ignacio Yockers was the last of the three pommel specialists to go. Air Force’s Patrick Hoopes went first and he fell, then Nebraska’s Cooper Giles was next and he stayed on but he didn’t get his intended difficulty because of the dismount dismount and so his score was lower, and then Ignacio Yockers went. He had a very clean routine but like Giles didnt’ get his full difficulty on the dismount. Both he and Hoopes had the D score to petition a spot for Winter Cup and Yockers ended up taking the win with a 14.950.
Some other moments to highlight were Nebraska’s floor rotation. Luke James was the penultimate gymnast on floor and he was luckily able to cover the routine very well but on his fourth pass he was supposed to compete a 3.5 and ended up only competing a triple twist which would normally be fine except he competes a triple for his dismount. And so he had to improvise the rest of his routine which is up on our YouTube so I definitely recommend giving that routine a watch as well as Sam Phillips who was finally back in the line up after having to sit out last season. Not only does Sam have really difficult and beautiful tumbling but he brings the artistry back into men’s gymnastics that is so often missing. And as always he ended the routine by crowning himself.
Another interesting thing to note about Nebraska’s was that they actually didn’t compete with their full line up. Because the competition was an open format, they chose to let three of their gymnasts compete in the individual rotation so they could have a chance to trial more routines and give more athletes a shot at qualifying for winter cup. It definitely paid off as Toby Liang qualified the final spot for winter cup.
The three athletes that were able to qualify for Winter Cup were OU’s Fuzzy Benas who totaled a MASSIVE 85.200. That is a top 8 score at the World Championships so watch out for Fuzzy this year. Freshman Colin Flores also qualified a spot in his first collegiate all around competition and then as I mentioned earlier Toby LIang finished out the top three.
A final moment for comedy and probably my favorite moment of the meet was Air Force’s Jake Sampier on Vault. He stuck his vault and then like an Usain Bold style pose and just lost it! That video as well as our entire collection of videos an interviews is on Neutral Deduction’s YouTube page. I highly recommend going and watching those videos!
Ok Moving on to the Navy Open
Ohio State won the Navy Open with the Midshipmen coming in second. It was expected to be a really close battle for the title between Ohio State, Navy, and Penn State but Penn State was nowhere near the top scoring teams finishing 12 points behind first place. I asked around to see if there were any extenuating factors and it seems that the gym was really really cold. One spectator apologized for the sports analogy but compared the home advantage for Navy as similar to the home field advantage for Buffalo or Green Bay as Navy is currently training in a less than idea scenario because their gym is being renovated.
Regardless of the circumstances, Ohio State put in a solid performance and they remain one of only four undefeated teams in the division alongside Stanford, Oklahoma, and Michigan. When asked about the performance from the Buckeyes, head coach Rustam Sharipov said, “"We made some improvements from last week, but there's still a lot more that we will focus on as we prepare for No. 2 Oklahoma and Arizona State on Feb. 3 in Norman.”
While yet to break the 400 barrier, there were still some bright spots for the champions. Sophomore Justin Ciccone stuck his vault for the second week in a row leading the Buckeyes to a massive 71.750 total on vault. Caden Spencer was the other event winner for Ohio State, he won paralle bars for the second straight meet in a row.
The home team Navy came in second just a little over 6 points behind Ohio State. Navy also came away with two individual event wins. Syam Buradagunta picked up another event title on floor where he’s two for two this season and Isaiah Drake picked up a win on Parallel Bars. Like Ohio State, the Midshipmens best team score was on vault where tehy tallied a 71.9. Head coach Kip Simons said, "Halsey was rocking this afternoon," exclaimed head coach Kip Simons. "The place was packed and our team showed up ready to compete.
"We had several small mistakes this afternoon, which is to be expected in January. The key to today's performance is that we never let a mistake turn into a disaster. Overall, this was another solid workday for this team. I'm very proud of who this group of guys have become. We've only had two meets so far and it's already been a memorable season for Navy Men's Gymnastics."
Penn State rounded out the podium at the Navy Open with a performance far from their best. Still, they did take the most individual event titles of any team t the competition. Senior, Michael Jaroh made his season debut with a win on pommel horse after battling injuries. Head Coach Randy Jepson said, “"I am really pleased with Michael Jaroh with his effort, said head coach Randy Jepson. "This is the first time this season he really got to get in and compete. He did a great job on pommel horse. His parallel bars and rings performance was really solid. I am pleased with that."
The other two wins came from graduate student Nate Warren who got is second consecutive win on rings. International Student and Newcomer, Akseli Karsikas notched his first event title on high bars with a 13.850.
Springfield and William and Mary rounded out the competition with fourth and fifth places respectively. Both Springfield and William & Mary had record performances from athletes named Sam. Sam Lee of William and Mary continues to impress has his career-high vault of 14.7 notched a 3rd place finish and also ties William & Mary’s record for 2nd highest vault score ever. For Springfield, Sam Kaplan placed 2nd in the all-around with a 75.050.
