What to watch for at NCAA men's gymnastics championships

 

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Beat writer SCOTT RICHEY breaks down the 12-team field for this weekend's NCAA championships at State Farm Center. 

No. 1 Oklahoma

What to know: The Sooners have won or finished first in every meet they've competed in since finishing second at the 2014 NCAA championships. That's 116 straight victories — good for the third-longest streak in NCAA history in any sport.

At the NCAAs: National titles each of the past four seasons have pushed Oklahoma's total to 12, tying with Penn State for most ever.

Gymnast to watch: Senior all-arounder Yul Moldauer has seven individual national titles (including four in 2018) and is a 15-time All-American.

No. 2 Stanford

What to know: Two points — because of two falls — is all that separated the Cardinal from an upset of Oklahoma in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championships on April 6.

At the NCAAs: Stanford's last NCAA title (and fifth total) came in 2011, and the Cardinal have finished second behind Oklahoma twice in the past four seasons.

Gymnast to watch: Freshman Brody Malone beat out Moldauer for MPSF Gymnast of the Year and is ranked first nationally in the all-around.

No. 3 Michigan

What to know: Top-five rankings in five of six events pushed the Wolverines, who finished third at the Big Ten championships, into the No. 3 overall seed this weekend. Michigan is best on vault, ranking second with a 71.900 average.

At the NCAAs: The Wolverines are the last non-Oklahoma national champion, having won their fifth and sixth NCAA titles, respectively, in 2013 and 2014.

Gymnast to watch: Cameron Bock, who ranks second nationally, won the Big Ten all-around title as part of a 1-2-3 sweep in the event by the Wolverines.

No. 4 Illinois

What to know: The host Illini might be just 3-6 against the NCAA championships qualifiers they've faced this season, but they came within just 0.250 points of defending their Big Ten title on April 5 in Iowa City, Iowa.

At the NCAAs: Illinois' 10 national titles trails only Oklahoma and Penn State. The Illini last won in 2012 behind C.J. Maestas and Paul Ruggeri.

Gymnast to watch: The pommel horse could be an all Big Ten affair, and Michael Paradise has beaten both Ohio State's Alec Yoder and Penn State's Stephen Nedorosci.

No. 5 Penn State

What to know: The newly-crowned Big Ten champions have performed their best in bigger meets. The Nittany Lions also took home the West Point Open crown and Arizona Invitational title this season.

At the NCAAs: Just three of Penn State's 12 NCAA titles have come this century. The last was in 2007 when the Nittany Lions won on their home court at Rec Hall.

Gymnast to watch: Sam Zakutney pulled off something of an upset when he won the Big Ten parallel bars title — the first conference title of his career.

No. 6 Minnesota

What to know: The Gophers shared the Big Ten regular season title with Michigan and Iowa after also posting a 4-2 league record but dropped to fifth in the Big Ten championships earlier this month for the second year in a row.

At the NCAAs: Minnesota has won three NCAA all-around championships (John Roethlisberger from 1991-93) and finished second as a team for the fourth time last year.

Gymnast to watch: Spring Park, Minn., native Shane Wiskus should factor into the all-around title competition after finishing second in 2018 as a true freshman.

No. 7 Nebraska

What to know: A fourth-place finish at the Big Ten championships was the Cornhuskers' best since they joined the conference in 2011, and they've already beaten Session I competitors Michigan and Minnesota (three times) this year.

At the NCAAs: Nebraska ranks fourth in NCAA history with eight national titles and was at its strongest in the 1980s and into early '90s. The last one came in 1994.

Gymnast to watch: Anton Stephenson won his third consecutive Big Ten vault title earlier this month and is ranked as the No. 1 vaulter in the country.

No. 8 Iowa

What to know: The co-Big Ten regular season champions posted conference wins against Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State — the latter two of which Iowa will have to face in the Session II qualifier today.

At the NCAAs: The lone national title for Iowa came in 1969 in Seattle when the Hawkeyes topped runner-up Penn State by 0.725 points.

Gymnast to watch: Andrew Herrador, who ranks 11th nationally, tied a season-best with a 14.000 on high bar to finish as the Big Ten runner-up behind Illinois' Hamish Carter.

No. 9 Ohio State

What to know: The Buckeyes rank in the top four nationally in pommel horse, still rings, vault and parallel bars. Their strength is pommel horse, though, with three gymnasts in the top 20 of the national rankings.

At the NCAAs: Ohio State has won three national titles in three decades. Jamie Natalie's all-around title helped the Buckeyes claim the most recent of the three in 2001.

Gymnast to watch: Two-time Big Ten pommel horse champion Alec Yoder (2016 and 2019) is also ranked fifth nationally in parallel bars.

No. 10 Navy

What to know: The Midshipmen posted a pair of impressive victories this season, including its first USAG Collegiate Championships team title since 2008 and a second straight Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship.

At the NCAAs: Navy hasn't won an national championship, and its best finish came as co-runners up in 1940 with Temple behind Illinois.

Gymnast to watch: David Toussaint won the ECAC pommel horse title outright this month after splitting the win in 2018, and he ranks fifth nationally in the event.

No. 11 California

What to know: The Golden Bears head into the NCAA championships for a sixth straight season after finishing third in the MPSF meet behind Oklahoma and Stanford. They lost four times head-to-head against the Cardinal.

At the NCAAs: Cal is tied for seventh all-time with four national championships and won the last of those two back to back in 1997 and 1998.

Gymnast to watch: Freshman Darren Wong ranks sixth nationally in the all-around and won three all-around event titles in his first year with the Bears.

No. 12 Army West Point

What to know: A runner-up finish to Navy at the ECAC championships has Army West Point back in the NCAA championships for the first time 2015. The Black Knights also faced Penn State this season and gets a rematch today in Session II.

At the NCAAs: Like the other service academy in the field, Army has just a single national runner-up finish behind Illinois in 1939.

Gymnast to watch: Freshman Mathew Davis won both the floor exercise and parallel bars and was named ECAC Rookie of the Year

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).