NCAA men’s gymnastics Week 3: Stanford takes on OU, Michigan at Rocky Mountain Open; Penn State looks to build on strong start

By Alex Wittenberg | January 21, 2023
Oklahoma’s Raydel Gamboa reacts after dismounting rings during the 2022 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics finals.
Oklahoma’s Raydel Gamboa reacts after dismounting rings during the 2022 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics finals. (© Amy Sanderson)

No. 1 Stanford is set to face its first big test of the season on Saturday at the Rocky Mountain Open, where the team will aim to extend its winning streak and fend off reigning Rocky Mountain Opdn champ OU.

Stanford is a heavy favorite after putting up the nation’s best team result of the season last Saturday, despite counting a few unusually low horse scores. Riley Loos and Taylor Burkhart both broke 82 in the all-around. Stanford has set the pace with the highest team scores of 2023 on four of six events.

The Sooners will make their 2023 NCAA debut after competing at HNI last weekend. There, OU won the team competition, and Vitaliy Guimaraes and Spencer Goodell placed first and second all-around, respectively, with scores above 81. 

Michigan will be looking to rebound from a second-place finish at Windy City and prove it’s a contender for an NCAA title. Nebraska and Air Force will also be vying for upsets and a place on the team podium. 

We’ll also get another look Saturday at the rising Penn State team at the Navy Open. Expect a fierce competition for the top places among Ohio State, Navy and Army. Illinois hosts Greenville in a dual meet the same day.

  • Follow along with Week 3 scores here.
  • See this week’s Power rankings and meets to watch here.

3 things to watch for at the Rocky Mountain Open

1. Stanford’s horse rotation

Pommel was a glaring weak point in an otherwise solid season opener for the Cardinal last weekend. They scored just 61.9 for a total that would have been the team’s weakest on the event by almost three points last year. Stanford suffered a few falls in high-difficulty sets that, once they’re executed well, should easily lift the team’s event score by three to five points, so we’ll be paying close attention to any pommel-lineup or routine changes for Stanford on Saturday. 

2. Michigan’s potential rebound

The Wolverines will also need to perform better on horse to contend for an upset on Saturday. Falls there and a couple mistakes on vault weighed on the team at Windy City last weekend, resulting in a runner-up finish in a meet they were expected to win. Fred Richard and Markus Shears will be key to the horse effort, as both have the potential to score well into the 14s. Without Paul Juda and Crew Bold, Michigan will need to rely on a high hit percentage to compete for wins. We’ll be watching to see how the team manages to fix last weekend’s errors. 

3. OU under NCAA pressure

Rocky Mountain will offer a sense of how competitive the Stanford-OU matchup will be this season. Oklahoma head coach Mark Williams said earlier this year that his team had made solid strides toward raising difficulty scores in the offseason. Saturday is a first look at whether those additions are enough to challenge Stanford — and how prepared OU is for the pressures of a big NCAA matchup. P.S. Fuzzy Benas might compete a one-handed floor routine after a freak accident in October.

Nittany Lions on the rise

Penn State faces off against Ohio State, Navy, Army, Springfield, William & Mary and Simpson at the Navy Open on Saturday. The Nittany Lions will be looking to continue building early-season momentum by fixing mistakes on high bar and executing well on the other apparatus. Watch for big performances from Matt Cormier, Michael Jaroh, Michael Artlip, Ian Raubal, and others. 

Ohio State can challenge the Nittany Lions by fixing its own high bar stumbles — the team had a solid showing at Windy City but had to count a 62.25 on high bar. Still, the Buckeyes looked highly capable on floor, horse, rings, and vault last weekend, so if they hit high bar on Saturday, expect the Buckeyes to put pressure on the Nittany Lions. Justin Ah Chow, Donovan Hewitt, Kameron Nelson, Caden Spencer, and Parker Thackston should help lead the effort. 

Navy also has the potential to challenge for an upset. The Midshipmen finished third at the West Point Open last weekend and about five points behind the Buckeyes after some mistakes on horse and high bar. Navy will be focused on cleaning up those two events. Navy will need strong routines from Syam Buradagunta, Connor Van Loo, Giovanni Gambatese, Ian Dinmore, Ronan McQuillan, and others to contest for a title. 

Army will be looking for an upset of its own by challenging Academy rival Navy. The Black Knights were within five points of doing so last weekend, and a better rings rotation this Saturday will be key for the team. Watch for big routines from Joseph Buselmeier, Jacob Nauman, Maddox Pabellon, and Jackson Pophal.

Springfield was only two points back from Army last weekend. The team can challenge the Black Knights on Saturday by raising its high bar score from last weekend’s 60.65. Clean hits from Springfield’s Noah Dhaliwal, Jakarie Williams, and Owen Carney (who has a triple-back dismount) should lift the team’s high bar total. Felix Kriedemann, Dominic Ramalho, and Sam Kaplan can also make big contributions.  

William & Mary will be looking to fix mistakes on pommel that pulled down the team’s overall score in a virtual meet against Simpson last weekend. The Tribe will turn to Aidan Cuy, Christian Marsh, Ricky Pizem, and others to lead the performance Saturday. 

Simpson had a strong vault rotation last weekend but struggled on horse, parallel bars, and high bar. The team’s 318.25 was a significant step back from the previous week’s 341.35 against Michigan. Simpson will need Sterling Pariza, Milo Staley, Michelangelo Villani, and others to help get the team back on track this Saturday. 

Illinois faces Greenville after Windy City upset 

The Illini host Greenville on Saturday after earning a commanding upset over Michigan and other Big Ten rivals last weekend. Illinois can further build on its big win by breaking into the 400s. Michael Fletcher, Evan Manivong, David Pochinka, Connor McCool, and Amari Sewell are expected to showcase strong routines this weekend.

Greenville’s 368.25 at Windy City was about five points less than the total it put up the previous week. The team will be aiming to get back above 370 this weekend. Clean hits from Ryan Barela, Ricky Mays, Major Bain, and Koby Cantu will be crucial on Saturday.