NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Week 6 Preview: EVO Elite Collegiate Open, Nebraska vs. Michigan headline action-packed weekend

By Patricia Duffy | February 9, 2024
Nebraska's Toby Liang on high bar at the 2023 Core Hydration Classic.
© Amy Sanderson/Gymnastics Now

Week 6 of NCAA men’s gymnastics features seven matchups, including a top five battle between No. 3 Nebraska and No. 2 Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Also on the slate:

  • No. 5 Illinois and No. 14 Simpson compete in the EVO Elite Collegiate Open against an all-star roster of six former NCAA stars turned Olympic contenders, as well as GymACT’s Florida Storm and Georgia United.
  • No. 1 Oklahoma takes on No. 10 California at home a week after setting an attendance record at McCasland Field House.
  • No. 6 Ohio State travels to No. 7 Penn State in what should be an evenly-matched rivalry meet.
  • No. 9 Air Force, No. 12 Army, and No. 8 Navy meet for the All-Academy Championships.
  • No. 4 Stanford vs. Team USA (aka Stanford) and the Bay Area Bandits (GymACT).
  • No. 15 William & Mary vs. No. 13 Springfield closes us out on Sunday.

Keep reading for quick hits on each matchup.

Want to catch up on what happened in Week 5? Read our conference recaps:

Friday, February 9

EVO Elite Collegiate Open (#5 Illinois, #14 Simpson, EVO Senior Elite Men’s Gymnastics Team, Florida Storm (GymACT), Georgia United (GymACT))

How to watch:

7:30 p.m. ETIllinois, Simpson Video (YouTube)

This meet will have a little bit of everything as two NCAA teams, two GymACT teams, and a squad of Olympic contenders face off in Florida.

This meet is part of the Sam Mikulak Invitational at EVO Gymnastics in Sarasota, where the MAG Foundation USA is training an all-star group of five Olympic contenders. That group consists of Olympian and world champion Brody Malone, Olympian Shane Wiskus, world champion Stephen Nedoroscik, Pan Am Games champion Curran Phillips, and Olympic team alternate Alex Diab. Joining them to make “Team EVO” for this open event is Pan Am Games champion Cameron Bock.

After a season-ending injury last spring, this meet marks Malone’s second of his return (after the Houston National Invitational) as he builds up to Winter Cup later this month.

Illinois is coming off two straight upset wins over Oklahoma and Michigan and will look to continue its impressive streak in Florida. Second-year program Simpson continues to rise, having just set a new team record against Greenville last weekend with a 376.350.

Saturday, February 10

#3 Nebraska @ #2 Michigan

How to watch:

1:00 p.m. ETNebraska @ Michigan – Live Stats | Video (Big+)

No. 3 Nebraska is set for one of its toughest meets of the season against a No. 2 Michigan squad that is hungry for redemption following last week’s loss to Illinois.

The teams are averaging with 0.025 of one another, but Michigan has the advantage having peaked at a 412.500. Whether Paul Juda is recovered after a no good, very bad week last week is likely to also play a factor. Hits from the Wolverines’ parallel bars and rings squads, where they have some impressive difficulty, will also be important.

The Huskers have a lights-out vault squad that is capable of putting up 14s across the board, and Sam Phillips earned an 80.5 in the all-around last time out (with room to improve).

#10 California @ #1 Oklahoma

How to watch:

2:45 p.m. ETCalifornia @ Oklahoma – Live Stats | Video (ESPN)

Can Oklahoma continue setting attendance record at McCasland this Saturday? The Sooners have been putting in the work to fill the stands, including flipping and flyering around campus and visiting sorority houses. This is the Sooners’ “Mental Health Matters” meet.

In exciting news for Oklahoma earlier this week, Jack Freeman and Ignacio Yockers were added to the men’s field for Winter Cup later this month. Now five current or former Sooners will be in attendance at the U.S. elite kickoff meet after Olympian and world medalist Yul Moldauer (alumni), Colin Flores, and Fuzzy Benas qualified.

As for this matchup, Oklahoma has the clear advantage; the Sooners’ season low is a 406.650. Meanwhile, Cal is averaging a 392.117 but could push the 400 mark with an outstanding performance. The Golden Bears’ high so far this season was a 396.3000 two weeks ago.

Benas could return to the all-around after having the flu two weeks ago and doing just three events last week, or Mark Williams and Co. could opt to test out some different lineups with a very capable freshman class. Others in flux are Tas Hajdu (sick last week with the flu), Brigham Frentheway (limited to rings and high bar last week with an ankle sprain), Dan Simmons (hasn’t competed yet this season, shoulder sprain).

