Potential Lineups: Big Ten Part I

Final rankings in the Big Ten were, in a word, weird last year. Some teams benefitted from the short season while others got cut off before peaking. That said, the top of the conference looked about as we expected. Michigan was a finals contender, and Minnesota had a chance to make a nationals run. The conference has a lot of exciting newcomers in 2021, making for some potentially drastic shifts in the conference rankings overall.

While there’s still so much uncertainty surrounding the upcoming season, it’s business as usual until we hear otherwise. That means it’s time for our annual potential lineups analysis! With preseason training in full swing for most teams, we’re breaking it all down and taking a look at every squad’s prospects for 2021—from who’s expected to contribute, holes that need to be filled and exciting upgrades fans should look out for.

No. 5 Michigan

The Wolverines are losing some reliable routines from Lexi Funk and Maggie O’Hara, but Madison Osman was injured and not a factor in 2020. Overall, Michigan is gaining more than it lost. We should be expecting no less than the NCAA finals from this squad.

Losses: Lexi Funk (BB, FX), Sam Javanbakht, Maggie O’Hara (UB, BB, grad transfer to Arkansas), Madison Osman
Gains: Carly Bauman, Reyna Guggino, Naomi Morrison, Jenna Mulligan
Returning From Injury: Anne Maxim (elbow)

Vault

Potential Contributors: Abby Brenner (9.910 NQS), Sierra Brooks (9.895), Gabby Wilson (9.880), Natalie Wojcik (9.870), Nicoletta Koulos (9.790), Abby Heiskell, Maddie Mariani, Carly Bauman, Naomi Morrison, Anne Maxim    

How It Looked Before: Vault was a standout piece for the Wolverines in 2020; they finished No. 4 on the event with a parade of strong Yurchenko one and a halfs. Heiskell and Mariani didn’t compete enough to have an NQS, but the duo nevertheless put up solid scores. Brenner and Brooks each notched 9.975s in the shortened season, and only Koulos’ average was below a 9.800, at 9.797.

How It Looks Now: Morrison is bringing a big and stickable one and a half with her to Ann Arbor. Maxim, assuming she’s healthy, also has a strong Tsuk full. Bauman will add a very solid Yurchenko full to the mix and could step in, putting pressure on the fulls from Koulos, Heiskell and Mariani.

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Up, as impossible as it seams. We’ll expect to see a full 10.0 lineup from this crew at least some of the time (Brenner, Brooks, Wilson, Morrison, Wojick, Maxim).

Bars

Potential Contributors: Wojcik (9.895), Brooks (9.880), Heiskell (9.855), Brenner (9.850), Wilson (9.850), Mariani (9.835), Lauren Farley, Maxim, Morrison, Bauman   

How It Looked Before: Bars was just fine in 2020, which seems dramatic to say for a No. 8 national ranking, but the Wolverines just didn’t have enough 9.9-plus routines to ever be great here. Wojick faltered more than we’ve come to expect.  

How It Looks Now: Maxim’s return could be a factor; she scored as high as 9.900 in 2019. Morrison brings a clean swing and full-twisting double tuck that will add value to the lineup. This is one of Bauman’s best events: She has great lines, solid handstands and consistency.  

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Bars should stay about the same for the Wolverines. Bauman and Morrison will bolster the event, and there will be increased depth, but returning team members need to refine details if this apparatus is going to improve overall.

Beam

Potential Contributors: Wojcik (9.915), Brooks (9.890), Farley (9.825), Mariani (9.800), Heiskell, Koulos, Wilson, Bauman, Morrison, Reyna Guggino 

How It Looked Before: Beam was Michigan’s weakest event last year. Routines got bogged down in the 9.800s—or even 9.700s—which meant a fall in the lineup often meant counting a score Michigan would rather not. 

How It Looks Now: Bauman is great here, too; her straight-leg side somi is a highlight. Morrison had some consistency issues in level 10 but is certainly an option. We can expect her to fight for the last spot in this lineup with Heiskell, Wilson, Koulos and Guggino. All add depth, and consistency will likely determine who slots into the No. 2 spot in the lineup. If we see Head Coach Bev Plocki playing with lineups and using exhibitions on one event, it will likely be here. 

