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#NCAAMGym Week 1 Recap Nebraska Carrying Momentum Into 2018

We're baaaaack! Week one of the #NCAAMGym season is in the books and it was a good one. Winners of the weekend's four major meets were Nebraska (Rocky Mountain Open), Illinois (Windy City Invite), Penn State (West Point Open) and Stanford (Cal Benefit Cup). We'll have to wait until next week to get our first look at the defending national champion Oklahoma Sooners.

Huskers Surprise At Rocky Mountain Open

Kyle King took home event titles on FX & VT

Based off the results of Rocky Mountain Open, I think it's fair to say that Nebraska (407.7) has carried their momentum into the 2018 season. In surprising fashion to many, they were able to take out the Sean Melton-less Ohio State Buckeyes (404.45) by over three points.

via @NCAA on Twitter

As a team, the Huskers claimed the top spot on FX, PH and VT. Floor and vault will be crucial to Nebraska's success in the future, but on this day it was two surprise events that head coach Chuck Chmelka was happiest with. "I was just so pleased with high bar and rings because that is two potential struggles in the past for us and the guys hit … they missed one out of thirteen so that was really, really nice to have.”

Antonio Castro secured the top spot on high bar (14.0) and Heath Anderson paced the rings team with a third place finish.

“They’re getting tougher. Mentally and gymnastically, they did an unbelievable job. I just feel like the psyche and the team atmostphere, I guess you could say, is so much better and we’re just tougher than we’ve been in the past." - Chmelka

Also of note was redshirt freshman Josh Martin who took the all-around crown with a 77.95. It should be fun to see how this team progresses through the year.

While it's necessary to mention that the Buckeyes were without their anchor, Melton, it's also important to note that the Huskers were without Anton Stephenson who suffered a setback with his shoulder just days before the meet. Chmelka expects to have him back on a limited basis for next week's rematch against the Buckeyes.

A couple things stood out about Ohio State. Alec Yoder is still Alec Yoder (won SR & PH) and freshman Sean Neighbarger is going to be even more important than expected. In his first meet as a Buckeye, Neighbarger scored 13.4+ on all four of his events, including a 14.5 on vault, good enough for second.

Sean Neighbarger (photo: Jess Frankl)

There was a bit of bad news that came from the meet for Ohio State. All-American Seth Delbridge suffered an ankle injury on floor and will be undergoing x-rays today. I'd expect him to be out at least a couple of weeks.

Another surprise coming out of the RMO was Arizona State (390.95) taking out Air Force (389.95). The Sun Devils received a second-place performance from Nick Garcia on vault and a third-place day in the all-around from Nikita Latman (76.4 - Club Gymnast of the Week).

(photo: Jess Frankl)

Trouble for Air Force came on floor where they were only able to put up two scores of 12.7+. It was event that they struggled with at times in 2017, so we'll see if that is a trend that continues into this season.

An encouraging sign came in the form of Michael Graft on vault where he placed fourth with a 14.35. Graft has endured two torn ACLs, so it's pretty amazing to see him have that type of success -- props to him.

Finishing fifth at RMO was Washington (370.6). To nobody's surprise, Nathan Tsuji did most of their damage with a 76.75 in the all-around which was good enough for second.

Illini Edge Gophers AT Navy Pier

(photo: Jess Frankl)

Missing two of its usual attendees (Ohio State & Michigan) and relocated to a new venue (Navy Pier), Windy City 2018 had a different feel than usual. One thing did remain the same, however, as the Fighting Illini (404.3) finished the night at the top of the podium for the fourth-straight year.

Despite the win, nobody will mistake Saturday as a banner night for the Illini, especially not head coach Justin Spring. "We’re very into our averages and we were about a point lower than our averages," said Spring. "So we’re right within our realm. We did what was expected based off how we train, now it’s time to get our training numbers up. We weren’t ready to have a great meet, we had exactly the meet we were ready to have.”

That meet did include three event winners in Brandon Ngai (PH - 15.25), Alex Diab (SR - 14.45) and Bobby Baker (HB - 13.6).

Ngai started his senior season off with an event win at Windy City (photo: Jess Frankl)

Despite the win and positives that came along with it, Spring knows that his team will have to get more aggressive if they want to win postseason meets. "There were a lot of half hits, a lot of guys just trying not to have a devastation versus trying to own and rock their routine," he said.

The Illini were without Chandler Eggleston as he is dealing with a partially torn quad muscle. He's expected to be back practicing all events in one month.

Coming in second by just a shade under three points were the Minnesota Golden Gophers (401.4). Surely it wasn't an ideal meet for Mike Burns and his team, but the good news is that freshman Shane Wiskus (NCAA Rookie of the Week & co-B1G Freshman of the Week) looks as good as advertised. The Minnesota-native won the all-around (81.25), along with posting the top floor score on the night, a 14.15.

Shane Wiskus (photo: Jess Frankl)

Another notable for Minnesota was senior Tristan Duran. He fell just three tenths short of his teammate, Wiskus, in the all-around (80.95). If these two click all year, watch out. The Gophers might own the best trio of all-arounders in the country if you include Justin Karstadt.

