Michigan, Nebraska score big conference wins in Week 11 of NCAA men’s gymnastics

By Alex Wittenberg | March 23, 2023
Michigan's Crew Bold competes on still rings during the 2022 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships.
Michigan's Crew Bold competes on still rings during the 2022 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships. (© Amy Sanderson)

Michigan defeated Illinois to capture the Big Ten regular-season title on Saturday and enter the postseason for NCAA men’s gymnastics as the top team in the conference. 

Nebraska earned its own Big Ten victory on Friday, beating Ohio State at home, while Oklahoma outpaced Cal in Berkeley a day later. 

Army came out ahead during a tight dual meet against Springfield where both teams set season-highs. And Penn State and Navy also recorded wins. 

Week 11’s meets marked the last of the regular season. Teams will now prepare for conference championships, the NCAA Championships, and other postseason meets, including this weekend’s USAG Nationals. 

Here’s what happened in Week 11 of NCAA men’s gymnastics. 

Michigan tops Illinois for regular season title

After trailing Illinois by almost four points at the end of two rotations, Michigan rallied to earn a victory over the Illini and claim its third-straight Big Ten regular-season title on Saturday.

The Wolverines finished the competition more than five points ahead, a performance buoyed by clutch routines on parallel bars and high bar, as well as a season-best vault rotation. Michigan gained ground on Illinois on every event after pommel horse, where the Wolverines counted a fall and scored more than three points less than their opponent. 

Illinois was in pole position after two events, having exploited its advantage on horse and competed well on floor. The Illini were steady through rings and vault — ahead by 2.5 points after four rotations — but ceded control of the meet on parallel bars, counting a miss on the event and one score in the 14s to Michigan’s three. Illinois then recorded a few misses on high bar to allow the Wolverines to coast to victory. 

The vault rotation was a notable high point in a meet that featured excellent routines throughout. It also accentuated the intensity of the dual-meet format, with gymnasts from both teams trading sticks and feeding off their opponents’ proximity. Illinois’ Connor McCool set the tone for the rotation by sticking his Kas 1.5. Michigan’s Rithik Puri then stuck his Yurchenko double full in response. Michigan’s David Wolma and Illinois’ Amari Sewell later stuck Kas 1.5s to finish first and second, respectively, and both teams went five-for-five.

The meet started on floor with five-for-five performances and big anchor-spot routines by both teams. McCool capped Illinois’ rotation with a career-high 14.9, earned after the senior stuck his triple-connection pass, Randi, and triple-full dismount for the title. Michigan’s Adam Wooten also stuck his dismount, a full-in, from the anchor position to close out the rotation, tying Javier Alfonso for second with a score of 14.2. Illinois was three-tenths better on floor. 

Both teams counted a fall on horse, but Illinois scored more than three points higher thanks to Ian Skirkey’s 15.15 and high 13s from Will Hauke, David Pochinka, Michael Fletcher, and Connor Micklos. Skirkey’s 6.5-difficulty set included a Sohn, full Stockli, E flop, Wu, Roth, and triple Russian dismount. Michigan’s Markus Shears had one of his best routines of the season, taking second with a 14.4. Shears performed a scissor handstand, Sohn, D flop, E flop, full spindle, and swing handstand dismount. 

Michigan and Illinois were about even on rings, though the Wolverines counted a fall. Illinois’ Ashton Anaya had the best routine of the competition with a score of 14.65, sticking his full-twisting double back after showing off a butterfly pull to straight planche, Azarian Maltese, and a number of other difficult strength elements. Michigan’s Alfonso and Wooten finished second and third, respectively, after both gymnasts stuck full-twisting double layout dismounts. 

The above-mentioned vault rotation helped Michigan gain about a point on Illinois, with Wolma, Puri, and Crew Bold leading the way. Wolma’s stuck Kas 1.5 netted him a 14.75, while Puri earned a 14.5 for his stuck Yurchenko double. Bold nearly had his own stick on a Kas 1.5 but took a tiny step back to score a 14.45 for fourth. Illinois’ Sewell scored a 14.7 with his stuck Kas 1.5, and McCool went 14.35 for fifth.

Control of the meet shifted on parallel bars, where Michigan scored about three points better than the Illini. Evgeny Siminiuc nabbed another title on the event, this time with a 14.75, performing a healy, peach half, peach handstand, straddle front one-and-a-quarter, Bhavsar, and double pike dismount to win by more than four-tenths. Logan McKeown and Alfonso also scored above 14. Illinois’ Michael Fletcher, who would go on to win the all-around, placed second on parallel bars with a 14.3, competing a set that included a whip-it, healy, peach handstand, and double-pike dismount. The Illini’s missed routine on parallel bars scored a 10.6. 

