No. 6/7 Nebraska at No. 8 Iowa
March 20, 2017 | 6 p.m.
Iowa City, Iowa
TV: BTN, BTN2GO, BTN mobile app
Live stats: http://uiowa_ftp.sidearmsports.com/custompages/STATISTICS/mensgymnastics/2017/MenNCAA.htm
The No. 6/7 Nebraska men’s gymnastics team hits the road for a Big Ten matchup against its border rival Iowa on March 20. Competition is set to begin at 6 p.m. and will be televised on BTN, BTN2GO and the BTN2GO mobile app.
The Huskers are coming off their first conference victories of the season, after defeating Penn State and Iowa at home on March 4, with a season-high score of 418.350. It was the first time the Huskers beat Iowa in the regular season since 2013 and the first time NU topped Penn State in the regular season since 1999. NU was led by Chris Stephenson who won the all-around with a career-high score of 83.50. Kyle King and Antonio Castro each claimed an individual event title as well. King placed first on floor and Castro took first on pommel horse. NU also recorded season-best scores on pommel horse and vault. It is the second consecutive week that the Huskers have bested their season-high vault score.
Huskers in the Rankings
As of March 17, vault is the second-highest ranked event (fifth), coming only behind floor (third). NU ranks in the top 10 on all other events as well. Individually, NU has three Huskers in the top 10 on four different events. Antonio Castro ranks ninth on pommel horse, while Anton Stephenson holds the same ranking on vault. Stephenson is also tied for 10th on floor, while Chris Stephenson is 10th in the all-around rankings.
Scouting the Iowa Hawkeyes
No. 8 Iowa recently placed second in a triangular meet with Minnesota and Arizona State on March 11. Junior Austin Hodges led the effort with a first-place finish on parallel bars, while senior Andrew Botto finished runner-up in the all-around. As of March 17, Botto is the highest-ranked Hawkeye, as he is tied for 10th in the vault rankings. He is the only Iowa gymnast in the top 10 on any event and the all-around. Other gymnasts to watch include seniors Cory Paterson, David Spanier and Mark Springett and junior Dylan Ellsworth.
The Hawkeyes are 5-9 on the season, including 1-8 in conference competition. Their only Big Ten victory came on March 4 against Penn State in the triangular meet with the Nittany Lions and Nebraska. Other conference losses include Illinois (twice) Ohio State, Minnesota (three times) and Michigan.
Iowa’s best event is vault. As of March 17, the Hawkeyes rank fourth with a four-score average of 71.750 and a season high of 72.65. Iowa also ranks in the top 10 on still rings (eighth), parallel bars (10th) and high bar (sixth).
Next Time Up
Nebraska returns to the Bob Devaney Sports Center to face Minnesota for its last home meet of the season on March 25 at 4 p.m. It will be televised on BTN, BTN2GO and the BTN mobile app. The competition will serve as Senior Day for Coleman Tokar and Austin Epperson. It will also be the last home meet for junior Sanjaya Roy, as he is transferring to attend graduate school after the 2017 season. The trio will be honored for their leadership and dedication to the men’s gymnastics program immediately after the awards ceremony.
The 2017 roster includes only two seniors in Austin Epperson and Coleman Tokar. The team will depend on its largest class - the nine juniors, to help the seniors lead the team both inside and outside of the gym. The upperclassmen are getting help from a talented group of underclassmen. Sophomores Jordan King, Anton Stephenson and Heath Anderson, as well as freshmen Jake Bonnay, Evan Hymanson and Josh Martin are all regular parts of the Husker lineups.
College Gymnastics Association writer Logan Bradley praised the Huskers in one of his weekly articles saying, “Nebraska is showing a resurgence that they haven’t seen in years. The Huskers should be taken seriously.“
Back in the Swing of Things
Nebraska is enjoying the return of several gymnasts who were injured in 2016. Juniors Travis Gollott, Chris Stephenson and Brenon Sommers are regular parts of the lineups on many events for the Huskers. Gollott has competed on pommel horse in every meet so far this season for the Huskers. Stephenson has been a steady all-arounder and earned Big Ten Gymnast of the Week twice this season. As a still rings specialist, Sommers is helping the team on that event.
Strong Floor & Iron Horse
Last season, floor and pommel horse were consistently two of the Huskers’ best events. The team broke the school record on both events last season, while Kyle King and Ethan Lottman broke the individual records on floor and pommel horse, respectively. This season, the Huskers are continuing the trend, thanks to consistent performances from Chris and Anton Stephenson, Antonio Castro, Kyle King, Jordan King, Connor Adamsick, Jake Bonnay, Travis Gollott and Austin Epperson.
Brothers Chris and Anton Stephenson have been nightmares for the competition this season. Although this is the second season the brothers have been on the team together, Chris was out most of last season with an injury. Now that both Chris and Anton are regularly in the lineups, the duo has been dynamic for the Huskers. The Stephensons combine for nine individual titles so far this season and hold the highest scores on three events and the all-around. Additionally, Chris placed in the top 15 at the Winter Cup Finals on Feb. 18, while Anton was the first Husker to break the 15.0 mark this season after scoring changes prior to 2017 typically lower scores by 0.5. His vault mark of 15.10 is the second-highest vault score in the country. Both Chris and Anton have claimed Big Ten Gymnast-of-the-Week this season at least once. Chris on Jan. 23 and March 6, and Anton on Feb. 27. In his Week 8 recap, CGA’s Logan Bradley said the following of the Stephensons: “Chmelka and co. can thank their lucky stars that they’ve got Chris and Anton Stephenson on the roster... What a cool story it would be if the two can lead Nebraska to their first top-six NCAA finish since 1999.”
Vaulting to Victory
Vault has been consistently the Huskers’ best event this season. It’s the only event that NU has scored at least 70.0 or more in every meet this season. The only 15.0 score for the Huskers this season came from Anton Stephenson on the event against UIC on Feb. 26. Nebraska has set a season-high score on the event the past two consecutive meets.