Big Ten Men’s Gymnastics Week 3 Recap: Ohio State wins big at Navy Open; Paul Juda, Fred Richard season debuts

By David Willett | January 23, 2024
Ohio State’s Kameron Nelson competes on floor at the 2022 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships.
© Amy Sanderson/Gymnastics Now

Week 3 of Big Ten men’s gymnastics saw action from all five teams, with some showing growth and others facing adversity.

Ohio State came up big at the Navy Open, securing the team title and giving Penn State its first loss of the season. The Fighting Illini beat out Greenville in a battle of Illinois teams after heavily utilizing their star-studded freshman class. Michigan’s world medalists returned to lineups, leading to a victory over Army. Nebraska had a strong debut at the Rocky Mountain Open, finishing second to Oklahoma. 

#12 Army @ #3 Michigan 

Final Score: Michigan: 412.500, Army: 382.950

Michigan looked nothing short of dominant in its showing against Army, where the Wolverines’ world medalists, Paul Juda and Fred Richard, made their season debuts and contributed to a 7 point increase of the team’s season high (412.500). Landen Blixt started the meet on floor with a stuck 2.5 twisting double back, scoring a 14.300 and sealing the event title. Richard scored an NCAA season-high 15.000 on the pommel in his first showing of the season. Javier Alfonso opted to downgrade his rings routine but still took the event title with a 14.500.

David Wolma remained perfect on his vaults, sticking his Kas 1.5 for the third time in a row and scoring a 14.800, But it was’nt enough to prevent Juda from taking the vault title, where he scored a 15.000 on his own stuck Kas 1.5. Logan McKeown led the way for the Wolverines on parallel bars, scoring a 14.3 and sealing the event title for two consecutive weeks. Richard and Rithik Puri closed out the competition on high bar. Both performed difficult Cassinas to score a 14.400 and 14.000, respectively, leading to the largest Big Ten team score (412.500) thus far in the season. The Wolverines will need a similar performance in Week 5 to win against Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. 

#4 Illinois @ #9 Greenville

Final Score: Illinois: 400.950, Greenville: 388.650

Illinois won its first head-to-head victory of the season at Greenville, posting a 400.950. In its second NCAA season, Greenville has made tremendous progress and could make the battle of Illinois a highly contentious meet in the future.

Graduate student Michael Fletcher took the floor crown with a 14.300. A stuck double-twisting double back and minimal landing deductions contributed to a 9.0 execution score.

In a routine including a Bezugo, Sohn, two E flops (with potential to be an F flop), and a Wu, freshman Brandon Dang took the pommel crown with a 14.450 score. Despite some leg separation and balance checks, Dang was able to hit his massive routine and continues to build upon the pommel legacy at Illinois.

Ashton Anaya displayed his standard level of dominance on rings, performing his routine with high execution for a score of 14.450 and the event title. Illinois rocked the vault rotation, scoring a 72.250, including four gymnasts scoring 14.500+. Freshman Garrett Schooley drilled his Lopez vault (Kas with a double twist), scoring a 14.750, just barely above his teammate, Evan Manivong (14.700), for the event title. With a stuck double pike dismount, Tate Costa won the parallel bars rotation with a 13.650. Logan Myers closed out the competition on high bar with a stuck dismount, a 14.000 score, and the event title.

#5 Penn State & #6 Ohio State @ Navy Open

Final Score: Ohio State: 397.300, Navy: 391.250, Penn State: 385.200, Springfield: 372.550, William & Mary: 366.100

Penn State

Coming off of wins in weeks 1 and 2, the Nittany Lions fell to both Navy and Ohio State at the Navy Open. Falls on floor, pommel, and high bar were the culprits to Penn State’s season-low score of 385.200. Despite the errors, the Nittany Lions did have some highlights and positive routines to build upon.

Kacper Garnczarek led the way for Penn State on floor, scoring a 13.300. All-American Michael Jaroh made his season debut on the pommel horse, displaying a routine with perfect body shape that scored a 13.950, earning him the event title. Nathaniel Warren once again delivered on his rings routine that earned him consecutive event titles (13.700).

The Nittany Lions had three competitors on vault score above the 14.000 threshold, highlighted by Landon Simpson’s 14.400. Jaroh also marked Penn State’s highest parallel bars score of the day with a 13.900, which nearly earned him the event title behind Ohio State’s Caden Spencer and Navy’s Isaiah Drake, who both scored 13.950s. The newcomer, Akseli Karsikas has emerged as a key competitor to build upon for the Nittany Lions as he won the high bar event title with a 13.850. Penn State will need to limit mistakes as it heads into the Big Ten regular season. Head coach Randy Jepson opted to rest multiple stars in Week 3, which could allow for large strides to be made in their next competition against Nebraska in Week 5.

Ohio State

The Buckeyes had a strong showing at the Navy Open, leaving Annapolis undefeated. In its first matchup against a Big Ten foe, Ohio State remained consistent and beat out the Nittany Lions. Kazuki Hayashi was the Buckeyes’ top competitor on floor, marking a 13.600, which landed him second place on the event behind Navy’s Syam Buradagunta.

Parker Thackston placed third on the pommel with a 13.600. Thackston’s perfect circle line and high-difficulty routine, including a Bezugo, Sohn, and Wu, will make him a postseason contender with consistency on the event.

Kristian Grahovski placed second on rings with a 13.350, barely edging out his teammate, Kameron Nelson, who came in third with a 13.300.

Justin Ciccone appears to be emerging as a vault star for the Buckeyes as he nailed his front handspring double front for the second week in a row, scoring a 14.950, which was good enough for the event title.

Caden Spencer collected his second parallel bars title of the year with a 13.950. His giant Diamidov swing and Bhavsar leave little room for deductions on the event.

Grahovski led the Buckeyes on high bar, scoring a 13.600 and landing him second on the event, largely due to crisp form. Head coach Rustam Sharipov made sure to have his team ready for the high-pressure environment and will need to continue that momentum when traveling to Oklahoma in Week 5 after a bye.

Nebraska @ Rocky Mountain Open

Final Score: Oklahoma: 420.350, Nebraska: 409.600, Air Force: 392.750

Nebraska opened its year with the second largest Big Ten team score (409.600) of the season. However, it wasn’t enough to overcome Oklahoma, who posted an NCAA season-high 420.350.

Samuel Philips made his return from injury and had an immediate impact on the floor rotation, scoring a team-best 14.050. The Cornhuskers had an impressive pommel rotation, having four gymnasts above the 13.700 mark, highlighted by matching 13.950s from Taylor Christopulos, Cooper Giles, and Travis Wong. Chris Hiser marked the highest score for Nebraska on rings, earning a 13.750, which was good enough for third overall on the event. Zac Tiderman earned third on vault with a Yurchenko 2.5 and scoring a 14.500. Freshman Chase Mondi made his NCAA debut on vault and scored a 14.400 on a clean Kas 1.5. Freshman Cole Partridge made immediate impacts on both parallel bars and high bar, scoring a 14.200 and 14.100, respectively, and placing third on both events overall. Toby Liang had a strong all-around showing, scoring an 81.450 to finish second behind Oklahoma’s Fuzzy Benas and qualify to Winter Cup.

Nebraska made a strong statement in its opening competition and will look to keep that momentum for its matchup against Penn State in Week 5.