LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Former Stanford gymnast Curran Phillips and current Ohio State gymnast Kameron Nelson claimed two event titles apiece during the second day of men’s competition at the 2023 Winter Cup – results that earned both gymnasts spots on the first U.S. men’s senior national team of the year.
“It’s years and years of just grinding in the gym,” Phillips said of his marked success on parallel bars. “And I’m fortunate to have the absolutely best training group, maybe in the world, right now, at Stanford.”
All of Sunday’s event winners were current or former NCAA athletes, and five of the 12 newly-announced U.S. national team members hail from Stanford.
Phillips won parallel bars with a huge Day 2 score of 16.097, executing a handful of difficult upper-arm elements and landing his double pike dismount. He also nabbed the high bar title with a second-day score of 13.65. The parallel bars effort locked up Phillips spot on the national team for the second-straight year, despite a nagging back injury that made him pull out of world team selection camp last fall.
“I’ve been dealing with a lower back injury, which actually was carried into this competition as well, which is why I didn’t compete vault, and I also had to water down my high bar routine a little bit,” Phillips explained. “Unfortunately, I’ve been having trouble kind of pinpointing exactly the right route of treatment… It’s something I’m going to deal with, probably for the rest of my gymnastics career. And I’ve accepted that, and now it’s just more of a mentality. Every time I’m out there, I love it. And I enjoy it and I seize it and I am just thankful that I’m doing gymnastics. So it puts a good perspective on the sport, for sure.”
Six gymnasts automatically qualified to the national team based on their individual performances on Day 2, joining the top 5 all-arounders from Day 1. Those six are Phillips, Nelson, Penn State’s Josh Karnes, Stanford’s Riley Loos, Illinois’ Ian Skirkey, and Nebraska’s Taylor Christopulos.
Also earning individual titles on Sunday were Ohio State’s Nelson on floor and vault, Skirkey on pommel horse, and former Illinois gymnast Alex Diab on rings.
Nelson won floor with a triple back opening pass, front full to double front, front double pike, and triple full dismount. His second-day score of 13.764 was a slight step down from his routine on Day 1, but Nelson’s combined total was still more than a point better than that of second place finisher Shane Wiskus, who tallied a 14.05 on Day 2. Illinois floor star Connor McCool took bronze on the event.
The highly anticipated battle on pommel horse saw Skirkey blaze past rivals to claim the title and the national team spot. Skirkey put up a 15.972 on Day 2, hitting his Sohn, full Stockli, flops, Wu, and showing off a high-angle triple Russian dismount. He finished with a combined score that was more than half a point better than the second place finisher, OU’s Ignacio Yockers, whose strong Day 2 set netted him a 15.472. Stephen Nedoroscik finished third after suffering a fall on the second day of competition.
Diab was more than a point ahead on rings to take first after hitting clean sets both days, scoring a 14.798 on Day 2 to improve by a tenth from Friday. Stanford’s Riley Loos was second with a second-day total of 14.403, and Wiskus took third.
Nelson was the one and only medalist on vault, winning the title because he was the only athlete in the field to perform two vaults on Day 2. Those were the difficult handspring Randi and Roche vaults.
Phillips put on another display of huge difficulty on parallel bars to take the title, performing a front uprise to Diam half, front uprise Stutz, front uprise Diam, front uprise Makutz, Makutz, straddle front one-and-a-quarter, Diam half, and double pike dismount for a 6.8 difficulty score. Former Cardinal gymnast Blake Sun was second with Day 1 and Day 2 scores above 15, while Wiskus took bronze after a marked improvement in his Day 2 routine from Friday.
“Well, parallel bars, there was a slight mix up on day one with setting the bars and making the grip, so honestly, that was just an easy fix. We had more of a plan going into it,” Wiskus said of improving his parallel bars score from 14.050 to 14.650.
Phillips claimed the high bar title as well, catching a Cassina, Kolman, connecting layout and straddle Tkatchevs, and landing his full-twisting double layout dismount. Michigan’s Landen Blixt was second with a Day 2 score of 13.65, while Stanford’s Ian Gunther took third.
The top 7 junior men on each event at the conclusion of the Elite Team Cup advanced to Sunday night’s finals alongside the seniors, with Region 8’s Garret Schooley winning floor, pommel horse, vault, and parallel bars. Region 3’s Caden Clinton won still rings and high bar.
The selection committee will use the results from the individual event finals to name three additional gymnasts to the National Team. On Friday, Yul Moldauer, Fred Richard, Asher Hong, Ian Lasic-Ellis, and Wiskus secured spots on the team by placing top 5 in the all-around final portion of the competition. The committee will also weigh petitions from gymnasts who didn’t compete at Winter Cup because of injury or other reasons, including Paul Juda, Colt Walker, Donnell Whittenburg, and Taylor Burkhart. Stanford’s Brody Malone automatically retained his spot on the team thanks to his gold medal on high bar at the 2022 world championships.
With the next major domestic elite meet not until the U.S. Classic in August, national team members are now setting their sights on international assignments in the coming weeks and months. USA Gymnastics Men’s High Performance Director Brett McClure said they will be taking three of the athletes to compete at the Baku World Cup, set for March 9-12.
Phillips and Wiskus, and undoubtedly the rest of their U.S. teammates, are keen to receive international assignments. While Wiskus is happy with whatever assignment he receives, Phillips is partial to team events and is hoping to return to the DTB Pokal in Germany.
Current U.S. men’s senior national team
As of the conclusion of Winter Cup competition.
|Taylor Christopulos||University of Nebraska||Layton, UT|
|Asher Hong||Stanford University Mens Gymnastics||Tomball, TX|
|Joshua Karnes||Penn State University Gymn.||Erie, PA|
|Ian Lasic-Ellis||Stanford University Mens Gymnastics||Dover, MA|
|Riley Loos||Stanford University Mens Gymnastics||Folsom, CA|
|Brody Malone||Stanford University Mens Gymnastics||Aragon, GA|
|Yul Moldauer||5280 Gymnastics||Arvada, CO|
|Kameron Nelson||Ohio State Univ Mens Gymnastics||Evans, GA|
|Curran Phillips||Stanford University Mens Gymnastics||Naperville, IL|
|Fred Richard||University of Michigan||Stoughton, MA|
|Ian Skirkey||University of Illinois||Pepperell, MA|
|Shane Wiskus||EVO Gymnastics||Sarasota, FL|