#NCAAMGym Week 8 Recap Oklahoma & Stanford put on a show in Palo Alto; Newark

Week eight brought out the absolute best in NCAA men's gymnastics. Four meets were decided by less than five points (three by less than two points) and two individuals made a statement on an international stage.

Yul Moldauer of Oklahoma and Akash Modi of Stanford finished first and third, respectively, at Saturday's AT&T American Cup in Newark, NJ. They sandwiched Olympic AA silver-medalist Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine.

Placement aside, it was refreshing to see the two compete with such confidence on a big stage. It was also the first time in a long while where the U.S. men have visibly outperformed the women. Maybe a trend is starting? I won't jump to any large conclusions, but the country is in good hands with these two.

The performances weren't only a testament to the two athletes and their coaches, but also the #NCAAMGym product as a whole. Oh, and guess what? We still get to watch Moldauer and Modi battle it out TWO more times this season at both MPSF and NCAA Championships.

Sooners Escape Palo Alto with a win

Deep breath, Sooner fans, the streak lives on. In a preview of the presumptive NCAA battle, Oklahoma prevailed by just .25 over Stanford on Saturday night, 432.3-432.05. With both teams missing their top athletes (Moldauer & Modi), everyone knew it was going to be an exciting meet, but nobody knew it would be this exciting.

Oklahoma's highest event score came on VT where they racked up a 73.35. It's gotten to the point where you can expect at least two or three stuck vaults from the Sooners every meet. What a ridiculously awesome thing to be able to expect from a team competing high-level vaults.

Allan Bower competed his way to NCAA Gymnast of the Week honors with a meet-best 86.95. He now has the best and (tied for) second-best PH scores in the country after his 15.3 on Saturday. Bower will be right up there with Moldauer and Modi come MPSF & NCAA's.

You can check out the Sooners' highlights here.

Taking a close second to Bower in the AA was Stanford's Robert Neff. Neff capped off the meet with a ridiculous 15.5 on HB to secure an 86.4 AA score. At this point it's hard to argue against Neff being the fourth-best AA'er in the NCAA.

Along with Neff's win on HB, the Cardinal also grabbed a title on FX with Taylor Seaton's 14.95. Stanford looked elite as ever on FX but may have lost a key contributor in Jacob Barrus. Barrus scored a 14.75 but landed awkwardly on his final tumbling pass. He was later seen on crutches with a heavy wrap on his knee. We hope the best for the junior who has been big for the Cardinal on FX, PB and HB this year.

Though the scoring may have been generous at times for both teams, there is no arguing that these two are far-and-away the best in the NCAA. Now let's see what they can do once two of the best AA'ers in the world are back in the lineup.

Huskers turn it on at home; defeat Iowa & PSU

Nebraska head coach Chuck Chmelka knows how big Saturday night's win was, and so does his team. "I think this was a huge stepping stone for our program."

Indeed it was as the Huskers (418.35) defeated Iowa (413.5) and Penn State (409.6). It marked the first time since 1999 that Nebraska has defeated PSU in the regular season. "They still know Penn State is a darn good team," Chmelka said. "[But] they know they are too, and the confidence is growing. They could be a top team."

Chmelka and co. can thank their lucky stars that they've got Chris & Anton Stephenson on the roster. The brothers accounted for just a shade over 30% of the team total on Saturday. Chris (B1G Gymnast of the Week) went a season-high 83.5 in the AA while Anton put up four scores (FX, VT, PB, HB) of 14 or better.

Chris Stephenson picked up his 2nd B1G GOTW honor of 2017.

What a cool story it would be if the two can lead Nebraska to their first top-six NCAA finish since 1999.

The job done by the Iowa Hawkeyes shouldn't go unnoticed either. Iowa nearly reached their season-high team total thanks to an unsuspecting event, PH. Their 68.9 blew out their previous best in 2017 by 3.75 points. Austin Hodges (14.05) and Elijah Parsells (13.95) both finished top-four on the event.

Just to show how important PH has been for Iowa; in the two meets where they have scored a 65+ on the event their team scores were 413.5 and 414.65. In the four meets where they've failed to score a 65 they have gone 404.1, 399.9, 397.1 and 387.55.

You can check out some highlights of the Hawkeyes' day here.

The third-place Nittany Lions were led by a pair of Freshman AA'ers in Favian Valdez (81.1) and Sam Zakutney (80.4). The wheels fell off on HB where PSU could only manage a 63.0. HB has proven difficult for them this season and Saturday's score marked the third time in six meets where they've scored under a 64. It's the only event where PSU ranks outside the top-nine nationally.

OSU Gets Past Gophers at Arnold Challenge

Jake Dastrup won PB with a 14.8. He currently sits 3rd in the NCAA on the event.

Ohio State swept the individual event titles with the exception of AA on their way to a tight 415.25-413.3 win over Minnesota. Six different Buckeyes won events: Sean Melton - FX (14.8), Alec Yoder - PH (14.6), Ryan Lemezis - SR (14.55), Seth Delbridge - VT (14.8), Jake Dastrup - PB (14.8) and Jake Martin - HB (14.8).

OSU made full use of the 15-man lineup as only Tristan Burke and Dastrup did four or more events. Melton continues to do a great job as he's competed twenty total routines this season with just three scores (all on HB) under 14.

Melton ranks top-9 in the NCAA on FX, SR and PB.

