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.
Here is a breakdown of this year’s finalists (alphabetically):
Grant Breckenridge – Stanford – Breckenridge neatly embodies the spirit of Stanford gymnastics: a refined, classic look that disregards the difficulty of what’s being performed. A 2018 high bar All-American, Breckenridge was also named to the U.S. Senior National Team in 2017 after finishing seventh in the all-around at Winter Cup. The Highland Park, IL native is best known for consistent, measured performances across all of his events. Outside of the sport, Breckenridge studies mechanical engineering and ancient history. Such diverse interests accord with the kind of gymnast he is: well-balanced with a wide repertoire of skills. (via Alex Wittenberg)
Alex Diab – Illinois – After three B1G and one NCAA still rings title (and counting), it’s safe to say that any and all “greatest current ringman” conversations start and end with Illinois’ Alex Diab. Following in the footsteps of his father, Mark (a fellow NCAA champion on SR at Iowa State), Diab has created a lasting legacy of his own. Though it’d be easy to continue on about his still rings excellence, it’s key to note the high-level contribution he’s brought on other events as an All-American both on high bar (2016) and floor exercise (2018) as well. A two-time Illini team captain, Diab has cemented himself as one of the school’s all-time greats. (via Logan Bradley)
Jacopo Gliozzi – William & Mary – It’s rare to find as talented of a gymnast as William & Mary’s Jacopo Gliozzi and first want to mention his scholastic accomplishments. A 4.0 student and double-major in math and physics, Gliozzi recently earned the Thomas Jefferson Prize in Natural Philosophy. It’s tough to state just how impressive that is. However, don’t let that monumental academic honor detract from the Fairfax, VA native’s abilities on the mat. Primarily a pommel horse specialist, Gliozzi was a 2017 All-American and swings with an electricity unlike many we’ve seen before. Without a doubt, he will leave W&M as one of the best to have ever donned a Tribe uniform. (via Logan Bradley)
Vitali Kan – Minnesota – Kan has played a pivotal role in Minnesota’s success in the last two seasons. The two-time vault All-American has demonstrated time and again an ability to put up his best performances when it matters most. Such an attribute is one reason why Kan is leading the Gophers this season as a captain. Another is his intellect, which he’s honed while excelling in his statistics program. The progeny of gymnastics greatness, Kan was destined to succeed in the sport, and he has. (via Alex Wittenberg)
Justin Karstadt – Minnesota – Karstadt garnered attention early for a classic technique and an assured demeanor. What wasn’t as easily discernible was his deep knowledge of the sport, something that’s made the Toronto native an invaluable asset to Minnesota. Karstadt is a three-time All-American, a two-time First Team All-Big Ten team selectee, and he was named the 2017 Big Ten Co-Gymnast of the Year. Karstadt has also represented Canada on the international stage: He earned a bronze medal on pommel horse at last year’s World Cup Challenge in Mersin, Turkey, and he helped Canada make the team podium at the 2016 Pacific Rim Championships. A kinesiology major who plans to pursue a medical degree, Karstadt’s resolve has helped him weather setbacks and remain indispensable to Minnesota’s success. (via Alex Wittenberg)
Yul Moldauer – Oklahoma – It is impossible to tell the story of the ongoing Oklahoma dynasty without Yul Moldauer. 15-time All-American, seven total NCAA individual titles, two-time NCAA all-around champion, three-time NCAA team champion, and you can expect those numbers to increase come April. He also won a bronze medal on floor at the 2017 World Championships in Montreal – just to name one of his many accomplishments representing the United States internationally. When all is said and done, Moldauer will be remembered as one of the best to ever step foot on the NCAA competition floor. (via Ben Cooperman)
Anton Stephenson – Nebraska – It is no surprise that the resurgence of Nebraska’s program coincides with Anton Stephenson’s four-year career as a Cornhusker. Nebraska has clawed their way back into the top-five conversation over the past few years, punching their ticket to second day at the past two NCAA Championships. Stephenson has been a standout all-arounder and a star on vault over his career. 2018 Big Ten parallel bars champion and vault champion, two-time All-American and 2018 USA National vault champion highlight his illustrious career. His 3.97 GPA speaks for itself; Stephenson is a tremendous mind who will go on to to study ophthalmology at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine. (via Ben Cooperman)
Alec Yoder – Ohio State – From his magnificent pommel horse work to his flared-out double pike on parallel bars, Alec Yoder has come to exemplify all that is Ohio State. A top recruit back in 2015, the Indianapolis, IN native has lived up to the hype and much more. As a U.S. Senior National Team member, Yoder represented his country at the 2018 World Championships, helping the Red, White & Blue to a fourth place team finish. His NCAA career has been equally as illustrious with eight All-American honors to his name, along with being the 2016 B1G pommel horse champion and Freshman of the Year. The two-time Buckeye team captain will long be remembered in Columbus. (via Logan Bradley)