NCAA men’s gymnastics Week 7: Oklahoma ekes out win over Nebraska; Falcons prevail at All-Academy 

By Alex Wittenberg | February 21, 2023
Air Force's Garrett Braunton competes on pommel horse during the 2022 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships finals.
Air Force's Garrett Braunton competes on pommel horse during the 2022 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships finals. (© Amy Sanderson)

This week in NCAA men’s gymnastics, Nebraska narrowly fell to Oklahoma in a heated tri-meet with Simpson on Friday, and Air Force emerged on top at the All-Academy Championships on Saturday.

Also on Friday, Cal captured a win over Springfield in a virtual meet where the Bears claimed individual titles on all six events.

Here’s a recap of Week 7 in NCAA men’s gymnastics.

Sooners nab less than 1-point victory over Huskers

Oklahoma captured a slim victory over Nebraska in Lincoln on Friday, extending the team’s post-Week 3 winning streak and nearly matching its season high. The Huskers, while almost upsetting the No. 2 Sooners, set a more than 10-point season-best team score and had their top performances of the year on five of six events.

Simpson also had a season-best showing in the meet, finishing third with a 367.15. 

OU started on rings and trailed Nebraska until the halfway point of the meet. Oklahoma’s Vitaliy Guimaraes competed the team’s best routine on the event, finishing second with a 13.85 after showing off clean swinging elements and a double-double dismount. Nebraska’s first rotation, floor, outshined OU’s rings. The Huskers’ 70.7 was a more than one-point season high and about a point better than Oklahoma’s total on the same event. Chris Hiser and Luke James were the best Husker floor performers of the meet, finishing second and third, respectively, with scores of 14.45 and 14.4. Hiser stuck his double-double opening pass and took a small hop on his triple full dismount, while James bounded through a Randi, double-double, and triple full dismount. Taylor Christopulos placed fourth with a 14.2 to begin an all-around competition that would see him finish first with an 83.25. 

The Sooners moved to floor and counted one fall on the event. Guimaraes led the rotation from the lead-off spot, sticking his triple full dismount to score a 14.6 and win the event, and Emre Dodanli was next best for OU with a 14.15, good for a fifth-place finish. Nebraska’s horse total of 68.8 was an almost two-point season high. Cooper Giles turned in a 14.5 for the Huskers’ top horse score, performing a Sohn, E flop, D flop, Tong Fei, and a C-value handstand dismount. Travis Wong put up a season-best 14.2 to finish fifth.

Oklahoma then moved to pommel and tallied the country’s best total (72.35) by an almost three-point margin, with Ignacio Yockers and Zach Nunez leading the way once again. Yockers, for the second-straight week, set a new nation-best horse score, this time of 15.55, gliding through a Mikulak, two E flops, a Sohn, Wu, Roth, triple Russian, and swing handstand dismount. Yockers is still the only gymnast to crack 15 on horse this year. Nunez was second with his 14.6 after hitting a routine that included an E flop, D flop, Tong Fei, and smooth handstand dismount. Nebraska, meanwhile, tallied a 69.05 for the best rings score of the meet and a close to one-point season high. Hiser and Liam Doherty-Herwitz led that effort, placing first and third with respective scores of 14.3 and 13.8. Hiser’s routine featured back uprise straight planche lower to Maltese, back uprise Maltese, and a stuck double-double dismount. He won the event by an almost half-point margin. 

OU led the Huskers by just six-tenths of a point at the halfway mark and dropped into second place after rotation four, with the Sooners’ 69.0 on high bar trailing Nebraska’s 72.8 on vault. Still, Oklahoma had the top high bar total of the competition and about matched its season best. Kelton Christiansen had the best of OU’s sets, placing third with a 14.1 after catching a layout Jaeger and sticking his full-twisting double layout dismount. OU’s Jack Freeman tied for fourth with a 13.9. Nebraska’s Christopulos and Donte McKinney helped the Huskers set a one-point season high on vault, each scoring 14.8 to share the title. Christopulos took a small pace forward after his Kas 1.5, while McKinney took a tiny hop on his Yurchenko 2.5. Nebraska led by about 3.5 points after four. 

The Sooners had to count a fall and a low landing for their first two vaults, but Morgan Seyler stuck his Kas full in the anchor spot while Nunez and Dodanli landed their Kas 1.5s earlier to finish the rotation well. Nunez placed third. Nebraska went five-for-five on parallel bars, and Asher Cohen and Christopulos tied for fifth with scores of 13.8.

Ignacio Yockers (OU) – PH @ Nebraska

Less than a point separated OU and Nebraska going into the final rotation. The Huskers started the rotation with a fall in their lead-off set but fought hard throughout the following sets. Zachary Tiderman, McKinney, and Christopulos closed out the meet with rousing routines from the final three spots, with McKinney and Tiderman finishing in first and second place, respectively. McKinney showed off his floaty layout Tkatchev, a near-perfect Tak half, and stuck his full-twisting double layout dismount. Tiderman connected layout and straddle Tkatchevs before sticking his own full-twisting double layout dismount, while Christopulos closed Nebraska’s meet with a stuck layout double-double. 

But it wasn’t enough to stop the Sooners, who rallied through five hits to post a season-best 69.7 on parallel bars and take the top four spots on the event. Adriel Perales was best with a 14.1, while Dodanli and Spencer Goodell tied for second with scores of 14.05. Perales competed a peach handstand, Tippelt, front uprise Stutz, and double front dismount. Dodanli, for his part, performed a healy, peach handstand, and double pike dismount, while Goodell anchored the rotation by executing a healy, peach half and peach handstand, and double pike dismount.

The Sooners finished with a 418.25 to Nebraska’s 417.65. 

