NCAA men’s gymnastics Week 6: Stanford, OU rematch in Norman; Air Force hosts competitive tri-meet

7 minute read
Oklahoma's Alan Camillus (left), William & Mary's Aidan Cuy (center), Stanford's Mark Berlaga (right).
Oklahoma's Alan Camillus (left), William & Mary's Aidan Cuy (center), Stanford's Mark Berlaga (right). (© Amy Sanderson)

This week in NCAA men’s gymnastics, Oklahoma will get a chance to upset reigning champ Stanford and defend home turf during a tri-meet in Norman with William & Mary on Saturday. 

Illinois travels to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes in a dual meet, and Penn State hosts No. 3 Michigan. 

Meanwhile, also on Saturday, Air Force hosts a tri-meet with Army and California that should decide which of those three teams will be ranked top 10. Greenville travels to Indianola on Saturday to take on Simpson.

Here’s what to watch in Week 6 of NCAA men’s gymnastics.

Stanford, OU, William & Mary to battle in Norman

The country’s two best teams will once again clash after meeting at the Rocky Mountain Open in Week 3, where Stanford broke 420 to come out ahead of OU by more than eight points. 

Stanford didn’t compete last weekend but performed well in a home meet against Cal the previous week. That meet saw the Cardinal field a second team comprising Asher Hong, Ian Lasic-Ellis, Jeremy Bischoff, and Riley Loos as Team USA. Those scores didn’t count toward Stanford’s 406.75. 

The last time the Cardinal and OU met, Stanford claimed titles on three events on the way to putting up the nation’s best score. Routines to watch from the Cardinal this weekend include: 

  • Hong’s Ri Se Gwang on vault in addition to his 5.9-difficulty rings set and his 6.1-difficult parallel bars set. 
  • Khoi Young’s Yurchenko half-on double full off on vault. 
  • Taylor Burkhart’s high bar routine, which includes a Walstrom, triple Tkatchev connection, and a Winkler

OU defeated Simpson last week with a team score of 407.65, but the team was challenged the weekend before by the Illini, who managed to get within a point of the Sooners. OU is trying to extend a home win streak that extends back to 2007.

Routines to watch from the Sooners include:

  • Zach Nunez in the all-around. Nunez put up an 83.4 last weekend with a 14.6 on horse and 14.15 on parallel bars. Nunez is a confident competitor and plain fun to watch. 
  • Ignacio Yockers’ horse. Yockers, No. 3 in the nation on the event, has one of the country’s best pommel scores of the season and an elegant swing
  • Daniel Simmons’ Roche on vault, which netted him a 15.05 last week after he found a big stick.

William & Mary set a season high last week in its loss to Springfield. The Tribe had their best showings of the season on five of six events and scored above 60 on every event save parallel bars. Routines to watch Saturday from William & Mary include: 

  • Evan Sikra’s vault. Sikra was runner-up last weekend on the event with a stuck Yurchenko 1.5
  • Mark Fu’s high bar. Fu tied for second on the event against Springfield after catching his straddle Tkatchev and sticking his dismount. 
  • Christian Marsh’s parallel bars. Marsh has scored as high as 13.85 on the event and dismounts with a double front. 

Ohio State and Illinois face off in Columbus 

Illinois is coming off a commanding win over Penn State at home last weekend that saw the team post the second-best score in the conference this season. The Illini have built a streak of strong performances since the start of the season: Windy City win, a near-upset of OU, and last weekend’s victory. A win over Ohio on Saturday would be another step forward in the Illini’s quest for a Big Ten championship. 

Routines to watch from Illinois include:

  • Connor McCool’s floor. McCool has hit every FX set this season, and last week, he again stuck his 2.5-twisting double back opening pass and a number of other elements. 
  • Ian Skirkey’s horse. Skirkey hit his 6.5-difficulty set last week to earn the best score in the country on pommel. 
  • Amari Sewell’s vault. Sewell stuck his Kas 1.5 last week to win the event and put up his second 14.75 of the season. 

The Buckeyes didn’t compete last weekend but fell to Michigan by a roughly five-point margin the prior week. Ohio State has been consistent this year and proven able to take down Big Ten foes — the team’s win over Penn State earlier this season being clear evidence. The team will need strong showings on pommel horse, parallel bars and high bar in particular to knock off Illinois and capture a win at home. 

Routines to watch from Ohio State include:

  • Kameron Nelson’s floor. Nelson was second on the event against Michigan and performed a full to double front and front double pike. 
  • Parker Thackston’s horse. Thackston hit another good set against Michigan, scoring 14.1 for the event title while showing off a long and extended swing. 
  • Donovan Hewitt’s rings. Hewitt won the event against Michigan with a 14.35, performing a back uprise straight planche lower to Maltese, back uprise Maltese, and clean swing work. 

Michigan faces Penn State in State College

The Wolverines are No. 3 in the nation after capturing a win over Big Ten rival Nebraska last weekend. Michigan led throughout the meet but allowed the Huskers to get within a point-and-a-half after suffering mistakes on high bar. The team will meet a Penn State team hungry to shake off a loss to Illinois last weekend and a defeat to Nebraska a week earlier. 

