Big Ten Men’s Gymnastics Week 11 Recap: Michigan on top with NCAA season high score and program record

By David Willett | March 20, 2024
Michigan's Landen Blixt on high bar at the 2024 Winter Cup.
© Amy Sanderson/Gymnastics Now

Week 11 of Big Ten men’s gymnastics once again showed us the power of senior night. Illinois took charge against Ohio State, winning decisively to nearly clinch the Big Ten regular season title.

Michigan put up an NCAA-high score of 425.500, beating Penn State by over 10 points at home. Throughout the season, Michigan has occasionally looked vulnerable in the Big Ten, but they showed their true potential on senior night.

Nebraska is on a two-week break before returning for the final Big Ten (and NCAA) regular season matchup in Week 13.

Keep reading for a recap of Week 11 of Big Ten men’s gymnastics.

#7 Ohio State @ #4 Illinois

Final score: Illinois: 413.200 – Ohio State: 406.350


Illinois jumped to an early 1.8-point lead on the floor, posting four of the top five floor scores on the day. Led by Tate Costa’s event title-winning 14.400, the Fighting Illini put up a 69.300 team floor score. On pommel horse, Brandon Dang delivered a solid routine for a 14.400 to lead the team, finishing second. With Will Hauke and Sebastian Ingersoll’s scores of 14.050 and 13.900, respectively, the Illini were able to maintain the lead despite some big mistakes in the rotation.

The Fighting Illini edged out the Buckeyes on rings, scoring a 67.950 to Ohio State’s 67.050 to continue to build their lead. Ashton Anaya took another rings and is within Illinois’ top 10 all-time for career still rings titles. Behind Anaya’s 14.200, Logan Myers scored a 14.000 for third. Illinois continued to build their lead on vault behind Amari Sewell’s 14.850, which secured another event title. Michael Fletcher and Evan Manivong also executed strong Kas 1.5s, scoring 14.400 and 14.300, respectively.

Costa continued to nail routines during the next rotation, winning the parallel bars title with a 14.100. Costa has emerged as not only the statistical MVP for the Fighting Illini this season but also as an emerging all-around threat in the postseason. Vahe Petrosyan and Fletcher also provided strong scores of 14.000 and 13.950 to help maintain a 4.6-point lead heading into the final rotation. 

Illinois closed out the meet in style, hitting all of their high bar routines to beat the Buckeyes by 2.25 points in the final rotation. Ryan Vanichtheeranont won the event with a 14.100. Each Illini competitor scored above 13.300 and led to a 68.100 event score to end the day. Costa was the lone competitor in the all-around and put up a career-high 81.750.

“[A] lot to learn from our loss at Nebraska and how to better handle ourselves in an away environment. We know if we perform like we did today, it will be hard to beat, so it’s about replicating the energy and momentum from Huff into Rec Hall next week, so we can get a big road score and lock in that regular season title! We know we have the routines and talent, it’s just about showcasing it out of the comforts of home, which is key to being ready for the postseason meets,” said Connor McCool following the senior night win. 

Illinois is now 12-2 on the season and can clinch at least a share of the Big Ten title with a win at Penn State in Week 12.

Ohio State

Although they left Urbana-Champaign with a loss, the Buckeyes put up a solid performance in Week 11. Kameron Nelson continued to show why he is a threat for postseason accolades on floor, posting a 14.300 on the event to lead the Buckeyes and finishing second. Kazuki Hayashi, who also performs a clean double-twisting double back, put up a strong 13.650 on the event as the Buckeyes’ second highest scorer.

After an inconsistent start to the season, Parker Thackston took the event title over Illinois’ Dang with a 14.700. This was truly a display of Thackston’s potential and could be a turning point for him as we near the postseason. Beyond Thackston and Kristian Grahovski’s 13.300, the Buckeyes had a weaker rotation than last time out, putting up a 66.100 on horse (compared to a 67.2).

The rings rotation was close between the two teams, with the event title ending in a tie between Illinois’ Anaya and Donovan Hewitt, who both scored 14.200. Tyler Rockwood and Grahovski, who has emerged as a potential statistical MVP for the Buckeyes, tied for Ohio State’s second strongest score with a 13.450. 

Coming off a near-perfect vault rotation in Week 10, the Buckeyes provided a strong vaulting performance but could not replicate the landing quality from the previous week. Similar to floor, Nelson led the way on vault with a 14.550 on a clean front handspring double twisting vault, followed by Hayashi, who delivered a strong 1.5 twisting Kas (14.35). Chase Davenport-Mills and Zach Synder both tied on the event with a 14.200 followed by Justin Ciccone’s massive Roche vault that scored a 14.050.

Ohio State narrowly edged out Illinois on parallel bars, 68.500 to 68.100. Caden Spencer just barely came in second on the event, with a 14.050. Jakob Murray and Hayashi also were event title threats, scoring 13.850 and 13.750. respectively. 