Michigan led by just six-tenths going into high bar but performed more than five points better than the Illini on the event despite counting a fall in its lead-off routine. The team’s Steven Lukasik got Michigan back on track with a hit in its second routine and also set up Wooten, who sealed his hat trick with a stuck full-twisting double layout dismount. Wooten caught a Kolman and layout and straddle Tkatchevs to score a 14.3 for the title. After Wooten, Bold performed a Cassina, Kolman, layout and straddle Tkatchevs, and a full-twisting double layout dismount to score a 13.6 for third. And Siminiuc closed out the rotation with a 14.0 for second after executing a Tak full, Tak half, layout and straddle Tkatchevs, German giants, and landing his layout half-half. 

Illinois’ Evan Manivong opened the rotation well, scoring a 13.35 for fourth after completing two one-arm giants and a Tak half, but the Illini ultimately counted three misses on the event for their second-lowest high bar score of the season. 

Michigan finished the meet with a season-high 411.25 to Illinois’ 405.55. 

Nebraska defeats Ohio State, Greenville in Lincoln 

The Huskers posted their second-best team score of the year to beat Ohio State and Greenville during a tri-meet in Lincoln on Friday. 

Nebraska tallied a 410.8 and claimed individual event titles on five events. The Huskers also had a season-best rotation on vault and some of their top horse and floor performances of the year. The team’s victory, earned on senior night, also represented an important rebound from the previous weekend’s loss to Illinois. Nebraska now enters the postseason with wind in its sails. 

Ohio State struggled to keep pace with Nebraska on horse and high bar but had an excellent competition on floor and vault. The Buckeyes’ Donovan Hewitt won the rings title, and Caden Spencer finished in the top 3 on both parallel bars and high bar. 

Greenville’s 384.05 nearly matched the season-high that the Panthers set earlier this month, and the team had its best team scores of the year on horse and parallel bars. 

Nebraska started on floor and put up its second-best score of the year on the event. Taylor Christopulos earned another floor title with a score of 14.4 after landing layout and tuck double-doubles and a triple-full dismount. Nathan York and Moritz Mueller tied for third with scores of 14.1, and Nebraska hit all five routines on the event. 

The Huskers’ Cooper Giles was back in top form on horse to secure the title from the anchor spot with a 14.45. Giles performed a Sohn, E flop, D flop, Tong Fei, and a smooth swing-handstand dismount for his second-best score of the year. Travis Wong finished third with a 13.7, meanwhile, after showing off a Mikulak, Tong Fei, and swing-handstand finish from the lead-off position. The rest of Nebraska’s lineup scored in the mid-13s to help the team post one of its best horse totals of the year — and to improve by almost eight points over the previous meet on pommel alone. 

Nebraska counted one fall on rings, the only event on which Ohio State scored better as a team. But Chris Hiser and Liam Doherty-Herwitz recorded strong hits to finish second and third with respective scores of 13.8 and 13.55. Hiser showed off Maltese work and a double-double dismount, while Doherty-Herwitz performed his own Malteses and a full-twisting double layout dismount. 

Zachary Tiderman kicked off Nebraska’s season-best vault performance, taking just a small step on a beautiful Yurchenko 2.5 to score a 14.6. Doherty-Herwitz then stuck a Kas 1.5, Donte McKinney took a small hop forward on his Yurchenko 2.5, and Christopulos took a tiny hop after a huge Kas 1.5. Doherty-Herwitz, McKinney, and Christopulos shared the title with scores of 14.75. 

Nebraska rode its vault momentum through parallel bars and high bar. On parallel bars, Christopulos nabbed another event title with a score of 13.95, executing a healy, peach handstand, and planting his double-pike dismount. Doherty-Herwitz finished third with a 13.45. 

The Huskers closed the meet with four hits on high bar, and Tiderman claimed the event title. Tiderman performed a near-perfect Tak half and jam handstand, connected layout and straddle Tkatchevs, and stuck his full-twisting double layout dismount to earn a 14.1 with a 9.1 execution score. McKinney finished second with a 13.9 after gliding through a Zou Li Min, layout and straddle Tkatchevs, a Tak half, and landing his full-twisting double layout dismount. 

Nebraska finished with a 410.8.

