NCAA men’s gymnastics Week 7 preview: Air Force, Army, Navy to battle at All-Academy meet; Huskers host Sooners

By Alex Wittenberg | February 17, 2023
© Amy Sanderson

The All-Academy Championships on Saturday will crown a new leader among the three military teams jockeying for superior position in the national NCAA men’s gymnastics rankings.

On Friday, Nebraska will host Oklahoma and Simpson and try to bounce back from a Big Ten loss by beating a Sooner team hot off an upset win over Stanford. 

The Cal Bears compete against Springfield in a virtual meet Friday, while Stanford hosts NorCal United on Saturday.

Here’s what to watch in Week 7 of NCAA men’s gymnastics. 

Army, Navy, Air Force face off at All-Academy meet

Air Force is the favorite to win the All-Academy Championship this weekend after posting a 397.65 in its win over Army and Cal last Saturday. Still, Army and Navy’s top scores of the season aren’t far back from that figure, so expect a hard-fought meet this Saturday in Frisco, Texas. 

The Falcons set new season highs on three events last week and beat Army on every event except for high bar. The team’s 397.65 nearly matched its season-opener score of 397.4, meaning Saturday’s total was no fluke, but Air Force will need to handle the pressures of a big competition and a less familiar venue. 

Routines to watch from the Falcons include: 

  • Erich Upton and Sam Metzler’s floor routines. The gymnasts tied for first last weekend, with Upton hitting a high-difficulty set and Metzler landing all of his passes well. Watch for Upton’s triple-twisting double back opening pass. 
  • Patrick Hoopes’ horse routine. Hoopes went 14.2 on Saturday with a fall thanks to an abundance of difficult elements and a 6.5 start value. 
  • Tai Gopaul’s vault. Gopaul stuck his Kas full last weekend to take second place. 

Navy eked out a victory over Army two weeks ago in West Point following a clutch high bar routine by Giovanni Gambatese from the anchor spot to close the meet and season-best showings on floor, rings, and parallel bars. That the Mids and the Black Knights were so close — less than a point apart — means this Saturday’s matchup is sure to be heated. Navy will be focused on finding hits on horse and exploiting their advantage on parallel bars and floor. 

Routines to watch from the Mids include: 

  • Caleb Hickey’s floor and high bar sets. The junior won floor, sticking his whip to Arabian double and full-twisting double back dismount, against Army and was runner-up on high bar. 
  • Connor Van Loo’s vault. Van Loo won the event versus Army with a clean Yurchenko double full. 
  • Isaiah Drake’s rings. Drake pulled through a back uprise maltese, Azarian cross, and stuck his dismount to take the title against Army. 

Army’s performance against Cal and Air Force was a setback — the Black Knights scored more than 10 points less than the prior weekend after facing troubles on vault, parallel bars, floor, and horse. The team did set a new season high on high bar, but the Black Knights will no doubt be raring to prove they’re more competitive than last week’s score would suggest. Army’s best total of the season is 393.15, so on paper, the team has the ability to challenge Air Force and Navy once again. 

Routines to watch from the Black Knights include: 

  • Maddox Pabellon’s horse. Pabellon hit his 5.4-difficulty set to tally a 14.25 for the event win against Navy. 
  • Patrick Armstrong’s parallel bars. Armstrong took the event title against Navy after performing a free-hip mount, whip-it, peach handstand, and double pike dismount.
  • Zachary Perez’s high bar. Perez was first on the event versus Navy with a routine featuring a Yamawaki connected to Gienger and a stuck dismount.

OU travels to Lincoln to take on Nebraska, Simpson 

The Sooners are riding a high from a huge upset win over Stanford last weekend. OU set a new season best team score as well as on a few events and put up the country’s top horse score by a healthy margin. The team will be tested once again against a strong Nebraska team on Friday that’s eager to move past a loss to Michigan in Week 5. 

OU will rely on the contributions of Zach Nunez, who’s having a stellar all-around season, Spencer Goodell, Ignacio Yockers, and others. Routines to watch from OU include:

  • Goodell’s floor. He opened his routine with a layout double-double, then bounded through a triple-connection pass before sticking his full-twisting double tuck dismount, winning the event with a 14.9. 
  • Yockers’ horse. Yockers continued to shine on pommel last weekend, posting a nation-best 15.1 while showing off two E flops, a Sohn, Wu, Roth, and handstand dismount. 
  • Daniel Simmons’ vault. Simmons stuck his Roche for the second-consecutive week on Saturday. It bears mentioning that sticking a Roche (a front handspring double front) is rare enough. Back-to-back weeks? That’s special
  • Kelton Christiansen’s high bar. Christiansen earned a 14.0 with a layout Jaeger, Tak half, clean inbar work, and a stuck full-twisting double layout dismount. 

