The top half of the Big Ten proved that it shouldn’t be overlooked during the 2019 postseason. With a mix of big name and under-the-radar recruits, 2020 could be a big year for these five teams.
The 2020 season will be here before we know it! And with preseason training in full swing, it’s time to start looking at the teams and how they might fare when the action kicks off in January—from who’s expected to compete, holes coaches need to fill, exciting upgrades you might see and more.
No. 5 Michigan
Losing the duo of Olivia Karas and Emma McLean will have an affect on this team, not just because of their gymnastics, but also their leadership. The stellar recruiting class has big skills to offer but will need to quickly transition into college roles to fill that void. Sydney Townsend’s status with the team remains unknown, but she is suspected to be off the roster.
|Losses:||Olivia Karas, Emma McLean, Sydney Townsend|
|Gains:||Sierra Brooks, Abigail Gaies, Nicoletta Koulos, Gabryel Wilson|
|Returning From Injury:||Maggie O’Hara (Achilles)|
Potential Contributors: Natalie Wojcik (9.955 NQS), Abby Brenner (9.855), Anne Maxim (9.810), Maddie Mariani (9.760), Madison Osman (9.700), Lexi Funk (9.755 in 2018), Sierra Brooks, Nicoletta Koulos, Gabryel Wilson
How It Looked Before: Vault was one of the Wolverines’ best events in 2019, led by Wojcik’s consistently near-perfect Yurchenko one and a half.
How It Looks Now: Brooks and Wilson both bring Yurchenko one and a halfs, which they competed successfully in J.O., and the former is the 2019 Senior D J.O. national champion on the event. Those two 10.0 options are likely to appear in the lineup. Koulos has a solid full that will compete with Funk, Osman, Mariani and Heiskell for remaining spots.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Look for vault to hold steady as a strong event.
Potential Contributors: Natalie Wojcik (9.910 NQS), Abby Brenner (9.875), Maddie Mariani (9.860), Lauren Farley (9.830), Anne Maxim (9.815), Maggie O’Hara, Abby Heiskell, Sierra Brooks, Gabryel Wilson, Nicoletta Koulos, Abigail Gaies
How It Looked Before: Bars was Michigan’s weakest piece in 2019 and was inconsistent. Karas was the team’s top performer by NQS, but Wojcik and Brenner weren’t far behind.
How It Looks Now: This class isn’t full of natural swingers, but all four bring a single bar release and clean work. Look for Wilson’s straight-body double layout and Brooks’ full-twisting double layout dismounts to challenge for lineup spots. Koulos and Gaies both show potential and could appear as well if they can find consistency. O’Hara will be a returning option.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Bars should be a touch stronger for the Wolverines this year, though that hinges on underclassmen hitting.
Potential Contributors: Natalie Wojcik (9.930 NQS), Lauren Farley (9.895), Lexi Funk (9.885), Madison Osman (9.830), Maddie Mariani (9.800), Maggie O’Hara, Gabryel Wilson, Sierra Brooks
How It Looked Before: Beam started out rocky in 2019, but once the Wolverines found their footing in early February, it became one of their best and most reliable events.
How It Looks Now: Brooks joins Michigan as one of the top J.O. beamers of 2019; she is the reigning Senior D champion on the event and has a perfect 10 to her name. Her triple series, big front toss, double tuck dismount and comfortable posture should make an immediate impact. Wilson also brings a strong set, led by her stellar split positions. O’Hara is most likely to appear here.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? With added depth, beam should be even better in 2020.
Potential Contributors: Natalie Wojcik (9.910 NQS), Abby Brenner (9.865), Madison Osman (9.810), Lexi Funk (9.655), Abby Heiskell, Lauren Farley, Maggie O’Hara, Sierra Brooks, Gabryel Wilson, Nicoletta Koulos
How It Looked Before: Floor was Karas and McLean’s swan song in 2019, as both seniors shined here. This is where they will be most missed.
How It Looks Now: Adding two J.O. floor champions to the roster should help the Wolverines stay strong on the event: Brooks won the Senior D title, and Wilson Senior E. Both compete a comfortable full-in, and Wilson’s split positions—including in her straddle one and a half—are exquisite. To top it off, Wilson’s performance quality was made for NCAA-style floor. Koulos is also a very realistic option, with a big triple twist and strong presence.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Michigan floor will be on the rise.