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Up, by a hair. Bauman is the difference-maker, coming in stronger than the lost routines (Funk, O’Hara). However, that doesn’t solve the final lineup spot problem, nor last year’s wobbles and bobbles. 

Floor

Potential Contributors: Wilson (9.905), Wojcik (9.895), Brooks (9.895), Brenner (9.870), Koulos (9.790), Farley, Heiskell, Morrison, Bauman, Guggino  

How It Looked Before: The Wolverines were solid on floor. Some of the early routines didn’t score high enough to push the team total into the stratosphere, but the event was trending in the right direction when the season ended. 

How It Looks Now: Morrison will shine here. She scored as high as a 9.900 in her last level 10 season, and showed a solid full-twisting double back in Michigan’s floor intrasquad this month. Bauman brings a front double full and will also play a role while Guggino adds depth.

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Up. The Wolverines lose only Funk’s serviceable floor set, replacing it with dynamic work from Morrison, Bauman and added depth.

Overall Outlook

Things are looking up in Ann Arbor. Morrison and Bauman are banner additions, and overall depth is improving. With more strong routines coming in than leaving, Michigan is poised for a finals run in 2021. Frankly, anything less would be a disappointment.

Vault and floor are fairly locked in. On bars and beam the big concern is whether the early lineup routines can produce high enough scores to nudge the team total where it needs to go.

No. 10 Minnesota

Minnesota was having a headline season before everything was shut down in March, pushing toward an elusive 198. Paige Williams and Ivy Lu were both late-lineup standouts on their events, and losing both at once leaves big shoes to fill. The large freshman class—headlined by Mya Hooten—may just be up to the task, but Minnesota will be expecting a lot from the newcomers. The Gophers will be hungry for a nationals berth in 2021.

Losses: Casey Betts (UB, FX), Kaitlyn Higgins (transfer to Nebraska), Ivy Lu (UB, BB), Kristen Quaglia (VT, UB), Paige Williams (VT, FX)
Gains: Erin Fortman, Gianna Gerdes, Mya Hooten, Katie Horak, Emily Koch, Ella Sirjord
Returning From Injury: Kate Grotenhuis (back), Mallory LeNeave

Vault

Potential Contributors: Ona Loper (9.890 NQS), Maddie Quarles (9.880), Lexy Ramler (9.875), Tiarre Sales, Halle Remlinger, Ali Sonier, Mya Hooten, Katie Horak, Emily Koch 

How It Looked Before: Vault was one of Minnesota’s weaker events in 2020. Loper, Quarles, Ramler and Williams were standouts, but the other two spots were often a step below. Head Coach Jenny Hansen never quite found her perfect six to make this lineup shine.

How It Looks Now: None of the freshmen are vault standouts. Hooten’s full is strong, but not foolproof; she has some issues that NCAA judges can be ruthless on, like piking down on the landing. She did show a one and a half at the Gophers’ intrasquad in October, though. Likewise, Horak and Koch have decent but slightly problematic fulls. Kate Grotenhuis—who is returning from injury—says she is also training a one and a half, though she has only shown fulls in training so far.

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too early to tell. Losing Williams here is a blow, and the incoming fulls are just not up to what she could produce. If one of Hooten or Grotenhuis can compete a one and a half, it will be a good sign, but the last two lineup spots will likely still be problematic for Minnesota. 

Bars 

Potential Contributors: Ramler (9.935), Sales (9.865), Loper (9.835), Willmarth (9.755), Maya Albertin, Mallory LeNeave, Lexi Montgomery, Hooten
How It Looked Before: Bars was a standout for Minnesota in 2020. The back half of the lineup was always stellar. Sales had a breakout year on the event, and Ramler finished No. 6 nationally.

How It Looks Now: We’ve seen a lot of Albertin in training updates, but her set has a fatal flaw: a hybrid Deltchev/Gienger. We assume she’s attempting a Deltchev (the higher-valued skill), but it’s so messy it’s almost certainly going to be downgraded to a Gienger. Hooten is a solid option here, though she was inconsistent in level 10. It seems likely that we’ll see routines from non-freshmen who haven’t appeared in this lineup before.

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Down. The Gophers are losing their steady leadoff in Quaglia and a regular 9.9-plus in Lu. There are many options, but it’s hard to see a path to replacing Lu’s scores.  