Ohio State tied its season-high on floor after Kameron Nelson posted a 14.2 for second and Justin Ciccone, Spencer, and Jesse Pakele scored in the high 13s. Nelson stuck his front double pike and Arabian double half-out before landing his triple-full dismount. 

On vault, the Buckeyes’ last event, the team set a new season-high score of 72.1. Jacob Harmon stuck his Yurchenko double full to open the rotation, and Jakob Murray followed him with a stuck Kas full. Nelson then landed his front handspring double full, while Hewitt took a step forward on his Kas 1.5. Spencer closed out the rotation with a clean Kas full. 

Earlier in the meet, Hewitt won the rings title by a four-tenths margin after showing off difficult strength elements and sticking his 1.5-twisting double back to score a 14.2. 

On horse, Ohio’s first event, Parker Thackston was runner-up with a season-best score of 14.3 and a routine that included two E flops, a Roth, and a fluid swing-handstand dismount. Spencer, meanwhile, placed second on parallel bars and third on high bar with scores of 13.8 and 13.5, respectively. 

The Buckeyes finished with a 401.75. 

Greenville’s Jacob Foster, Major Bain, Marco Valencia, and Ricky Mays helped lead the team to its best horse finish of the season. Foster scored a 13.0 to place eighth, while Bain finished 10th with a 12.5. 

The Panthers set a season-best on parallel bars thanks to three counting scores of 13 or higher. Koby Cantu and Mays tallied 13.0s to tie for ninth, while Kevin Laurino scored a 13.15 to tie for sixth. Laurino was Greenville’s top individual finisher of the day. 

Mays and Ryan Barela also posted season-best all-around scores of 76.3 and 75.45, respectively, to finish first and second. 

Oklahoma beats Cal in Berkeley

The Sooners fielded a reconfigured lineup on Saturday and defeated Cal 410.05 to 381.45 to close their regular season with just one loss. 

OU’s Cailen Walker competed for the first time this season, posting a 12.7 on horse, and Braden Collier was also back in the horse lineup. Adriel Perales and Spencer Goodell competed on vault for the first time this year, and Cesar Garcia made his season debut on high bar. 

Oklahoma made changes to the lineup in part because of injuries, head coach Mark Williams told OU athletics. 

“We had to put Adriel on vault and we had to put Spencer in on vault (because of injuries), and neither of those guys had done anything at all on vault this year,” Williams said. “Hopefully we have a little time for recovery before moving on to conference.” 

Despite those changes, OU posted the best team scores on all six events and swept the event titles. Cal’s 381.45 on Saturday was a step back from the previous week’s score of 399.35, with the Bears’ event scores on horse and parallel bars declining by about six points each. 

The Sooners’ Emre Dodanli was a triple event winner, taking first on floor, vault, and high bar. Dodanli’s 14.8 on floor was a career-high for the sophomore, and he posted scores of 14.6 and 13.7 on vault and high bar, respectively. 

Ignacio Yockers was back atop the horse podium Saturday, taking first with a 14.6. And Spencer Goodell won two events — rings and parallel bars — with scores of 13.85 and 14.1, respectively. 

Cal’s Noah Newfeld had a strong competition, posting the Bears’ top scores on floor, rings, and high bar. Cal also had podium finishers in Will Lavanakul and Theodor Gadderud. Lavanakul took bronze on horse with a 13.35, while Gadderud finished third on vault with a 14.35 to tie his season-high on the event. 

The Bears’ Tyler Shimizu made his collegiate debut in the all-around, finishing with a six-event total of 74.95. 

Around the country

Penn State defeated William & Mary in a dual meet in Williamsburg on Sunday and claimed four individual event titles while resting a few routines ahead of postseason. The Nittany Lions’ score of 396.4 was its second-lowest total of the year, with the team’s season-low scores on floor and parallel bars contributing to most of the decline. 

The Tribe had the best team scores of the day on floor, vault, and parallel bars. Its total score of 382.75 was William & Mary’s fourth score in the 380s in the past five meets. 

The Nittany Lions started out the meet with trouble on floor, scoring just a 61.35 compared with a season-high of 68.85 on the event. Ian Raubal was the team’s best floor finisher, placing third with a 13.05. 

Penn State recovered over the next two events. Its 67.05 on pommel was a healthy season-high and led by performances from Josh Karnes and Ethan Dick, who finished first and second with respective scores of 13.9 and 13.8. Karnes’ routine included a Roth, D flop, flared spindle, Sohn, flared travels, and a swing-handstand dismount. Penn State’s Ian Raubal won rings with a 14.2, taking a small hop on his double-double, and Nathaniel Warren finished second with a 14.15. 