Michigan has all the tools to bounce back from the loss of its dynamic duo in Karas and McLean and race to another strong finish in 2020. The question facing this team is in leadership. The seniors gave much more to the Wolverines than just gymnastics, and they’ll leave a vacuum behind. Will the rising upperclassmen be able to lead the way?
Hitting is also crucial for this team, both from newcomers and veterans. Brooks and Wilson need to find quick success if the Wolverines are going to improve on their 2019 finish and qualify to the NCAA finals in 2020, but some of the more inconsistent returners have work to do as well to push the team forward.
No. 13 Minnesota
The Gophers rocketed to a huge finish in 2019, breaking the usual Michigan-Nebraska one-two finish in the conference. They’re losing only one postseason routine and have big talent coming in.
|Losses:||Rachel Cutler, Selena Ung|
|Gains:||Maya Albertin, Kate Grotenhuis, Mallory LeNeave, Halle Remlinger, Maddie Quarles (sophomore, transfer from Denver)|
Potential Contributors: Lexy Ramler (9.885 NQS), Ona Loper (9.870), Paige Williams (9.845), Ali Sonier (9.800), Tiarre Sales (9.790), Kristen Quaglia (9.770), Maddie Quarles, Halle Remlinger
How It Looked Before: The Gophers were a pace behind the top teams on vault, due in large part to lower difficulty. Ramler and Loper had the only 10.00 starts.
How It Looks Now: Transfer Quarles, who did not compete in 2019, performed a stickable Yurchenko one and a half in J.O. Assuming she’s healthy, she should make an immediate impact here. Remlinger brings a strong full that should see lineup time as well.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? The Gophers aren’t losing a single vault and are gaining two strong options and a host of respectable Yurchenko fulls. Vault will improve in 2020.
Potential Contributors: Ivy Lu (9.935 NQS), Lexy Ramler (9.920), Tiarre Sales (9.875), Ona Loper (9.840), Hannah Willmarth (9.835), Kristen Quaglia (9.795), Lexi Montgomery, Casey Betts, Tiarre Sales, Maddie Quarles
How It Looked Before: Bars was the Gophers’ best and most consistent event in 2019, led by Lu and Ramler. The team never scored below 49.025.
How It Looks Now: The 2020 recruits are not the strongest bars squad; Quarles is the best of the bunch.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Since the Gophers aren’t losing any routines here, bars should hold steady in 2020.
Potential Contributors: Lexy Ramler (9.945 NQS), Ivy Lu (9.875), Tiarre Sales (9.875), Ona Loper (9.840), Ali Sonier (9.810), Mary Korlin-Downs (9.785), Lexi Montgomery, Kaitlyn Higgins, Abbie Nylin, Maddie Quarles
How It Looked Before: Beam was, overall, strong for the Gophers in 2019, though the team had a few off weeks. The core of Ramler, Lu, Korlin-Downs and Sales were largely consistently solid.
How It Looks Now: Quarles brings some big skills, including a triple series and a front toss to layout stepout to one knee; with cleaned up form, she could appear in the lineup. If any of the rest of the class challenges for a spot, they will need to become more consistent.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? This lineup should largely look the same and hold steady in 2020.
Potential Contributors: Paige Williams (9.920), Lexy Ramler (9.885), Ona Loper (9.870), Ali Sonier (9.820), Kristen Quaglia, Kaitlyn Higgins, Abbie Nylin, Lexi Montgomery, Halle Remlinger, Maddie Quarles
How It Looked Before: Floor was Minnesota’s weakness. While the core of the lineup was strong, it was finding the final one or two routines to fill out the top six that caused inconsistencies and kept the Gophers from big totals.
How It Looks Now: Floor is where Remlinger will shine for the Gophers; she brings a piked full-in. Likewise, Quarles has a full-in, something she has shown in training this summer.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? The addition of Remlinger and Quarles to 2019’s lineup should secure Minnesota here; look for floor to trend up.
The Gophers will want to build on their strong 2019 season. They lose almost no routines, gain several big sets and fill out their depth with this class.
