2024 Big Ten Women’s Gymnastics Preview: Who can dethrone Michigan?

By Caroline Price | January 1, 2024
Michigan's Sierra Brooks competes on floor at the 2023 NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships.
© Matthew Smith/Gymnastics Now

Winter is coming in the Midwest, meaning two things: cold weather and the 2024 Big Ten Women’s Gymnastics season. Although the excitement and chaos of conference realignment looms on the horizon, the 2024 season looks to be the most competitive yet.

2023 saw Michigan’s reign over the Big Ten come into question with the rise of an immensely talented Michigan State team. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines for the first time since 2007 and went on to tie their in-state neighbors for their first Big Ten regular season title. Though the Wolverines ultimately claimed the postseason trophy at the Big Ten Championship, they will head into the 2024 season looking to work their way to a Four on the Floor appearance with Michigan State and dark horse Ohio State hoping to crash their party.

All ten teams will face off at the annual Big Five Meet, held at Penn State on February 23 and 24. The 2024 Big Ten Women’s Gymnastics Championships will be held on March 23 at Michigan State’s Jenison Field House in East Lansing, Michigan.

Keep reading for a preview of each team, ranked according to the Big Ten preseason poll.

#1 Michigan Wolverines (#6 nationally)

Michigan comes into the 2024 season with a chip on its shoulder. The Wolverines took home the NCAA’s biggest prize when they won the national title in 2021 but have endured postseason heartbreak as of late, missing the final four on their last two attempts despite back-to-back Big Ten Championship titles.

Bolstered by veteran leadership from 2023 AAI Award winner Sierra Brooks and lineup staples Gabby Wilson and Naomi Morrison, Michigan comes in at the top of the Big Ten preseason poll, topping 2023 Big Ten regular season co-champion Michigan State and rival Ohio State. The Wolverines look to capitalize on their core group of stars while filling the gaps left by Natalie Wojcik, Abby Heiskell, and Nicoletta Koulos. Losing three all-around threats would hurt any team, but Brooks appears sturdier than ever as she heads into the final season of her career. Also filling the gaps is senior Reyna Guggino, who looks rejuvenated and primed to return to Michigan’s vault and floor (and potentially bars) lineups after 2023 inconsistencies.

The Wolverines begin their season on January 5 at the Mean Girls Super 16 meet in Las Vegas. They will open Big Ten competition with a tough early-season matchup at Ohio State on January 21. Michigan will face the two-time defending national champion Oklahoma twice in regular season action – once in Las Vegas and again in Norman on March 1, feeding into what has become a midseason highlight and budding rivalry.

Although each team earned a win and loss from 2023’s two matchups, Michigan faces a 2024 Sooner team with few perceivable weaknesses. But, with super seniors like Michigan’s, no meet, title, or trophy is out of reach.

#2 Michigan State Spartans (#11 nationally)

There are very few teams experiencing a meteoric rise equal to that of Michigan State’s. Coming off their most successful year in program history – that culminated in a share of the Big Ten regular season title and an upset over Michigan – the Spartans have significant momentum. Unfortunately (for their competitors), they should be even stronger this year.

The team has an embarrassment of riches with defending Big Ten vault co-champion Sage Kellerman and Freshman of the Year Nikki Smith. Adding fuel to the fire is newcomer MaKayla Tucker. Tucker recorded two top-three finishes in the team’s Green & White scrimmage, designating herself as a rookie to watch as the season unfolds.

The Spartans open up their 2024 season against Michigan, Oklahoma, and Kentucky in the Mean Girls Super 16 meet in Las Vegas on January 5. The team’s first Big Ten matchup comes at Penn State on January 19. In perhaps their most anticipated meet of the season, the 2023 regular season co-champions will face off with their fellow Michiganders on February 4. Will MSU outdo last year’s successes and make it to nationals in Fort Worth, Texas? Stay tuned to find out.

#3 Ohio State Buckeyes (#14 nationally)

Ranking third in the Big Ten preseason poll is an often-overlooked Ohio State Buckeyes squad.

Sophomore Payton Harris was named one of the Big Ten’s gymnasts to watch, and for good reason: the all-arounder is fresh off a stellar debut season for the Buckeyes, finishing 11th overall at 2023 nationals and recording a program record-tying 39.625 in the all-around at regionals. Other veterans bolstering the squad include uneven bars standout Nicole Riccardi and 2018 Nastia Liukin Cup champion Tory Vetter.

The Buckeyes start the season with perhaps the greatest strength of schedule in the Big Ten. Ohio State first faces No. 3 LSU in Baton Rouge in a daunting yet competitive matchup before a home meet against No. 6 Michigan on January 21 to begin their bid for the Big Ten title. The Buckeyes will enter both matchups as underdogs, but if 2023 was any indicator, LSU and Michigan should not count them out.

#4 Iowa Hawkeyes (#23 nationally)

The past few seasons could not have gone much better for the Iowa GymHawks, with a Big Ten regular season title in 2021 and swoon-worthy performances from Co-Big Ten floor champion JerQuavia Henderson and Big Ten balance beam runner-up Adeline Kenlin in 2023.

Henderson and Kenlin look to lead an elegant and experienced Iowa team through a stacked conference. Expect Long Island University transfer Ilka Juk to be a reliable asset for the Hawkeyes on beam and for sophomore all-arounder Karina Muñoz to remain a pivotal player in every matchup.

