2016 NCAA Gymnastics Season Begins This Weekend
posted on 01/07/2016

Oklahoma women and men begin the season ranked No. 1
© Oklahoma Athletics

The first full weekend of 2016 NCAA gymnastics kicks off as the nation’s top teams battle around the country. Fans can follow all the action with our weekly meet schedule linked to live webcasts and results!

In 2015, the University of Florida closed out the season by claiming the program’s third-straight national title. A clutch bar routine from freshman Alex McMurtry propelled the Gators to victory by five-hundredths of a point. On the men’s side, the University of Oklahoma went undefeated during the 2015 season. Following four consecutive years as NCAA runner-up, OU’s thrilling performance at the NCAA Championships earned them the program's ninth national title.

Can the top teams from last season repeat their success in 2016? Here is a look at the top three teams from last year’s NCAA Championships heading into the first week of competition.

MEN

OKLAHOMA
The University of Oklahoma opens the 2016 season in the same position it finished the 2015 season – No. 1. OU thrilled the home crowd at the 2015 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships capping off their perfect 26-0 season with a National Championship trophy. The victory was the 15th consecutive top three finish for the Sooners, who also claimed their 22nd conference title in 2015.

The nine-time NCAA champions hope to continue the tradition of success in 2016 adding six freshmen to the roster and returning seven All-Americans from last season’s Championship team with Colin Van Wicklen, Kanji Oyama, Sergey Resnick, Allan Bower, Josh Yee, Hunter Justus and Todd Dowdy.

OU faces a challenging schedule with 16 ranked opponents, including three ranked in the preseason top six. Key matchups include a home dual meet against No.3 Stanford on Saturday, March 5 and a road trip to battle No. 2 Ohio State on Friday, March11.

Oklahoma begins their quest for a 10th NCAA title with their season opener Jan. 16 at the Rocky Mountain Open in Colorado Springs, Colo.

2016 Preseason Ranking: 1st
Freshmen: Levi Anderson, Peter Daggett, Eric Holley, William Kell, Yul Moldauer, and Genki Suzuki
Returning: Sophomores – Hunter Justice; Juniors - Allan Bower, Thao Hoang, Alex Powarzynski, Reese Rickett, Colin Van Wicklen and Josh Yee; Seniors - Kanji Oyama and Sergey Resnick.
Losses: Dylan Akers, Danny Berardini, William Clement, Michael Reid, Alec Robin and Michel Squires
2015 NCAA Championships: 1st

STANFORD
Stanford enters the 2016 season ranked third in the preseason coaches poll behind Oklahoma and Ohio State. The Cardinal are coming off a second-place finish at the 2015 NCAA Championships, the program’s ninth top-three finish in 10 years. The 2015 National Championships marked the team’s 17th consecutive NCAA Championships appearance.

With the core group of competitors from the 2015 NCAA Championships returning and a talented incoming freshman class of six gymnasts, expect Stanford to contend for its sixth national championship in 2016. Akash Modi will play a pivotal role in Stanford’s quest for the 2016 NCAA team title. In 2015, Modi captured the NCAA All-Around title and led the nation with five All-America honors. He set an NCAA record on parallel bars with a 16.150 against Arizona State and holds Stanford's top seven scores in the all-around.

Stanford’s journey to a sixth national championship title begins at home as they host California on Monday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. (PT)

2016 Preseason Ranking: 3rd
2016 Freshmen Class: Grant Breckenridge, Josiah Eng, Tucker Haas, Luke Sturm, Barrett and Gareth Weiss
Returning: Sophomores – Jacob, Barrus, Drew Burton, Robert Neff and Ryan Sheppard; Juniors - Jordan DeClerk, Gabe Flores, Andrew Misiolek, Akash Modi and Taylor Seaton; Seniors - Jonathan Deaton, Brian Knott and Dennis Zaremski
Losses: Michael Levy, and Sean Senters
2015 NCAA Championships: 2nd

PENN STATE
Penn State enters the 2016 season at No. 4 in the preseason coaches poll. Last season, the Nittany Lions won the Big 10 title and went on to finish third at the NCAA Championships behind Oklahoma and Stanford. The fourth-ranked Nittany Lions return 14 gymnasts from the 2015 Championship team including All-Americans Leroy Clarke, Jr., Trevor Howard, and Alexis Torres. The 2016 roster also includes the addition of five freshmen: Matthew Bunke, Michael Burns, Chris Sands, Alex Tomason and Wyatt Tyndall. Penn State is under the direction of Head Coach Randy Jepson who returns for his 25th season.

The No. 4 Nittany Lions open the 2016 campaign as they host Army on Saturday, Jan. 9.

2016 Preseason Ranking: 4th
Freshmen: Matthew Bunke, Michael Burns, Chris Sands, Alex Tomason and Wyatt Tyndall
Returning: Sophomores - Greg Tamargo, Colin Coates, Benjamin Cooperman, Quest Hayden, Joshua Smith and Joseph Boyle; Juniors – Franz Card, Christian McSwain, Dominic DiFulvio, Jeremy Munn, Leroy Clarke, Jr., and Blake Young; Seniors - Trevor Howard, and Alexis Torres
Losses: Tristen Duverglass, Matthew Felleman, and Craig Hernandez
2015 NCAA Championships: 3rd

WOMEN



OKLAHOMA
The University of Oklahoma starts the 2016 ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll for the first time in history. This season’s poll marks the sixth-straight year that Oklahoma has been ranked in the top five nationally to begin the season. The Sooners have been ranked in the preseason top 10 every season under head coach K.J. Kindler.