The question for Minnesota will be whether Ramler, Lu and Loper can continue to score with the best in the nation. If all three continue to progress nationally, and the rest of the team stays consistent, the Gophers will be a nationals contender in 2020.
No. 14 Nebraska
The Huskers slipped a bit in 2019 and are losing three big contributors. A strong class, including the late addition of Italian Clara Colombo, and Kynsee Roby’s return from injury should bolster the team in 2020.
|Losses:||Kelly Chung, Sienna Crouse, Caitlyn Orel, Megan Schweihofer, Megan Thompson (transfer to Arizona State), Rachel Thompson (retired)|
|Gains:||Clara Colombo, Kylie Piringer, Kat Thaler|
|Returning From Injury:||Kynsee Roby (knee surgery)|
Potential Contributors: Taylor Houchin (9.885 NQS), Adnerys De Jesus (9.845), Anika Dujakovich (9.815), Megan Verceles Carr (9.815), Kaylee Quinn (9.750), Sierra Hassel, Makayla Curtis, Abby Johnston, Kynsee Roby, Kylie Piringer, Kat Thaler
How It Looked Before: The Huskers had difficulty in 2019. They were the second team to put up six 10.0 vaults, after only Oklahoma, but unfortunately struggled with consistency, never hitting all six vaults in the same meet.
How It Looks Now: Thaler brings a Yurchenko half-on front tuck; if she can pike the vault, making it an Omelianchik, she’ll add another 10.0 start. Piringer has a solid Yurchenko full that is a definite lineup option.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Losing Sienna Crouse’s high-scoring 10.0 start could set the Huskers back, but perhaps the lack of pressure to put up six will help the team settle into more consistency. It’s too soon to tell.
Potential Contributors: Taylor Houchin (9.920 NQS), Megan Verceles Carr (9.845), Sarah Hargrove (9.800), Adnerys De Jesus (9.790), Abby Johnston, Kynsee Roby, Kat Thaler, Clara Colombo, Kylie Piringer
How It Looked Before: Nebraska’s bars depth was tested in 2019, and it often came up short. Inconsistency plagued the Huskers.
How It Looks Now: Thaler brings a natural swing and gorgeous lines, as well as a Pak, van Leeuwen and Jaeger, that should see lineup time. Piringer also has a strong set—including a Gienger—though she has been a bit inconsistent in J.O. Colombo struggled with some form issues in her elite set but has the extension and pieces to put together a successful NCAA routine. Roby’s return will also be a big factor here.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Bars should look better for Nebraska in 2020; with three more solid sets to pull from and Roby back in the lineup, the Huskers should have to test their depth less frequently.
Potential Contributors: Sierra Hassell (9.880 NQS), Taylor Houchin (9.870), Sarah Hargrove (9.770), Makayla Curtis (9.750), Kynsee Roby, Megan Verceles Carr, Clara Colombo, Kat Thaler
How It Looked Before: Beam was the event where all around star Houchin occasionally faltered, and when she did, the team struggled here.
How It Looks Now: Colombo brings a quick and confident beam pace that should make an impact. Thaler is a confident beamer with a solid set of skills as well and should make an immediate appearance in the lineup. Roby’s return to the event will also be welcome.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? It’s too soon to say whether Thaler, Colombo and Roby can lead this beam squad to a more consistent 2020.
Potential Contributors: Sierra Hassel (9.885 NQS), Taylor Houchin (9.855), Adnerys De Jesus (9.830), Abby Johnston (9.790), Sarah Hargrove, Kynsee Roby, Kylie Piringer, Kat Thaler, Clara Colombo
How It Looked Before: The Huskers’ relied heavily on seniors on floor in 2019; the rest of the squad was also solid. This was Nebraska’s best event.
How It Looks Now: Floor is Piringer’s event. She brings a strong double layout and engaging presence that will translate well to NCAA. Thaler has a unique style that emphasizes her flexibility and lines; she should also factor into the lineup. Colombo has a dynamic and expressive style that is an appealing option.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Floor should continue to be strong for Nebraska in 2020.
Nebraska will look to bounce back from a year that did not live up to the team’s expectations in 2019. Overall, the Huskers are gaining about as many routines as they are losing, so it is realistic to believe that they will have a strong 2020.