Beam

Potential Contributors: Ramler (9.975), Sales (9.895), Loper (9.880), Korlin-Downs (9.845), Sonier (9.815), Montgomery, Abbie Nylin, Hooten, Horak, Koch 

How It Looked Before: Beam was Minnesota’s signature event, led by back-to-back 10.0s from Ramler, the No. 1 beamer in the nation. Sales—with a 9.975 peak—and Lu were also dynamic. The entire standard six had average scores above 9.800.  

How It Looks Now: We saw a strong set from Nylin at the Gophers’ intrasquad and may see her slot into the lineup. All three of Hooten, Horak and Koch put up strong showings as well and may fight for a spot, with Hooten the most likely.

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too soon to tell. With a number of solid routines to play with, Minnesota should be able to hold steady; it all depends on having someone break out and become capable of replacing those 9.9-plus numbers from Lu.

Floor

Potential Contributors: Loper (9.900), Remlinger (9.860), Ramler (9.840), Sales (9.815), Sonier (9.785), Hooten, Koch, Erin Fortman  

How It Looked Before: Floor was a weakness in 2020, with some inconsistency from Ramler and a bit of a struggle to find a locked-in sixth routine. Sales eventually filled that spot.  

How It Looks Now: Hooten is the headline here. She’ll be a floor star and should anchor this lineup, with both a full-in and front double full. This is also Koch’s best event; she brings a front double full as well, as does Fortman.   

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Up. Hooten will be able to more than replicate Williams’ scores here, and Koch and Fortman may help ease some of the early lineup score stagnation.

Overall Outlook

Minnesota should hold about steady in 2021 and will make a run at nationals. That said, the Gophers are asking a lot of Hooten. Can the freshman replace all four stalwart routines from Williams and Lu? On floor, the answer is easily yes. On the other three pieces? We’ll have to wait and see.

No. 19 Nebraska

The Huskers had a bad 2020, finishing the year with their lowest ranking in at least 20 years. They graduated two stars and lost three transfers. That’s 16 2020 competition routines out the door. The incoming class plus Minnesota transfer Kaitlyn Higgins is large, but 2021 will be an uphill battle.

Losses: Addy De Jesus (AA, transfer to Iowa State), Sierra Hasse (VT, BB, FX)l, Taylor Houchin (AA), Abby Johnston (FX, transfer to Arkansas), Kaylee Quinn (AA, transfer to Alabama)
Gains: Martina Comin, Kinsey Davis, Joanne de Jesus-Cortes, Kaitlyn Higgins (transfer from Minnesota), Chloe Lorange, Danielle Press, Caroline Williams
Returning From Injury: Sarah Hargrove (shoulder)

Vault

Potential Contributors: Megan Verceles Carr (9.835), Anika Dujakovich (9.825), Kylie Piringer (9.760), Makayla Curtis (9.705), Kynsee Roby, Kinsey Davis, Danielle Press 

How It Looked Before: Vault was Nebraska’s best event in 2020, led by stickable one and a halfs from  Houchin and De Jesus. 

How It Looks Now: Roby will need to be back in top vault form in 2021. Of the newcomers, Davis has a workable full, and Press brings a Yurchenko half that is very powerful but wild. If she can bring it under control, she will be an option. 

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Down. No one on the roster is capable of replacing the vaults the Huskers lost.

Bars

Potential Contributors: Colombo (9.820), Verceles Carr (9.810), Thaler (9.755), Piringer (9.715), Hargrove, Roby, Davis, Lorange  

How It Looked Before: The Huskers struggled on bars. The late-lineup routines just never hit the 9.9-plus numbers the Huskers needed, and the early routines struggled to break into the 9.8s.  

How It Looks Now: Hargrove’s return should be a boost, and if she is back to competition shape, Roby should be as well. Davis, with a Hindorff and double layout, should slot into this lineup, as should Lorange with her clean swing.

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too soon to tell. Davis and Lorange are both great options, but it remains to be seen if they will be able to break the 9.900 barrier.

Beam

Potential Contributors: Curtis (9.780), Verceles Carr (9.765), Roby, Thaler, Colombo, Williams, Davis, de Jesus-Cortes, Lorange    

How It Looked Before: Beam had big potential in 2020, but consistency issues held the Huskers back at No. 21. There were just too many 9.7s in this lineup, which dipped down to a low of 47.775 in January. Hassel was the star here.