Greenville VS Illinois
Ok now to Greenville versus Illinois. Everything that I may talk about here may become null and void in the record book because the teams were allegedly competing on a non-regultaion surface on vault and therefore all of their scores may be thrown out. This is not the first time a teams’ results have been thrown out. Teams have shown up late to competitions before and the judges agreed to stay late but their scores were nullified, so I won’t be surprised if this happens.
This was the first ever home meet for Greenville and they were supposed to be competing in a different venue. However, due to a conflict, the meet was moved to the practice gym. Both teams agreed to compete on the non-regulation surface, however, they didn’t receive an exemption ahead of time. The decision will likely now go before a committee and then we will know if the results stand or not.
Til that time, as it stands now, Greenville has a new program record of 388.850. They have been so impressive for a 2nd-season team and continue to make huge strides especially on vault and floor. As a more established team, Illinois did come away with the win in the team, all-around and all events.
Tate Costa continues his success in the all-around by winning this dual meet and also took the parallel bars title. Brandon Dang won pommel horse wiht a 14.450, Reigning national champion, Ashton Anaya took the still rings title with a 14.450 - over a point better than second place, Garrett Schooley took the vault title and Logan Myers won high bar.
Head coach Daniel Ribeiro said, “It was an honor getting to compete in Greenville's first ever home competition," head coach Daniel Ribeiro said. "We are excited about pulling out the win and sweeping the events. We also had some really standout performances. But we need to start making certain improvements. Both our hit and stick percentages came out flat. Rings were the only event we escaped without a fall. This is going to be an important week ahead if we expect to take down Oklahoma in our home opener. The guys are motivated to get back to work.
Michigan vs. Army
Rounding out the final NCAA meet was Army at Michigan. They Wolverines easily cruzed to a victory at home with a score nearly 30 points higher than Army. Michigan saw the return of Paul Juda and Fred Richard in their line-ups. Juda competed in ⅚ events - notably competing a downgraded vault and Richard competed two with an incredibly impressive performance on pommel horse.
Michigan led the meet from start to finish and won all six event titles. No athlete from Michigan or Army competed in the all-around. Sophomore Landen Blixt set the highest score on floor with a 14.300. In his 2024 debut, the NCAA champion (Fred Richard) broke a program record on pommel horse. His 15.00 is the highest pommle horse score since the new code of points by 4 tenths. Javier Alfonso continues his streak of victories on still rings and Paul Juda took the vault title with a stuck taks 1.5. His 15.00 ties is career best. It should also be noted that David Wolma also got a stick on the same vault for a 14.800. Meaning three sticks in a row for the junior. Logan McKeown put in a career best performance on parallel bars for a 14.300 and Richard took the title on high bar.
The addition of Juda and Richard provided a huge and much-needed boost for the Wolverines. Usually a team to peak later in the season, they still need to find another 8 - 10 points to be competitive for the national title in April.
Looking at the NCAA Overall, despite strong performances from across the country, no one was able to beat Stanford’s team totals on still rings and high bar. The Cardinals will return to competition this weeken at the Stanford open which will be the final Winter Cup qualifier.
A quick update from the Elite Wold
This past weekend, 2022 World Champion, Brody Malone returned to competition three months ahead of schedule at the Houston National Invitational. He helped EVO win the team title and competed on three events. He is expected to add high bar into his repertoire later this season. Yul Moldauer came away with the win in the all-around with an 85.400 according to meetscoresonline. An incredibly impressive score though its worth noting that overall the rings scoring seemed very generous at this meet. Stanford’s Riley Loos was second with an 80.700 and Ian Gunther was 3rd with a 79.800. Gunther improved his score by a point from his competition at the Beach Blast Invitational and will likely need another point to secure a spot to Winter Cup next week at the Stanford Invitational. I want to give an additional mention to Thomas Tittley junior canadian gymnast who scored a 79.000.
Senior National Team Members Shane Wiskus, Alex Diab, Blake Sun, Curran Phillips, and Stephen Nedoroscik made their 2024 debut at HNI. Wiskus competed on three events with his best score coming on high bar. Still recovering from the injury that took him out of the Pan American Games, he will look to add the all-round back to his program later this season. Blake Sun had a rough meet where he scored a 10 on both pommel horse and parallel bars. He is strong on both events and will look to improve upon this performance. Alex Diab competed only still rings. His 15.300 is world class but I havent’ seen a video of his performance yet. It’s hard to evaluate whether that is a true 15 score which he can certainly attain or if it’s really high as was evident by some of the other scores awarded this past weekend. Stephen Nedoroscik earned a 13.900 on pommel horse. Again, no videos have surfaced so far so I don’t know what the routine looked like but the score indicates a fall.
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If you have questions, comments or insider tips, you can email Kensley at firstname.lastname@example.org That’s all for this week. We’ll see you next time!
Article by: Kensley Behel
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