That success will depend a great deal on Roby’s ability to get back to her 2018 season form and whether the three freshmen can settle into their collegiate roles quickly.
No. 23 Illinois
The Illini closed 2019 stronger than they started it, but losing key contributors Mary Jane Otto and Haylee Roe presents a challenge. With a large incoming class and a duo returning from injury, Illinois’ lineups should look very different in 2020.
|Losses:||Rachael Donovan, Mary Jane Otto, Julia Hutcherson, Haylee Roe|
|Gains:||McKenzie Eddy, Maggie Lampsa, Olivia O’Donnell, Lexi Powe, Arayah Simons, Mia Takekawa, Mia Townes, Julia Waight|
|Returning From Injury:||Rae Balthazor (foot surgery), Mallory Mizuki (unknown)|
Potential Contributors: Kasey Meeks (9.850 NQS), Lindsay Dwyer (9.780), Karen Howell (9.755), Nicole Biondi (9.660), Rae Balthazor, Brittany Jones, Kylie Noonan, Shaylah Scott, Morgan Bixler, Mallory Mizuki, McKenzie Eddy, Lexi Powe, Mia Townes, Julia Waight
How It Looked Before: Vault was a weakness for the Illini, who have yet to put up a 10.0 start value since the devaluation of the Yurchenko full.
How It Looks Now: Eddy has trained a strong Yurchenko one and a half and competed a dynamic full. Powe has also trained the 10.0 start. Townes brings the strongest full of the bunch and should be in the lineup. Waight’s Yurchenko half is also a good option. If Mizuki is healthy, her Tsuk full should make an impact.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Illinois’ vault lineup is on the way up; with a few new, very good options—and a host of useable fulls—the Illini’s depth has doubled.
Potential Contributors: Karen Howell (9.865 NQS), Lindsay Dwyer (9.790), Kylie Noonan (9.730), Morgan Bixler (9.685), Nicole Biondi (9.665), Rae Balthazor, Brittany Jones, Mallory Mizuki, Arayah Simons, Mia Takekawa
How It Looked Before: Bars was very hit or miss for the Illini, including a few disastrous outings. Otto regularly revived the rotation.
How It Looks Now: Simons brings a quick swing and Ray that will be an asset, as will be Takekawa’s precise handstands. Mizuki and Balthazor will also be important.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Losing Otto is a big hurdle; whether the newcomers and returners can shore up this event is still up in the air.
Potential Contributors: Shaylah Scott (9.870 NQS), Karen Howell (9.815), Kylie Noonan (9.810), Rachel Borden (9.750), Nicole Biondi (9.725), Rae Balthazor, Brittany Jones, Mallory Mizuki, Arayah Simons, Mia Townes
How It Looked Before: Beam was Illinois’ strength in 2019, especially after adding Borden to the roster midseason. Scott proved to be a breakout star on the event.
How It Looks Now: Simons is excellent here, and should be a late-lineup routine. Townes should also be a factor. Balthazor and Mizuki will likely also secure this lineup.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Beam should continue to be Illinois’ best event and may surpass last year’s success.
Potential Contributors: Kylie Noonan (9.885 NQS), Karen Howell (9.855), Shaylah Scott (9.825), Tessa Phillips (9.750), Nicole Biondi (9.495), Lindsay Dwyer, Tessa Phillips, Rae Balthazor, Mallory Mizuki, McKenzie Eddy, Mia Takekawa, Olivia O’Donnell, Arayah Simons, Mia Townes
How It Looked Before: Floor was Illinois’ weakest event in 2019. Injuries and lineups in flux meant the Illini never settled into a solid six sets. Noonan and Scott emerged as the floor stars of the team.
How It Looks Now: Eddy, Takekawa and O’Donnell have excellent performance quality and will thrive with NCAA choreography, especially the style Nadalie Walsh has brought to Champaign. Simons will add powerful tumbling and dynamic performance, and Townes is also a realistic option.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? If need be, Illinois could entirely replace its lineup with newcomers and those returning from injury. With so much depth and big talent, floor should be on the rise.
Illinois eked out a respectable finish in 2019, led by surprise stars and on the heels of sixth-year Mary Jane Otto. Losing the latter could be a decisive blow, but the Illini are bringing in a quiet army of talent and regaining Balthazor and Mizuki from injury. This squad should be on the rise.