The Buckeyes were positioned to make a potential comeback throughout the day but major mistakes on high bar sealed the Illinois victory. Jacob Harmon and Hayashi finished second and third on the event with scores of 14.050 and 13.950. A highly anticipated recruit, Davenport-Mills competed for the Buckeyes on four events, including high bar. The freshman is capable of performing high-level gymnastics and could be key for the Buckeyes to make a jump in the postseason if he continues to build. The Buckeyes will finish their regular season in Week 13, facing Nebraska on Tuesday, March 26.

#6 Penn State @ #5 Michigan

Final score: Michigan: 425.500 – Penn State: 413.600


Michigan closed out their regular season in absolute dominating fashion, posting the highest NCAA team score thus far this season with a program record 425.500. This came without their captain, Paul Juda, competing on any event, making them a clear threat to dethrone Stanford in the postseason. 

Michigan put up season-high scores on every event but vault. On floor, they put up a season-high 70.950. Despite a large hop on his double-twisting double back, Landen Blixt cleanly landed or stuck all his remaining passes for third place on the event with a 14.450. This was not enough to beat out Fred Richard, who scored a 14.600 for the event title, as he finally brought back his 2.5 twisting double back.

Michigan also reached their season-high team score on the pommel, nearly reaching 70. This rotation was highlighted by Richard and Zach Granados, who scored 14.650 and a career-high 14.600, respectively.

Michigan carried their momentum to rings, scoring a season-high 70.550. Their star senior, Javier Alfonso, who was ranked No. 1 on the event, put up their lowest score of the day with a 13.450. The remainder of the lineup scored at or above 14.200.

Blixt won the vault title with a clean Yurchenko 2.5, outpacing his teammate David Wolma, who scored a 14.550. Richard put up his lowest score of the day on vault with a 13.950. 

The Wolverines continued to build their lead on parallel bars, where they put up an NCAA-high score of 71.500. All competitors scored at or above 14.100, with three athletes sticking their dismounts. Evgeny Siminuic won the event with a clean routine, scoring a 14.600 with a 15.7 start value. 

Michigan closed out the competition in style, with a massive 71.100 on the event despite a fall. This came behind Richard’s stuck routine, which scored a 15.300 on a 6.0 start value. Richard still did not perform his Adler with a full turn, leaving four-tenths out in start value. Crew Bold, Siminuc, and Steven Lukasik also stuck their dismounts and scored above the 14 mark. Richard put up an unreal 86.950 all-around score.

Following the competition, Richard said, “We’re trusting the process and it’s coming together more and more. It’s gonna be a fun postseason.”

Although the judging may have favored the Wolverines, the team put together a consistent performance that rivaled Stanford’s senior night, where they set the previous NCAA season high of 421.150, led by Asher Hong scoring an 86.050 in the all-around. If Michigan can keep their world medalists healthy and stay consistent, they could end Stanford’s winning streak in the postseason.

Michigan will not compete again until the Big Ten Championships on April 5.

Penn State

Despite the loss, Penn State put up its strongest lineup and team score of the season against Michigan in Week 11, posting a 413.600. The Nittany Lions opened the competition with strong routines from Josh Karnes and Matt Cormier on floor. Karnes and Cormier scored a huge 14.500 and a 14.400, respectively.

Michael Jaroh delivered a nearly perfect pommel routine, scoring a 14.700 on a 15.500 start. Jaroh’s form enabled him to become a 2023 pommel All-American despite a lower start value and now could position him for a postseason title if he continues to hit his higher difficulty routine. Landon Simpson also posted a strong 13.550. but the Nittany Lions fell into a near 7-point deficit after this rotation.  

Penn State started to make a comeback on rings, where they posted the second highest rings score in the nation with a 71.200. Every competitor scored above 14.000 on the event, with Luke Esparo winning the event title with a 14.450. Esparo reached his career high on the stuck routine, with a 9.350 execution score.

The Nittany Lions continued to cut into the deficit as they beat the Wolverines on vault. The highly anticipated debut of Caleb Melton happened here, where he stuck his Kas 1.5 to score a 14.650. Michael Artlip upgraded his Yurchenko double to a 2.5, and the difficulty paid off as he scored a 14.600.

Kacper Garnczarek started off the parallel bars rotation strong with a stuck dismount and a 13.700 score. Cormier and Jaroh both scored over 14.000 on the event, with Cormier coming in second with a 14.400. With that said, unlikely mistakes from Karnes allowed Michigan to continue to build their lead. 

Penn State started off the high bar rotation strong with scores of 13.950 and 13.850 from Garnczarek and Ian Raubal. What started as a great rotation for the Nittany Lions became frightening as Cormier had a harsh fall. He was able to walk away from the apparatus of his own accord but a potential injury could heavily influence Penn State’s postseason. Artlip stepped in for Cormier and drilled his routine, scoring a 13.900 and sticking his dismount. Penn State reached a season high of 68.750 to close the day. 

Karnes finished the all-around competition behind Richard with an 81.200. Penn State looked formidable with more of their talent in lineups. However, watch for the status of Cormier in the coming weeks. The Nittany Lions will finish their regular season at home against Illinois in Week 12.