Nebraska tallied its best score of the season during its loss to Michigan while counting misses on pommel horse, parallel bars, and high bar. The Huskers are formidable opponents, especially while competing at home, and will be hungry to show the nation they can hold their own against a top team. Nebraska will be aiming to get close to the season-high scores set during Week 5 on floor and rings and clean up a couple mistakes elsewhere. 

Routines to watch from the Huskers include: 

  • Taylor Christopulos floor. Christopulos took second against Michigan after landing his layout double-double opening pass and sticking three of five passes. 
  • Cooper Giles’ horse. Giles won the event versus Michigan, performing a full Kehr, E flop, D flop, and displaying an extended swing throughout.
  • Donte McKinney’s high bar. McKinney was tops on the event against Michigan after displaying another great Tak half to handstand, big releases, and stuck his full-twisting double layout dismount. 

Simpson is coming off its own season high set last week during a dual meet against Greenville, and the team also set new bests on floor, rings, vault, and parallel bars. Simpson will be focused on fixing some errors on horse and high bar to get those two events into the high-60s. 

Routines to watch from Simpson include:

  • Camden Bontempo’s floor. Bontempo was second on the event with a 13.1 last weekend. 
  • Alex Catchpole’s parallel bars. Catchpole won the event versus Greenville with a 12.7 and has scored as high as 12.9. 
  • Sterling Pariza in the all-around. Pariza notched a season high of 71.05 in the all-around last weekend. 

Stanford hosts NorCal United 

The Cardinal takes on GymACT team NorCal United (which recently rebranded to the Bay Area Bandits) in Palo Alto on Saturday. Stanford will look to move past its loss to OU on the road last weekend, but the team will probably again rest some of its top guys this weekend, many of whom are preparing for next weekend’s Winter Cup. 

Routines to watch from the Cardinal include: 

  • Nick Kuebler’s floor and rings. Kuebler notched a season-best 14.2 last weekend with a set that included a stuck double-double, front full to double front, front double pike, and Arabian double half-out dismount. He won rings after executing a back uprise straight planche before moving to a kip Maltese and a stuck double-double dismount. 
  • Ian Lasic-Ellis’ horse. Lasic-Ellis earned a season-high 14.4 on pommel, performing a scissor handstand, Busnari, E flop, D flop, and E handstand dismount. 
  • Brandon Nguyen’s high bar. Nguyen was runner-up on the event against OU, catching a Kolman, layout Tkatchev, and straddle to pike Tkatchev to take second with a 13.95. 

Cal, Springfield square off in virtual meet

The Bears fell to Air Force last weekend as their team score dipped below 390 for the first time this season. Cal will be aiming to use a familiar setting for competition to help clean up mistakes on floor, vault, and parallel bars and push its team score back into the mid-390s. They’ll need to do so to capture a win over the Pride, who posted a season-high 390.8 two weeks ago. 

Routines to watch from Cal include: 

  • Aidan Li’s horse. Li was runner-up last weekend, performing an E flop, D flop, Wu, triple Russian, and swing handstand dismount. 
  • Jasper Smith-Gordon’s vault. Smith-Gordon won the event last weekend with a floaty Kas 1.5. 
  • Theodor Gadderud’s parallel bars. Gadderud moved through a peach handstand, Tippelt, healy, straddle front one-and-a-quarter, and stuck his double pike dismount to take the win last week. 
  • Noah Newfeld’s high bar. Newfeld tied for a title on the event, catching two Tkatchevs and sticking his full-twisting double layout dismount. 

Springfield last competed in Week 5 and had a big win over William & Mary, tallying a season-best 390.8 and its best team score since 2018. The Pride swept the event titles and put up their best scores of the season on pommel horse, rings, and high bar. If Springfield can break the 390 barrier once again, the team could very well challenge Cal and stake a claim to a top 10 ranking. 

Routines to watch from Springfield include: 

  • Jakarie Williams on floor. Williams won the event against William & Mary with a 13.75, sticking his front double pike opening pass and landing his double-double and 2.5 dismount
  • Dominic Ramalho on vault. Ramalho was first on the event against the Tribe with his Kas full and score of 14.35.
  • Sam Kaplan on parallel bars. Kaplan won the event with a 13.6, showing off a peach handstand, Tippelt, and a stuck double-front dismount. 
  • Owen Carney on high bar. Carney was first with a 13.65, catching his layout Tkatchev before connecting and a straddle and pike Tkatchev and sticking his full-twisting double layout dismount.