The Hawkeyes open their season with a Big Ten vs. Pac-12 dual meet against Washington on January 12, followed by their Big Ten season opener at Minnesota in the subsequent week. Iowa vs. Minnesota looks to be a featured matchup for teams forecasted to finish in the middle of the conference, with both teams gunning for a win in order to stay in the regular season race.

#5 Minnesota Golden Gophers (#18 nationally)

The Gophers’ fall from Big Ten preseason No. 2 in 2021 and 2022 to preseason No. 5 in 2024 in the Big Ten can be explained with one word: graduation.

After stars Lexy Ramler and Ona Loper moved on at the end of the 2022 season, Minnesota struggled to churn out the consistent performances fans had grown accustomed to under the duo’s leadership, often faltering on balance beam and sinking their team total. However, the potential for great gymnastics remains alive and well in the Twin Cities.

Today’s Gophers, led by 2023 Big Ten vault and floor co-champion Mya Hooten and Big Ten Gymnast to Watch Gianna Gerdes, are a young squad with a whopping eight freshmen filling their ranks. Look for first year Kendall Landry to contribute with her unique elegance across all four events as the team aims to marry potential with consistency.

The Golden Gophers first test of the season is no small meet: the team joins the party at the Mean Girls Super 16 meet in Las Vegas, sharing session three with Oregon State, BYU, and Southern Utah. The Gophers will open Big Ten play at home vs. Iowa on January 22 – a key conference meet for both teams.

#6 Illinois Fighting Illini

The Fighting Illini clock in at No. 6 in the Big Ten preseason poll, and like their neighbors in the middle of the pack, look to build on the momentum from previous seasons as they climb the rankings. Lucky for the orange and blue, they return immense talent in reigning Big Ten uneven bars co-champion Mia Takekawa and 2022 NCAA individual vault qualifier Mia Townes, both rounding out their careers as graduate students. Lyden Saltness also joins the team in a late commitment switch from Auburn to Illinois and looks poised to bring elite-level ability to Urbana.

Illinois kicks off the 2024 season alongside Denver, San Jose State, and Washington in session one of the Mean Girls Super 16 meet on January 5. They open conference play at Nebraska on January 20.

#7 Maryland Terrapins (#25 nationally)

Maryland sits in the seventh spot in the Big Ten preseason poll and rounds out the WCGA’s top 25 in the final spot of that preseason poll. The Terrapins return the majority of their lineups with all but one mainstay on bars, beam, and floor returning for the 2024 season. Cushioned by a large freshman class and NC State transfer Hailey Merchant, lineup combinations could get interesting.

Emma Silberman, Maryland’s lone all-around gymnast in the 2023 season, looks to lead the way in her final year of a record-breaking career with the Terps. Expect Big Ten second team honoree Josephine Kogler and beamer Madeline Komoroski to also contribute regularly.

Maryland opens its 2024 season with a home meet, hosting West Chester, on January 12. The Terrapins will then face Rutgers in their second-consecutive home meet to begin Big Ten competition.

#8 Penn State Nittany Lions

The Nittany Lions claimed the eighth spot in the preseason poll after finishing No. 25 at the conclusion of the 2023 season and being eliminated in the second round of the postseason.

Returning from their individual postseason runs in 2023 are sophomore Ava Piedrahita and graduate student Cassidy Rushlow. Joining the squad is Kalea McElligot – one of just three freshmen named “gymnasts to watch” in the Big Ten poll. Combined with junior Isabella Salcedo’s stellar 9.95-worthy beamwork, the Nittany Lions look poised to improve upon last year’s finish.

Penn State opens its season with the Keystone Classic meet versus Penn, Temple, and Pittsburgh in Philadelphia on January 5 and will begin Big Ten play on January 19, hosting Michigan State.

#9 Nebraska Cornhuskers

Though just No. 9 in the Big Ten poll, its worth keeping an eye out for the Big Red in 2024. Co-Regional Gymnast of the Year, Emma Spence, and Big Ten Gymnast to Watch, Csenge Bácskay are both key contributors for the Huskers as well as international elites for Canada and Hungary, respectively, with Bácskay having already qualified as an individual to this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris.

New Huskers, both freshmen and transfers alike, look to be impactful for Heather Brink’s team. Utah transfer Lucy Stanhope brings 9.9+ scoring potential on three events and a highly-coveted 10.0 start value on vault. The Huskers also add three-time Canadian national team member, Jenna Sartoretto,, whose international experience will only bolster the team’s potential.

The Huskers’ season tips off at Iowa State on January 5, with their first Big Ten matchup coming at home against Illinois on January 20.

#10 Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Rutgers adds seven newcomers to their squad as they head into the 2024 season – a welcome sight after the graduation of all-time program great Hannah Joyner (who’s now serving as a student assistant coach).

Long Island University transfer Katy Koopman joins star vaulter Emily Leese and reliable all-around threat Elia Aird to give the Scarlet Knights a number of threats across the board. After setting a program-record team score of 196.875 over Penn and West Virginia in 2023, the Scarlet Knights will look to build upon last year’s momentum as they continue to climb closer to that elusive 197 mark.

Rutgers opens its season with a matchup at North Carolina on January 5 and will face the Maryland Terrapins to begin their Big Ten competitive season on January 19.