MPSF Men’s Gymnastics Week 3 Recap: Oklahoma dominates, Air Force jumps 10 points

By Aidan Giusti | January 24, 2024
Oklahoma's Jack Freeman at the 2022 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships.
© Amy Sanderson/Gymnastics Now

Oklahoma headlined MPSF men’s gymnastics in Week 3, scoring a national season-high 420.350. Meanwhile, Air Force surpassed the 390 mark for the first time this season.

#2 Oklahoma & #10 Air Force @ Rocky Mountain Open

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

Oklahoma

The Sooners had themselves a weekend.

Over a 6-point improvement from last weekend, the Sooners broke a 70 on four separate events this weekend. Oklahoma’s 420.350 was next level – the next highest team score of the weekend was Michigan’s 412.500. Eighteen of the Sooners’ 30 routines were a 14.0 or above. Most notably, Ignacio Yockers and Zach Nunez went 14.95 and 14.8 on pommel horse, respectively, and Fuzzy Benas went 14.8 on parallel bars. The highest score of the entire weekend was Emre Dodanli on floor with a 15.25, raising his average on floor to a 15.00 and furthering his lead on the apparatus across the NCAA.

Oklahoma swept the competition: Dodanli won floor (15.25), Yockers won pommel horse (14.95), Tas Hajdu won rings (14.15), Benas and Max Bereznev won vault (14.55), Benas won parallel bars (14.8), Freeman won high bar (14.25), and Benas won the all-around 85.2. Benas and Colin Flores were first and third in the all-around and both qualified to Winter Cup at the end of February.

Colin’s twin brother Tyler made a strong debut for the Sooners and put up a 14.1 on the pommel horse.

Dan Simmons returned to competition this week but unfortunately suffered an injury on rings and was not able to finish the competition. Colin was already planning to compete rings for his all-around score in his attempt to qualify to Winter Cup, so his score counted toward the team as well in a last minute substitution, and Oklahoma incurred a 1-point neutral deduction.

“Don’t know anything definitive, but Dan Simmons’ shoulder injury not initially presenting as tear, though was serious enough to make it unsafe for him to continue,” head coach Mark Williams said. Further testing/diagnosis will be done when we get home. Hard to watch, but if anyone can overcome, it’s Diesel Dan.”

Following the competition, Williams said, “I feel like if we can put more meets together like we did at Rocky Mountain Open, we’re going to be very competitive with any team out there… One of the things that impressed me most about the performance I saw from these guys last night is how invested they are in this team, how cognizant they are of their potential, and the will to maximize it. They want it, and they’re competing like it. Plus, they had fun doing it.”

Nobody looks like they have more fun than Oklahoma, except for maybe us, the viewers, because we get to watch this squad week in and week out as they chase down another NCAA title. 

Air Force

Hosting Oklahoma and Nebraska this weekend seemed to help Air Force bounce back. An exact 10-point improvement from last weekend, the Falcons looked to shake off the start of season nerves. While they competed with 10 total gymnasts, 17 of the Falcons’ 30 routines came from three: Tai Gopaul, who competed on five of six events, and Garrett Braunton and Erich Upton, both of whom competed in the all-around and finished fourth (79.15) and sixth (77.4), respectively.

The Falcons had four routines score over 14 this weekend: Upton on floor (14.05), Patrick Hoopes on pommel horse (14.5), despite a fall, Charlie Miles on parallel bars (14.0), and Garrett Braunton on high bar (14.1). Hoopes and Braunton finished the competition in third on pommel horse and high bar, respectively.

A score in the 11s on vault and two scores in the 10s on high bar hurt the Falcons’ team score in the end, but they should definitely be happy with their week-over-week improvement. A near 6-point improvement on floor, the Falcons notched a 68.8, led by Upton’s 14.05. Air Force’s 67.95 on parallel bars was an over 7-point improvement, with all five gymnasts scoring above a 13.0. The Falcons also saw a 3+ point improvement on rings, scoring a 64.65. A 4-point decrease on vault and 2-point decrease on high bar compared to last weekend stopped the Falcons from reaching the upper 390s, but this weekend proved that when the Falcons put together all six, they will be a team to watch out for. 

#1 Stanford

The Cardinal were off this weekend but return to the mat next weekend when they host the Stanford Open.

#8 California

The Bears were off this weekend but pick it up next weekend in Palo Alto at the Stanford Open.