Justin Karstadt starred for Minnesota as he won the AA with an 83.2, his best of the year. In just his second year, Karstadt is the most consistent competitor on a team that has been hit hard by injuries.

Others pitching in with nice days were Alex Wittenburg (FX - 14.7, PH - 13.7), Vitali Kan (FX - 14.3, SR - 13.75 and VT - 14.4) and Jalon Stephens (SR - 13.9, PB - 14.15 and HB - 14.1).

Illinois Wins Puerto Rico Cup

Matt Foster put up a meet-high score of 15.25 on PH.

Unsurprisingly, Puerto Rico weather is a little bit better than Champaign weather. The Illini also found out that FX & PH get a little bit better the further south you go. Thanks to season-highs on those two events, Illinois (409.45) was able to defeat Michigan (402.65) and Arizona State (381.05) on Saturday.

Alex Diab and Sebastian Quiana (B1G Freshman of the Week) led the team to a 71.75 on FX with a 15.0 and 14.75, respectively. On PH, Matt Foster blew it out of the water with a 15.25.

SR (65.85) and PB (64.05) were the two weakest events for the Illini.

Michigan continues to stick in their 400-405 wheelhouse. As a team they won VT (71.85) and PB (67.55). Anthony McCallum got his third score in four meets of 14.9 or higher on VT to win the title. He's well positioned to make a run at his second-straight NCAA title on the event.

Still noticeably missing from the lineup was Dmitri Belanovski. He seems to be dealing with some type of injury and would be a big boost whenever he returns.

It was an less than ideal day for the Arizona State Sun Devils who tallied their lowest score of the season. FX (68.05) and VT (69.7) were the lone positive events in a meet where they were forced to count six scores below a 12. Still, Nick Garcia was able to garner NCAA Club Gymnast of the Week honors thanks to a pair of nice performances on FX (14.05) and VT (14.6).

Air Force beats Cal for the First time Ever

You read that headline correct, the Air Force Falcons beat the California Golden Bears for the first time EVER. The 403.9-395.75 victory broke the Falcons' 40-meet losing streak against Cal, according to the team's release.

Per usual, Tim Wang (MPSF Gymnast of the Week) had a heck of a day winning the AA with an 84.2. He also won titles on PH (14.7), SR (14.15) and VT (14.65). Wang should be in the running for a top-five placing at NCAA's in the AA.

Air Force's historic day featured a couple of season-high team scores on FX (69.25) and VT (70.6).

For Cal, it was PH (61.05) and SR (64.9) that hurt them. Their stars, Aaron Mah and Yordan Aleksandrov each took a title (Mah - FX, Aleksandrov - HB) but it wasn't enough to overcome other weak areas.

Mah has been a machine this year on FX where he ranks t3rd in the NCAA with a 14.767 three-score average. He, along with Aleksandrov on PB & HB, give Cal their best shot at individual All-America status/national titles this year.

Finishing in third behind Air Force and Cal was SC United with a 289.95.

Navy Drops Close Meet to W&M Friday; Wins Tri-Meet Sunday

The Navy Midshipmen competed in two meets this weekend. On Friday, they dropped a close one (394.3-393.5) to William & Mary who are current winners of five straight.

Both teams had their struggles on PH but the Tribe was able to salvage some scoring thanks to event-winner Jacopo Gliozzi (14.4) and Griffin Antle (13.35). W&M's best event of the day was VT where Tim O'Neill won the event with this 14.55. That vault can be seen at the end of this highlight reel.

Navy's day was defined by a high-point on PB (68.85) and a low-point on PH (59.65). On PB the Mids swept the top-three with Tanner West (ECAC Rookie of the Week) (14.4), Jonny Tang (ECAC Gymnast of the Week) (14.2) and Noah Beeman (13.8).

In their second road contest of the weekend, Navy (401.9) took down Army (391.4) and Springfield (380.5). Jonny Tang improved his AA score by exactly two points to win the meet with an 81.8. He also won titles on SR (13.7) and PB (13.85).

Army jumped back up to the 390's after a rough meet last weekend. Nathan Goff (80.85) wasn't far behind AA leader Tang. Goff's day was highlighted by an event win on HB (13.95).

Another highlight for the Black Knights was Andre Hufnagel's (ECAC Specialist of the Week) 14.5 on PH which was the highest score of the meet.

Leading Springfield was Jannik Haas whose season-best 13.7 on PB was good enough for second place. Freshman Stephen Lewis secured a season-high of his own on VT with a 14.2.

Flames Cruise to Season-High at Midwest Open

The UIC Flames enjoyed their highest scoring meet of the season at the Midwest Open with a 387.7. Head coach Charley Nelson was most proud of the way that his team was able to string together hit routines. "Hitting routines is contagious," described Nelson. "When you get into it [a rhythm], it's hard to be taken out."

That rhythm lent itself to season-high team scores on PH (61.5), SR (68.2) and PB (66.05). Nelson touched on the emphasis he wants his team to put on PH, saying, "the team that wins PH is the team that's going to win the meet."

He's certainly not wrong. A key gymnast for the Flames on Saturday was Chris Root. Root scored team-bests on PH (13.5) and PB (14.1) while also contributing a 13.5 on SR.

Also coming to form is freshman Basil Szechinski who scored personal bests on four events (FX - 13.65, VT - 13.8, PB - 12.9, HB - 13.15). If Szechinski can find consistency that would be a big help for UIC.

Created By
Logan Bradley
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Photo credits to Air Force & UIC Athletics All other photos: Jess Frankl

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