Cal are ones to watch on parallel bars, where they rank highest at No. 5. Jasper Smith-Gordon made his season debut on vault last weekend, winning the event title with a 14.7 for his Kas 1.5. Also showing a mix of difficulty and excellent execution have been Theodor Roald Gadderud and Darren Wong, who both hit or surpassed the 14 mark last week.

#6 Ohio State @ #7 Penn State

How to watch:

4:00 p.m. ETOhio State @ Penn State – Live Stats | Video (Big+)

It’s rivalry weekend for Ohio State and Penn State as the Buckeyes travel to State College for what should be a nail-biter.

Ohio State is averaging a 397.633 (three meets) to Penn State’s 395.875 (four meets). Both teams have surpassed the 400 mark, with the Nittany Lions having the better season high so far with a 403.200 (to the Buckeyes’ 400.600).

Penn State is coming off that season high 403.200 despite a loss to Nebraska. The Nittany Lions have all the pieces to win this battle – it’s just a matter if they will all fit together on Saturday. Michael Jaroh has been outstanding, earning two pommel horse titles in a row. Michael Artlip and Luke Esparo have been the team’s workhorses. Josh Karnes is the guy to watch on parallel bars and high bar. And then there’s Matt Cormier, Akseli Karsikas, Ian Raubal, Landon Simpson, and plenty more who can make an impact.

The Buckeyes are also coming off a season-best performance despite a loss to Oklahoma. The floor squad, led by Kameron Nelson and Kazuki Hayashi, has been on fire, setting a season high last weekend. Freshman Zach Snyder was outstanding on vault last weekend, tying for the title with a 15.0, and Justin Ciccone continues to be a stronghold there as well. Ohio State’s answer for Karnes is Caden Spencer, who can go 14+ on both parallel bars and high bar.

Team USA & Bay Area Bandits (GymACT) vs. #4 Stanford

How to watch:

7:00 p.m. ETStanford vs. Team USA & Bay Area BanditsVideo (Virtius)

If you’re wondering who Team USA is… it’s Stanford.

This is Stanford’s annual matchup against itself (plus the Bandits) where the Cardinal’s U.S. national team guys face off against the non-national team guys within the program.

Seeing as Stanford lays claim to seven (of 19) current national team members, we would assume a mix of those guys will form the Team USA squad. While Brandon Briones has been spotted at meets in a boot and on crutches, the other potential competitors include Jeremy Bischoff, Taylor Burkhart, Asher Hong, Riley Loos, Colt Walker, and Khoi Young. World medalists Hong, Walker, and Young are also preparing for their first international assignment of the 2024 elite season at the Cottbus World Cup later this month (they will miss Winter Cup as a result).

This also gives some of the younger Stanford guys the opportunity to shine on the non-national team side, including the four-man freshman class that has already been logging time in lineups.

All-Academy Championships (#8 Navy, #9 Air Force, #12 Army) @ Liukin Invitational

How to watch:

8 p.m. ETAir Force, Army, Navy (All-Academy Championships)Video (Facebook)

The All-Academy Championships will take center stage at The Ford Center at The Star on Saturday night as part of the Liukin Invitational in Frisco, Texas. This annual battle between the service academy rivals has been a struggle between Air Force and Navy the past few years and is shaping up for another tight race.

Navy has the edge this year with an average of 393.163 and a high of 396.500. Air Force, meanwhile, is hovering around the 387.750 mark after two meets (although one meet’s results have been nullified) with a high of 392.750. Army is averaging a 380.370 with a high of 388.650.

Navy was without star all-arounder Isaiah Drake last weekend, but still managed to earn its fifth win at home this season with consistent performances across the board.

Air Force have been off the past two weeks, meaning the Falcons should be well-rested for this matchup. A good teller of of how the team is performing will be how the team’s trio of potential all-arounders – Garrett Braunton, Erich Upton, and Tai Gopaul – are faring. And then there’s pommel horse specialist Patrick Hoopes, who is always a treat to watch.

Army has been improving, especially with its consistency, and was on the cusp of a season high last weekend before a rough outing on high bar. A strong outing across all six events could help the Black Knights hit a new high this weekend.

Sunday, February 11

#15 William & Mary @ #13 Springfield

How to watch:

1:00 p.m. ETWilliam & Mary @ Springfield College – Video

Wrapping up the weekend is William & Mary at Springfield – what could be another tight battle as William & Mary continues to improve its overall team score.

Springfield has the clear advantage, with a more than 8 point advantage in average and a season high that’s 10 points higher than the Tribe, but William & Mary has a roster full of strong veterans and up-and-coming talent that has steadily been improving over the first month of the season.

For William & Mary, watch for key contributors Gavin Zborowski, Ricky Pizem, and Sam Lee. For Springfield, Sam Kaplan, Dominic Ramalho, Felix Kriedemann, and Peyton Cramer have been integral to the team’s success so far.