Routines to watch from Michigan include: 

  • Fred Richard’s parallel bars and high bar. All eyes will be on the freshman after Richard had a few uncharacteristic mistakes last weekend against Nebraska. Richard is expected to bounce back strong this weekend and vie for titles on both events. 
  • Adam Wooten’s floor. Wooten turned in a big set at Nebraska to take the event title, sticking his double-double opening pass and his Arabian double half out dismount. 
  • Virgil Watkins’ parallel bars. Watkins tied Evgeny Siminiuc for the win on parallel bars last weekend, performing a front uprise Stutz, Bhavsar, and double front dismount. 

Penn State will be looking to rebound from two consecutive losses to Big Ten rivals. The Nittany Lions will need strong hits from Michael Jaroh, Matt Cormier, and Josh Karnes and a better horse rotation to realize an upset over Michigan. Routines to watch from the Nittany Lions include: 

  • Karnes’ parallel bars and high bar. The sophomore is having a breakout season on the latter event, scoring a 14.3 against Illinois for the event title. 
  • Cormier’s high bar. Cormier won the event against Illinois after executing his Tak half, catching a Kolman, Kovacs, and layout and straddle Tkatchevs, and sticking his dismount. 
  • Jaroh’s horse. Jaroh has the potential to score into the 14s on the event after earning a 12.95 last weekend with a miss on his Sohn. He scored a 14.0 early in the season. 

Falcons host ascendent Black Knights, Cal Bears

Air Force will face an academy foe and the closely-matched Cal Bears on Saturday in Colorado Springs. The three teams’ season highs are within four points of one another, so the meet this Saturday has the potential to come down to the last routines. 

Army lost a tight battle against Navy last weekend at home, with the team less than a point back after posting a season-high 393.15. The Black Knights fought through to the last routine during an exciting high bar rotation and set new season-highs on multiple events earlier in the meet. Routines to watch from Army include:

  • Maddox Pabellon on horse. Pabellon earned a 14.25 to win the event with a 5.4-difficulty routine comprising a Sohn, E flop, D flop, and Tong Fei. 
  • Patrick Armstrong’s parallel bars. Armstrong went 13.7 for the event title against Navy, performing a free-hip mount, whip-it, and peach handstand. 
  • Zachary Perez’s high bar. Perez scored a 13.2 to win the event last weekend, catching his Kovacs and sticking his full-twisting double layout dismount. 

The Falcons last competed Week 4 in a meet against OU and Illinois, where the team’s score dropped by about 17 points from its season opener the prior week. Air Force will be focused on getting back into the mid- to high-390s this Saturday, and the Falcons will need better rotations on high bar, floor, and parallel bars to do so. Air Force will be hungry to capture an academy upset over Army and once again compete well in front of a home crowd. Routines to watch from the Falcons include:

  • Garrett Braunton’s high bar. Braunton has one of the nation’s best high bar routines, posting a 14.85 at Rocky Mountain earlier this season with a routine featuring a Cassina, Kolman, Tkatchevs, and layout double-double dismount. 
  • Erich Upton’s floor. Upton competes a triple-double opening pass and has scored as high as 14.15 this year. 
  • Sam Brown’s horse. Brown went 13.75 against OU with a D flop, E flop, square travels, and clean handstand dismount.  

Cal last competed Week 4 against Stanford, where the team scored a 390.1. Cal has the potential to come out on top at Saturday’s tri-meet — the team scored a 394.95 in its season opener, so it’s plenty competitive — and Cal will be focused on finding strong hits on rings, high bar, and floor. Routines to watch from Cal include: 

  • Noah Newfeld on parallel bars. Newfeld tallied a 14.2 against Stanford on the event after performing a whip-it, healy, peach half, peach handstand, and double front dismount. 
  • Will Lavanakul’s horse. Lavanakul went 13.65 on the event against Stanford with a routine that included two E flops, a Sohn, Wu, and handstand dismount. 
  • Jasper Smith-Gordon’s vault. Smith-Gordon has a nice Kas 1.5 that earned him a 14.6 against Stanford. 

Greenville travels to Simpson for matchup of young NCAA teams

Simpson will host Greenville this Saturday after putting up a season-best 352.55 on the road against Oklahoma. Greenville is favored to win the meet, having scored above 368 at each of its three meets this season, but Simpson will be eager to challenge Greenville after losing to the team earlier this season. 

Greenville last competed Week 3, where the team put up a 368.35 in its loss to Illinois. Routines to watch from Greenville this Saturday include: 

  • Kevin Laurino’s parallel bars. Laurino has scored as high as 13.45 this season with a clean routine that includes a Tippelt and double tuck dismount. 
  • Ricky Mays’ vault. Mays went 14.35 at Windy City with his Kas 1.5.
  • Ryan Barela’s rings. Barela scored a 13.35 at Windy City on the event

Simpson’s season-high at OU came after the team achieved its best scores of the season on pommel horse and high bar. Routines to watch from Simpson include:

  • Ethan Sipos’ pommel horse. Sipos led the lineup for Simpson against OU, scoring a 11.7 with a Magyar, Sivado, and swing handstand dismount. 
  • Camden Bontempo’s high bar routine. Bontempo placed fifth last weekend, catching a Gienger and sticking his full-twisting double back dismount.
  • Michelangelo Villani’s vault. Villani scored a 14.05 at the Navy Open earlier this year on vault.