With the exception of a nightmare-ish floor rotation, the Iowa Hawkeyes (393.2) started the season with plenty to be happy about. Most notable was their win as a team on pommel horse (67.2) -- an event that head coach J.D. Reive pointed out as a possible strength for this team in the preseason. Austin Hodges (14.7) and Nick Merryman (14.2) finished second and third, respectively, on the event.

(photo: Jess Frankl)

The Hawkeyes did capture an individual title with Hodges' 14.25 on parallel bars.

Rounding out the four-team field was the meet host, UIC (356.8). While it wasn't an ideal start to the season, I'm sure we'll find out a lot more about this freshman/sophomore-heavy team in the weeks to come.

The Flames did have a pair of top-ten event finishers with Asad Jooma on vault (13.8) and Liam Maddon on parallel bars (13.15).

Nittany Lions Win fifth-straight West Point Open

(photo: @PennStateMGYM on Twitter)

Penn State (406.85) took care of business this weekend at the West Point Open. As a team they won five of the six events to go along with four individual champions during day two's event finals.

"They were prepared," said head coach Randy Jepson on his team's performance. "They did a really nice job this weekend, showed a lot of confidence. Some of the question marks we had — guys that haven’t competed a lot — they did a great job. Our veterans were very poised and that’s what we were looking for going in, so very happy with that.”

One of those in the category of "haven't competed a lot" was freshman Brennan Pantazis (co-B1G Freshman of the Week). He showed that he can do more than contribute with an all-around performance (78.8) good enough to place him second behind teammate Sam Zakutney (81.35). Jepson explained that the team will be looking to rest Zakutney this coming weekend as he will be competing at the Elite Canada competition shortly.

Sam Zakutney (photo: Jess Frankl)

To nobody's surprise, 2017 NCAA pommel horse champion Stephen Nedoroscik hasn't skipped a beat coming into 2018 as he posted a pair of 14.8+ scores on the event.

The Navy Midshipmen's 395.05 team score was good enough for a second place finish, though more importantly (for their sake), it helped them top their arch-rival, Army (380.35).

It seems that Navy has a group of freshmen & sophomores who are ready to contribute heavily towards the team's success. In fact, 25 of the 36 routines competed on Friday night were by underclassmen. "Our boys became men tonight," said head coach Kip Simons via navysports.com. "I’m so proud of their resilience and cohesion."

David Toussaint, a freshman, had a great weekend on pommel horse finishing third during the team competition and second during event finals. His classmate, Ryan McVay, also grabbed a second-place event final finish on high bar.

Sophomore Tanner West should pace this team all year, he posted three scores of 13.05+ and won the vault title on Saturday night.

Tanner West (photo: Jess Frankl)

It was a tough weekend for Army (380.35) who was bitten by four sub-63 event scores. Specifically, pommel horse presented a bit of a problem as the the Black Knights were only able to record two scores of 12+.

On a positive note, they were able to secure two top-three event final finishes with Elliott Herman (13.35) on still rings and Nick McAfee on parallel bars (13.35).

Fourth place belonged to defending-ECAC champion, William & Mary (378.3). Most of the Tribe's trouble came on floor where they posted a 61.65.

2017 NCAA All-American, Jacopo Gliozzi, was able to qualify for two event finals, PH & SR, while senior Jeremiah McReynolds (ECAC Specialist of the Week) secured a still rings title during event finals with a score of 13.5.

(photo: @WMTribeMGYM on Twitter)

Fifth and sixth place at the West Point Open belonged to Springfield (369.25) and Temple (223.05). Leading the way for the Pride was Josh Dieker who finished third in the all-around with a 74.05.

Stanford Opens With Win At Cal Benefit Cup

Stanford opened with a win over Cal and SC United (photo: Jess Frankl)

Stanford (402.15) took care of business during opening weekend claiming five of six events as a team to go along with four individual titles. The two who did most of the work were Robert Neff (82.85 - AA & NCAA Gymnast of the Week) and freshman Andrew Bitner (80.6 - AA). Bitner's score registered as the second-highest among freshmen (behind Minnesota's Wiskus).

(photo: Jess Frankl)

Bitner wasn't the only Cardinal freshman that came to play -- Thomas Lee took home a title in his first ever meet on still rings with a 13.9. Given Josiah Eng's recent ACL surgery, a newcomer stepping up on SR has to be a welcomed sight for head coach Thom Glielmi.

Also an encouraging note: Jacob Barrus made his return to the Stanford lineup following a season-ending injury suffered against Oklahoma in 2017.

Cal (390.6) started off their first season under head coach JT Okada with a great day from Aaron Mah (80.7 - AA) and a first-place team finish on vault (69.4). Senior Yordan Aleksandrov started his final season off on the right foot as he finished in the top-two on three of his four events (SR - 2nd, PB - 1st and HB - 2nd).

via @CalMGym on Twitter

Finishing third at the Cal Benefit Cup was S.C. United with a 291.45.

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Logan Bradley
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Unless otherwise noted, all photos are courtesy of Jess Frankl.

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