NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Week 9 Preview: Winter Cup break is over, time to kick it up a notch

By Patricia Duffy | March 1, 2024
Nebraska's Toby Liang at the 2024 Winter Cup.
© Amy Sanderson/Gymnastics Now

Week 9 of NCAA men’s gymnastics features five matchups as teams return to action after the Winter Cup break.

Keep reading for quick hits on each matchup.

Want to catch up on what happened at Winter Cup? Read our recap:

Friday, March 1

#14 Simpson, #13 William & Mary @ #3 Illinois

How to watch:

7:00 p.m. ETSimpson, William & Mary @ Illinois – Live Stats | Video (BIG+)

Illinois will look to pick up where it left off in this matchup against Simpson and William & Mary. Before Winter Cup, the Fighting Illini put up a season-high 416.150 and had improved their team score for four straight weeks. As postseason draws near, the Illini will want to balance pacing their athletes with putting up consistently competitive scores in order to prepare themselves for the battle against No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 2 Stanford at nationals.

Simpson is coming off a season-low 360.950 against Oklahoma after peaking with a 376.350 two weeks prior. A young team with a massive roster and plenty of potential, be on the lookout for the Storm to rebound in Urbana-Champaign.

William & Mary saw the all-around return of grad student Aidan Cuy two weeks ago in its virtual meet against Cal. The Tribe’s best two scores have come the past two meets when Cuy was on most or all events and leading off many as well, proving how important his leadership, as well as his gymnastics, are to the team.

Saturday, March 2

#1 Oklahoma @ #4 Michigan

How to watch:

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

This is an exciting regular season battle between two of the top contenders in the nation, but both teams have question marks that may make this a lower-scoring affair that isn’t necessarily indicative of the battle to come in the postseason.

Oklahoma is coming off a strong showing at Winter Cup, where alum Yul Moldauer won the all-around title, and current star Fuzzy Benas had the best performance of an NCAA athlete, putting in an
82.950 to make the U.S. national team. Unfortunately, newcomer Colin Flores is out for the season after he tore his ACL at the meet in Louisville. He contributed in every meet but one prior to Winter Cup, including two 80+ all-around performances.

Sooner head coach Mark Williams may opt to rest Benas after a grueling two-meet weekend at Winter Cup, which would mean the loss of two significant contributors against the Wolverines.

The Wolverines also had an excellent showing at Winter Cup, with volunteer assistant coach Cameron Bock making the national team while world medalists Paul Juda and Fred Richard retained their spots as members of that medal-winning team despite not competing in Louisville. Landen Blixt also retained his spot on the senior development team.

With an opportunity to take advantage of the top-ranked team, the biggest question mark for the Wolverines is how active Juda and Richard will be as their top all-arounders. Juda withdrew from Winter Cup on Day 1 before competition even began after seemingly planning to compete while Richard has been nursing minor injuries that saw him withdraw from Winter Cup. Richard still competed on four events in Michigan’s last meet.

#12 Springfield @ #6 Penn State

How to watch:

2:00 p.m. ETSpringfield College @ Penn State – Live Stats | Video (BIG+)

While contending with the Nittany Lions is unlikely, Springfield could be eyeing its first 400 of the season with a great showing in State College. With no members of the Pride in attendance at Winter Cup, that means they’ve had two weeks to rest, train, and gear up for a good showing against Penn State.

Penn State had three all-arounders compete at Winter Cup – Josh Karnes, Michael Artlip, and Matt Cormier – with Karnes making the national team after finishing second on floor. After two days of all-around competition, the Nittany Lions may opt to rest the three athletes on some events or all, giving others some reps as they try to remain steady after a season-high 407.500 last time out.

#13 William & Mary @ #10 Greenville

How to watch:

7:00 p.m. ETWilliam & Mary @ GreenvilleWatch (Facebook)

This is an intriguing battle. While Greenville has the clear scoring advantage, William & Mary has been trending up and could put some pressure on the Panthers on some events. They’re most evenly matched on rings and high bar.

The other question is the Tribe’s strategy with two meets in two days, as they’ll be coming off a showing against Simpson and Illinois while the Panthers will be fresh from the break. This is an excellent test for William & Mary, especially its individual stars, ahead of nationals, when they’ll have to deliver great performances over two consecutive days of competition.

Sunday, March 3

#2 Stanford, #5 Nebraska, Air Force @ #8 California

How to watch:

3:00 p.m. ETStanford, Air Force, Nebraska @ California – Live Stats | Video (Pac 12)

Closing out the weekend is a tri-meet between the four-time reigning national champion Stanford, a powerful Nebraska squad, a rising California team, and Air Force, who will finally have a 3-Score Average after this meet.

With Khoi Young, Colt Walker, and Asher Hong back from the Cottbus World Cup, Stanford can now hone in on the latter half of the season as the Cardinal attempts to become just the second team in men’s NCAA gymnastics history to win five national titles in a row. After the announcement of U.S. international assignments, it seems the current national team athletes on the Stanford squad will remain in the States through the end of NCAA season in April. A mix of the trio may or may not be back in lineups after traveling back from Germany earlier this week, but Stanford is certainly capable of challenging Nebraska without them. With them, this could be one of their strongest showings of the season so far.

Nebraska broke the 410 mark before the break, earning a 412.900. They’re also currently ranked No. 1 on vault and No. 2 on high bar, with plenty of potential to improve. All-arounders Taylor Christopulos and Toby Liang had good showings at Winter Cup, with Christopulos putting up an 81.900 on Day 1 in his first all-around showing of the year. Liang also had his first all-around showing of the season in Louisville, putting up a 79.500 on Day 1. One or both athletes may rest on some or all events, but this Husker team has already proven it can deliver big numbers even with some of its key contributors limited.

Others to watch for: Zac Tiderman, who broke the school high bar record with a 14.65 last time out, and freshman Chase Mondi, who made history in that same meet as the first Husker to do a triple full on vault.

California surpassed the 400 mark with a 400.800 against Oklahoma in early February, and they could be in prime position to improve on that mark at home in Haas Pavilion with alumni in town. The one Bear in Louisville was Noah Newfeld, who finished ninth on parallel bars with consistent marks across the two days of competition: a 14.100 on Day 1 and 14.200 on Day 2.

Air Force is the only unranked team in men’s NCAA gymnastics, but it was a W for the Falcons last weekend as Patrick Hoopes won the Winter Cup pommel horse title and earned a on the U.S. national team. As a result, he’s been given an international assignment to the Baku World Cup next week and is not expected to travel with the team to California.