After three, Penn State was up by more than 10 points, but the team gave up some of its lead on vault and parallel bars. Penn State’s Ethan Dick had the team’s best vault with a clean Kas full that earned him second. On parallel bars, Raubal and Warren finished first and second, respectively, but the Nittany Lions also counted two scores in the 11s. Raubal earned a 13.65 with a routine that included a peach half, peach handstand, whip-it, Makutz, healy, and double-pike dismount. 

Penn State finished with its best high-bar performance of the year by a roughly two-point margin. Raubal and Michael Artlip tied for first with scores of 14.0, and Dick was close behind in third with a 13.95. Raubal performed a Tak full, Tak half, layout and straddle Tkatchevs, and stuck his full-twisting double layout dismount. Artlip caught a straddle Tkatchev and Kolman before sticking his own full-twisting double layout dismount. 

The Tribe’s Trenton Peazant and William Harrington went one-two on floor with respective scores of 13.3 and 13.25, and Peazant also won vault with a score of 14.15. On floor, Peazant opened with a Randi, landed a full-in, and stuck his back 2.5 dismount. Peazant performed a clean Tsukahara double full to win vault. 

William & Mary also tied its season-high on pommel horse and set a new top score on parallel bars, led by Aidan Cuy’s 13.1, which netted him third place. Cuy was also sixth on horse and third all-around. 

The Tribe’s Sam Smith was just off the podium on horse, scoring a 13.15, and Christian Marsh was fourth on rings with a 13.7. Evan Sikra stuck his Yurchenko 1.5 to finish third on vault with a 14.05, and Marsh finished right behind Cuy on parallel bars with a score of 13.05.

Army captured a 4.5-point win over Springfield on Saturday in a meet that saw both teams set new season-high scores. 

The Black Knights tallied a 396.65 after having their best rotations of the year on horse and parallel bars. The team claimed four individual event titles and had the better team score on four events. 

Springfield set season-best scores on floor, pommel horse, vault, and parallel bars on the way to its best team score since 2017, according to Springfield athletics. The Pride were on Army’s heels for much of the meet, trailing by less than three points after three events. But Springfield gave up ground on parallel bars, scoring almost three points less than Army on the event.

Army’s horse performance was led by Blaze Kennedy and Maddox Pabellon, who finished first and second, respectively, with scores of 13.6 and 13.5. The team notched its season-best on parallel bars thanks to five counting scores in the 13s and strong routines from Patrick Armstrong and Joseph Buselmeier, who placed second and third. 

Army’s Gabe Almeida won floor with a 14.1, Armstrong was first on rings (13.6), and Buselmeier was first on high bar (13.05). 

Springfield’s Owen Carney and Dominic Ramalho won vault and parallel bars, respectively. Carney’s 14.45 was his best score of the year by three-tenths. Ramalho’s 13.7 on parallel bars was a season-best as well. 

Ramalho was also runner-up on floor, rings, and vault, and he won the all-around with a 79.15. Carney, for his part, finished third on floor, while Felix Kriedemann was second on high bar with a 13.0. 

Navy secured a win over Simpson in a dual meet on Thursday, 381.85 to 346.4, and claimed all six individual event titles. The Mids’ Syam Buradagunta was a double event winner, coming out on top on floor and horse with respective scores of 13.65 and 12.65. Navy’s was dominant on Thursday, but the team’s score was also a more than 10-point step back from the previous week’s total and its lowest of the year. 

Navy’s Riley Rose and Sabastian Gordon tied for the rings crown with 12.9s, and Connor Van Loo won vault with a 14.0. Vishal Mandava placed first on parallel bars, scoring a 13.25, while Giovanni Gambatese was best on high bar with a 13.2. 

Simpson faced difficulty on pommel horse, falling into the low 50s on the event compared with a season-high of about 63, and counted two scores in the 8s on the event. The team was strong on high bar, though, posting its second-best score of the season, with Camden Bontempo and Ethan Sipos tying for fifth with 11.65s. 

Simpson’s Sterling Pariza finished third on floor with a 13.25 and tied teammate Alex Catchpole for third on horse with a score of 11.9. Pariza and Catchpole were Simpson’s best individual finishers. 

Kyle Kincade was fifth on rings, while Michelangelo Villani finished just off the podium in fourth on vault with a score of 13.75. Catchpole also placed fourth on parallel bars, scoring a 12.3.