Air Force beats Academy rivals Navy, Army

The Falcons went into Saturday’s All-Academy meet as favorites to capture the All-Academy title for the first time since 2018, and the team didn’t disappoint, scoring a 396.55 to earn a more than three-point win over Navy and Army.

Air Force had the best score on five of six events and counted only three falls, according to Air Force athletics. The meet also featured an intense contest for second place, with Navy making up ground on the Black Knights in the second half of the meet to take the runner-up spot. 

The Falcons had a close to four-point lead over both teams at the halfway point of the meet, thanks to strong floor routines by Erich Upton and Samuel Metzler and a three-way tie for the pommel title among Jack Matlock, Patrick Hoopes, and Sam Brown. On floor, Upton scored 14.2 to take the win after planting his triple-double opening pass and taking a small hop backward on his triple-full dismount. Metzler was runner-up on floor, scoring a 13.75 with a routine comprising a Randi, double front, and triple-full dismount.

Erich Upton (Air Force) – PB @ All-Academy Championships

On horse, Matlock, Hoopes, and Brown each scored 13.9 to share the win, and Garrett Braunton went 13.3 on rings to earn bronze, showing off clean straight planches and a layout double-double dismount. 

Air Force added to its lead by about eight-tenths of a point on vault and parallel bars. Upton earned another two podium finishes on both events, scoring a 14.4 with his Kas 1.5 on vault to take second and a 14.1 on parallel bars for the title. Braunton was second on parallel bars with a 13.85 and a stuck double pike dismount, and Oliver Zavel was third with a 13.7. 

The Falcons then counted a couple falls on high bar, but their lead was comfortable enough to absorb the misses. Upton had the team’s best high bar routine, scoring a 13.15 for a fourth-place finish with a set that included a Yamawaki, straddle Tkatchev, Tak half, and full-twisting double layout dismount. 

Navy finished second with a 393.0 after trailing Army by 0.65 halfway through the meet. The Mids then had a strong penultimate rotation on high bar, taking the top three spots and posting the best total on the event for the meet. Isaiah Drake was first on the event with a 13.55, performing a Yamawaki, Tak half, layout and straddle Tkatchevs, and sticking his full-twisting double layout dismount. Caleb Hickey and Giovanni Gambatese rounded out the podium with scores of 13.25 to tie for second. 

The Mids’ Matthew Petros won vault with a stuck Kas full that scored 14.45 to lead the team’s last rotation of the night. Drake was third on the event with a clean Kas 1.5 that scored a 14.35.

Army opened its competition on rings and claimed the top two spots on the event. Joseph Buselmeier was first with a 13.5 and a stuck dismount, and Patrick Armstrong was runner-up with a 13.35. Buselmeier then tied teammate Kalvin Kingshill for fifth on floor, while Gabe Almeida took fourth on horse with a 13.4.

The Black Knights’ scores on high bar and vault lagged those of Navy by a total of 1.6 points, opening a lane for the Mids’ comeback. Army’s Zachary Perez had the team’s best high bar set, scoring a 12.95, and Jacob Nauman was fourth on vault with a 14.25. 

Army had to count their third-lowest score of the year on parallel bars to finish the meet. Buselmeier and Blaze Kennedy had the Black Knights’ strongest routines on the event, scoring 13.25 and 13.2, respectively, to finish sixth and seventh. Army ended the meet about four points back from Navy with a score of 389.15. 

Cal triumphs in virtual meet vs. Springfield 

The Cal Bears tied their season high on vault and tallied their second-best total of the year on floor on the way to defeating Springfield on Friday. The team also won individual titles on all six events. Still, Cal’s score of 381.2 was its lowest of the year, and the team hasn’t broken 390 since Week 4. 

Springfield’s 376.35 was a significant decline from the team’s previous score of 390.8, and though judging differences were probably a factor, the Pride scored lower on every event versus their last competition. But Springfield had a strong rings rotation and claimed a number of individual runner-up finishes. 

The Bears had the best team score on four of six events but posted season lows on rings and high bar. On floor, Cal’s Theodor Gadderud earned the title with a score of 13.65, performing a Randi, front layout to double front, and triple full dismount. Springfield’s Andrae Butler was second on floor with a 13.55 after sticking his front full to double front opening pass, a front double pike, a Randi, and a front double full dismount. Dominic Ramalho of Springfield was third with a 13.1.

Cal’s Noah Newfeld took the top spot on horse with a 13.8, hitting a set that featured a Sohn, two D flops, Tong Fei, and handstand dismount. Springfield’s Sam Kaplan was second, scoring a 13.1 after swinging through a D flop, Roth, extended travel elements, and a handstand dismount. 

Newfeld claimed another title on rings with a 13.65, and Springfield’s David Handron and Ramalho rounded out the podium with scores of 13.55 and 13.1, respectively. Newfeld competed a back uprise to straight planche, a straight-body press handstand, and a full-twisting double layout dismount. 

Cal’s Khalen Curry, Gadderud, and Jasper Smith-Gordon dominated the vault rotation. Curry set a modern school record on the event, according to Cal athletics, after taking a tiny hop on his Kas 1.5 and scoring a 14.7. Gadderud and Smith-Gordon earned respective scores of 14.35 and 14.2 to round out the podium.  

Noah Sano of the Bears was first on parallel bars by a healthy margin, scoring a 13.45 with a set that comprised a Makutz, healy, peach handstand, and double pike dismount. Springfield’s Ramalho was second with a 12.8. 

Gadderud claimed his second title of the day on high bar with a score of 13.1, catching a Yamawaki, pike and straddle Tkatchevs, and dismounting with a full-twisting double layout dismount. The Pride’s Ramalho and Jaden Laubstein placed second and third, respectively, with Ramalho sticking a unique double front dismount.