That success depends on consistency. The Illini will have the talent and the building blocks, but hitting when it counts is going to be a test for a team that had a lot of bizarre misses in 2019.
No. 24 Penn State
Penn State is losing several important routines, but a strong class plus the collegiate debut of 2019’s star recruit Dymiana Cox—after ACL surgery kept her out of her freshman campaign—should propel the Nittany Lions forward.
|Losses:||Amber Autry, Sabrina Garcia, Mason Hosek, Jessica Jones, Gianna LaGuardia|
|Gains:||Amy Bladon, Bella Romagnano, Cassidy Rushlow|
|Returning From Injury:||Dymiana Cox (ACL)|
Potential Contributors: Lauren Bridgens (9.830 NQS), Kourtney Chinnery (9.800), Alissa Bonsall (9.775), Melissa Astarita (9.740), Jessie Bastard, Amy Bladon, Bella Romagnano, Cassidy Rushlow
How It Looked Before: The Nittany Lions were always good but not great on vault in 2019, with too many 9.7s to break out on the event.
How It Looks Now: Bladon has competed a Yurchenko one and a half; No matter if she keeps the difficulty or drops to a full to emphasize execution, she should see lineup time. Romagnano and Rushlow each bring fulls that will add depth and may appear.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Having an additional 10.0 start should help Penn State more regularly hit the 49-mark here.
Potential Contributors: Lauren Bridgens (9.900 NQS), Alissa Bonsall (9.855), Tess McCracken (9.800), Kristen Politz (9.785), Ava Verdeflor (9720), Erynne Allen (9.705), Kourtney Chinnery, Cassidy Rushlow
How It Looked Before: Bars was Penn State’s best event, led by Bridgens’ clean work and consistency in the rest of the lineup.
How It Looks Now: Rushlow’s clean and consistent work should gain a lineup spot.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? Bars should remain strong for the Nittany Lions, who only lose Garcia’s routine.
Potential Contributors: Jessie Bastardi (9.840 NQS), Lauren Bridgens (9.835), Tess McCracken (9.810), Kristen Politz (9.735), Ava Verdeflor, Dymiana Cox, Cassidy Rushlow, Amy Bladon, Bella Romagnano
How It Looked Before: Beam was wildly inconsistent in 2019. Bastardi emerged as a star, and senior Hosek often led the way.
How It Looks Now: Cox’s return should help bolster this lineup; she has confident work and regularly scored well in J.O. Rushlow is precise, and though there are no recent videos of her beam work, her 2019 J.O. scores are largely strong. Bladon brings a calm and floaty style that will appeal to NCAA fans, though her 2019 Elite Canada set did not include an up-to-the-level dismount. Romagnano has lovely presence but will need to learn consistency to break into the top six.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? It’s always too early to tell with Penn State beam; the incoming options should add depth, but will the Nittany Lions be able to hit at least five routines week in and week out?
Potential Contributors: Lauren Bridgens (9.850 NQS), Melissa Astarita (9.845), Alissa Bonsall (9.820), Kourtney Chinnery (9.780), Erynne Allen, Tess McCracken, Dymiana Cox, Amy Bladon, Cassidy Rushlow, Bella Romagnano
How It Looked Before: The Nittany Lions struggled to put together a breakout floor lineup in 2019, and despite some strong performances from Astarita, Garcia, Bonsall and Bridgens, could never quite put it all together.
How It Looks Now: Floor is where Cox shines; her powerful and dynamic work will be a big asset. Bladon needs some polish but should benefit from NCAA composition. Rushlow should thrive with NCAA choreography, and her split positions are a big asset. Romagnano has all the pieces of a strong floor worker but has been inconsistent in the past.
Trending up, down or too early to tell? With so many new options, floor should be trending up for Penn State in 2020.
The Nittany Lions are losing some very important routines; Cox and the incoming class have work to do to replace them, but the pieces are all there.
The big question for this team is inconsistency. It’s what held Penn State back in 2019 and was a challenge for Romagnano in her J.O. career. If this team is going to break out of the mid-20s and into the teens, everyone—absolutely the entire roster—needs to learn to hit week after week.
Article by Emily Minehart
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