How It Looks Now: Yikes. The incomers have a lot of potential, but Nebraska is down a lot of experience. Lorange is a dynamic beam worker and should see time. This is a good event for Davis, despite some built-in form deductions. Williams, who has a fun front toss to scale, need a bit more polish to be lineup-ready.

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Down. While the freshmen are capable here, there’s a lot of uncertainty in this lineup—and no true standout routine to replace Hassel. 

Floor

Potential Contributors: Piringer (9.875), Curtis (9.825), Dujakovich, Higgins, Martina Comin, Williams, Davis, Lorange  

How It Looked Before: Floor was a good event for the Huskers; it was both high-scoring in the mid-49s and consistent. The lineup saw a lot of change over the course of the season, and Hassel again led the way.  

How It Looks Now: Of the eight Huskers that competed this event in 2020, five are gone. This is Higgins’ most likely event, as well as the place we may see the Italian Comin. Williams has an NCAA-ready set, and Lorange is an exquisite dancer and has the most polished of the bunch.

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Down. While Williams and Lorange should lead the way for the freshmen, and Higgins is a welcome addition, there is just not enough star power to replace the likes of Hassel and de Jesus.

Overall Outlook

Nebraska is trending down. It lost too much to be able to rebuild in one year, and despite some shining spots in the newcomers, like Lorange on floor, there just isn’t enough to replace what has been lost. Can the Huskers muster enough to land a night session spot at the conference championship?

No. 24 Illinois

Illinois had a strong but inconsistent 2020. Mia Takekawa emerged as a star, and classmates Mia Townes and Arayah Simons showed hints of glory of their own. All arounder and team leader Rae Balthazor missed the entire season, so this squad already knows how to compete without her shoring up the end of lineups. 

Losses: Rae Balthazor, Morgan Bixler (UB), Karen Howell (AA), Brittany Jones (VT), Maggie Lampsa (retired)
Gains: Kaitlyn Ewald, Amelia Knight, Allie Morgan, Abby Mueller, Ashley Resch
Returning From Injury: Mallory Mizuki (ACL)

Vault

Potential Contributors: Mia Townes (9.805 NQS), Shaylah Scott (9.800), Arayah Simons (9.785), Nicole Biondi (9.750), Mia Takekawa (9.525), Julia Waight, Kasey Meeks, Mallory Mizuki, Kaitlyn Ewald, Amelia Knight, Abby Mueller, Ashley Resch  

How It Looked Before: Vault has been a black hole holding the Illini back for years, and 2020 was no exception. There were a handful of nice enough fulls and a handful of vaults lacking amplitude here.

How It Looks Now: If Mizuki’s knees are finally healthy, she has a lovely Tsuk full. Knight has trained a Yurchenko double, but competed a piked-down full. Mueller and Resch also have workable fulls, and Ewald competes a front handspring tuck half (9.9 SV).

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Up, mostly because there’s nowhere else to go. The freshmen bring a host of options that should help nudge Illinois a bit, but this will still be a huge weakness.

Bars

Potential Contributors: Takekawa (9.860), O’Donnell (9.840), Lexi Powe (9.775), Biondi (9.770), Borden (9.720), Jaylen Spence, Mizuki, Mueller, Knight    

How It Looked Before: Bars was a highlight for Illinois, led by Howell and Takekawa. The event could be inconsistent, but settled into the low 49s in late February and early March.

How It Looks Now: Mizuki has posted bars training updates; if we see her anywhere, it could be here. Knight is a bars trickster; she has a lot to choose from composition-wise. Mueller is also a solid option.

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too soon to tell. Howell’s departure will be felt at the end of this lineup, and while the freshmen have some big tricks, it remains to be seen if they can reign in their work enough to score well in college.

Beam

Potential Contributors: Takekawa (9.905), Scott (9.880), Kylie Noonan (9.860), Borden (9.770), Biondi (9.750), Simons, Mizuki, Mueller, Resch, Knight  

How It Looked Before: Beam was wildly inconsistent; it was Illinois’ best event, topping out at a huge 49.400, but it also dipped into the 47s.

How It Looks Now: Knight needs some polish but again brings a variety of skills from which to build her routine. Resch has the pieces, but needs to find some steadiness and consistency to be a realistic option. Mueller already performs like a collegiate beamer and should be a lineup lock. 

