2018 Nissen-Emery Award Finalists Seven Finalists Represent Seven Different Schools

The Nissen-Emery Award is the highest honor bestowed upon the nation's top senior gymnast. To win the award one must have shown gymnastics excellence, success in the classroom and sportsmanship throughout their career. For a full description of the award and list of previous winners, see here.

Of those that have won the award in the past, big names include Bart Conner, Jim Hartung, John Roethlisberger, Blaine Wilson, Justin Spring, Jonathan Horton and Sam Mikulak.

Now, for a breakdown of this year's finalists:

Joel Gagnon - University of Minnesota

Joel Gagnon of Minnesota (photo: Jess Frankl)

A current member of the Canadian Senior National Team, Joel Gagnon's career as a Gopher got off to a hot start in 2015. Not only did he break the school's FX record at NCAA's, he became an All-American on the event (he did the same again in 2016). Gagnon has been paramount in helping turn the Gophers into contenders during his career and his leadership skills have been on constant display as a 3x captain.

Joel Gagnon Minnesota Golden Gophers Bio

Austin Hodges - University of Iowa

Austin Hodges of Iowa (photo: Jess Frankl)

As of today's date, Austin Hodges has competed 38 pommel horse routines in an Iowa uniform. Just three times has he scored below a 13. It's that kind of consistency that has made him the Hawkeyes' most reliable gymnast over the last four seasons. Not only is the senior captain awesome to watch on PH, his artistic line makes him equally as great on PB & HB.

Austin Hodges Iowa Hawkeyes Bio

Hunter Justus - University of Oklahoma

Hunter Justus of Oklahoma (photo: Jess Frankl)

Let's start with this: Hunter Justus hasn't missed a single meet during his NCAA career. Over that time he's been a part of three NCAA championship teams, helped OU win 80-straight (and counting) meets, became a U.S. Senior National Team member and a four-time All-American. Having come on the team right when OU's reign began, Justus will be remembered as a central part of the Sooner dynasty.

Hunter Justus Oklahoma Sooners Bio

Kyle King - University of Nebraska

Kyle King of Nebraska (photo: Jess Frankl)

It's no coincidence that the rise of Nebraska coincided with Kyle King's career. A stand-out on FX & VT, King capped off the 2017 season by garnering All-American honors on FX. He's also gotten into a habit of nailing big vaults as part of the No. 1-ranked Husker VT team in 2018. Past those two events, King has consistently chipped in on PH & PB throughout his career.

Kyle King Nebraska Cornhuskers Bio

Sean Melton - Ohio State University

Sean Melton of Ohio State (photo: Jess Frankl)

Without a doubt, Sean Melton will go down as one of the greatest Ohio State gymnasts of all-time. The three-time captain has helped his team win two B1G titles along with capturing six of his own (including two in the all-around). A multiple-time U.S. Senior National Team member, Melton competed at the 2016 Olympic Trials, holds multiple school records and is a nine-time All-American.

Sean Melton Ohio State Buckeyes Bio

Robert Neff - Stanford University

Robert Neff of Stanford (photo via Stanford Athletics)

Over the first three years of his career, Robert Neff quietly put together an outstanding resume. I say quietly only because he was on the same team as Akash Modi who received much of the attention. In reality, Neff's career has been anything but quiet. A member of the U.S. Senior National team in 2017, he also became the NCAA high bar champion that same year. The four-time All-American will certainly go down as one of Stanford's best gymnasts in recent memory.

Robert Neff Stanford Cardinal Bio

Brandon Ngai - University of Illinois

Brandon Ngai of Illinois (photo: Jess Frankl)

Brandon Ngai first walked into Kenney Gym in Champaign at age 15. If that's not ridiculous enough, he won an NCAA title on pommel horse at age 17 to become the youngest champion across any sport. Along the way, Ngai also added a B1G title on the event. He will finish his career right alongside Illinois' associate head coach Daniel Ribeiro as the greatest pommel horse workers in Illini history.

Brandon Ngai Fighting Illini Bio


Unless otherwise noted, photos belong to Jess Frankl.

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