The Sooners return 16 of 24 routines and eight previous All-American gymnasts from last season's team that won its fourth-straight Big 12 Championship, claimed its sixth consecutive NCAA Regional title and went on to place third at the NCAA Championships. The 2016 roster includes the addition of freshman trio Nicole Lehrmann, Alex Marks, and Megan Thompson.

OU will face competition in 2016 without redshirt sophomore Brenna Dowell, who deferred this year to train for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Dowell had a breakout freshman season where she was the NCAA runner-up on floor exercise, Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, and first-team All-American on floor and uneven bars.

The Sooners are set to face 17 ranked opponents, including six ranked in the preseason top 10. The Sooners kick off the 2016 season at No 5. LSU on Saturday, Jan. 9, in Baton Rouge, La.

2016 Preseason Ranking: 1st
Freshman: Nicole Lehrmann, Alex Marks and Megan Thompson
Returning: Sophomore - Ali Jackson; Juniors – Chayse Capps, Reagan Hemry, Charity Jones, Kara Lovan and McKenzie Wofford; Seniors - Maile’ana Kanewa, Keeley Kmieciak, Hunter Price and Haley Scaman
Losses: Erica Brewer, Rebecca Clark, Haley Sorenson and Brenna Dowell*
2015 NCAA Championship: 3rd
*deferred this season to train for the 2016 Olympics

FLORIDA
The University of Florida begins the 2016 season ranked No. 2 in the preseason coaches poll. The three-time defending National Champions have ranked amongst the preseason top four teams each of the last 10 years. This season marks the first under the direction of head coach Jenny Rowland, who joins the Gators after five years at the University of Auburn.

The Gators welcome back five All-Americans, including 2009 World All-Around Champion and three-time NCAA champion Bridget Sloan. Also returning to the roster are All-Americans Kennedy Baker, Claire Boyce, Bridgette Caquatto and Alex McMurtry.

Florida’s impressive freshman class includes two-time U.S. Senior National Team member Peyton Ernst; former elite and Junior Olympic National Champion Lacey Dagen; three-time J.O National All-Around Champion Alicia Boren; and J.O vault silver medalist Ashley Hiller.

Florida will face eight preseason top-25 teams, including five in the top 10. The Gators open the 2016 season at Texas Women’s University at 8 p.m. CT on Friday, Jan. 8 in Denton, Texas.

2016 Preseason Ranking: 2nd
Freshmen: Alicia Boren, Amanda Cheney, Lacy Dagen, Peyton Ernst, and Ashley Hiller
Returning: Sophomores - Kennedy Baker, Ericha Fassbender, Grace McLaughlin and Alex McMurtry; Junior - Claire Boyce; Seniors - Bridgette Caquatto, Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto, Morgan Frazier and Bridget Sloan
Losses: Kytra Hunter, Jamie Shisler, Rachel Spicer and Kiersten Wang
2015 NCAA Championships: 1st

UTAH
The University of Utah is coming off a stellar 2015 effort that included a second straight Pac-12 Championships title and second place finish in the Super Six final. The Utes narrowly missed winning their 11th National Championship title, finishing just five-hundredths of a point behind Florida.

Utah enters the 2016 season ranked No. 4 in the preseason poll. The Utes are under new leadership following the retirement of longtime head coach Greg Marsden. During his 40-year tenure, Marsden lead the Utes to 10 National Championship crowns. The 2016 season is the first under the new co-head coaching duo of Tom Farden and Megan Marsden. This season marks Farden’s first year as co-head coach and the seventh for Megan Marsden.

Returning stars for the Utes include All-Americans: seniors - Kailah Delaney, Breanna Hughes and Kassandra Lopez, and sophomores - Kari Lee and Samantha Partyka. The Utes also welcome back junior Baely Rowe and sophomores Tiffani Lewis and Maddy Stover from the 2015 NCAA runner-up team.

Utah’s 2016 schedule features eight preseason top-25 opponents including No. 6 UCLA, No. 7 Michigan, No. 8 Stanford, No. 9 Georgia, No. 12 Oregon State, No. 14 California, No. 18 Arizona and No. 24 Southern Utah. Utah opens its 2016 season at home against BYU on Jan. 8.

2016 Preseason Ranking: 4th
Freshmen: Shannon McNatt, MaKenna Merrell, Erika Muhaw and Sabrina Schwab
Returning: Sophomores - Tiffani Lewis, Samantha Partyka, Maddy Stover and Kari Lee; Junior – Baely Rowe; Seniors - Breanna Hughes, Kailah Delaney, Haley Lane and Kassandra Lopez
Losses: Georgia Dabritz, Corrie Lothrop, Becky Tutka, and Tory Wilson
2015 NCAA Championships: 2nd