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Up. Mueller should slot into Howell’s lineup spot, and there is increased depth, especially if Mizuki is healthy. 

Floor

Potential Contributors: Simons (9.870), Scott (9.860), Noonan (9.840), Biondi (9.795), Townes (9.755), Takekawa, Waight, Mueller, Knight, Resch,  

How It Looked Before: Floor was strong for the Illini; coach Nadalie Walsh choreographs engaging routines and uses smart composition that plays to gymnasts’ strengths, and it pays off. The floor squad is losing only Howell.

How It Looks Now: Floor is Mueller’s best event; she brings a full-in and strong performance quality. Knight is also a lock here, with clean and stickable tumbling, including a front double full. Resch needs polish but will compete for a spot.

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Up. Mueller and Knight bring a lot to this event and will both replace Howell and solve final lineup spot questions.

Overall Outlook

Illinois is trending tentatively up. There is more depth, making beam and floor more secure, but vault remains questionable. It will determine how high the Illini can rise. Can this squad vault well enough, and find the consistency, to break into the top 20?

No. 25 Iowa

Iowa had a quietly great year in 2020. It’s impossible to say how the Hawkeyes would have performed in the postseason, but they were very consistent in the second half of the shortened season. With JerQuavia Henderson returning from an Achilles injury, Clair Kaji back for a fifth year, long-awaited freshman Adeline Kenlin joining the squad and zero routines graduated, this team has a lot of potential in 2021.

Losses: Gina Leal
Gains: Giovanna Deo, Emma Hartzler (re-joined team), Sophia Hunzelman, Adeline Kenlin, Caelen Lansing, Kareena McSweeny, Aubrey Nick
Returning From Injury: JerQuavia Henderson (Achilles)

Vault

Potential Contributors: Lauren Guerin (9.860 NQS), Bridget Killian (9.815), Ari Agrapides (9.790), Allyson Steffensmeier (9.765), Dani Castillo (9.745), Madelyn Solomon (9.740), Alexandra Greenwald (9.700), JerQuavia Henderson, Adeline Kenlin 

How It Looked Before: The Hawkeyes were decent on vault, led by an explosive full from Guerin, who had a breakout season in 2020. The event hovered consistently around the 49 mark.

How It Looks Now: A healthy Henderson will immediately be a factor; she has shown her massive full in training updates. Expect her to score in the Guerin range. Kenlin is capable of a Yurchenko double, but we can expect her to downgrade. It won’t be too surprising if Head Coach Larissa Libby is cautious with Kenlin on the leg events, especially early in her career. Greenwald has been training a strong one and a half, an upgrade we anticipate seeing in competition.

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Up. Henderson is an instant boost, and Greenwald’s upgrade looks like the real deal.

Bars

Potential Contributors: Steffensmeier (9.855), Kaji (9.815), Erin Castle (9.800), Carina Tolan (9.770), Greenwald (9.615), Ellie Rogers (9.615), Mackenzie Vance (9.380), Madison Kampschroeder, Emma Hartzler, Henderson, Kenlin, McSweeny, Aubrey Nick  

How It Looked Before: Bars was Iowa’s least consistent event, with two fully disastrous rotations on the year. That said, when everything was working it was a group that hit as high as 49.225. 

How It Looks Now: Henderson has also shown bar work recently and may be an asset, although it is a weaker event for her. Kenlin also doesn’t thrive here, but with smart construction she could see lineup time. Nick has  the pieces of a solid collegiate routine, but they need to clean up their sets to be realistic options. McSweeny is capable, but had elbow surgery in August, so is a question mark.

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Too soon to tell. Some of 2020’s endemic consistency issues might rear their heads in 2021, and none of the incomers are particular standouts here.

Beam

Potential Contributors: Castillo (9.820), Killian (9.805), Kaji (9.800), Vance (9.790), Castle (9.780), Allie Gilchrist (9.745), Guerin, Kenlin, Henderson

How It Looked Before: Beam was the worst event for Iowa, barely able to creep into the 49s. While the totals were never extremely high, there were also no fully abysmal outings and relatively few major mistakes overall. The ceiling was low, but the floor was high.  

How It Looks Now: Kenlin thrives on beam, and it will be her signature piece in college. Henderson was inconsistent here in level 10 but can be extraordinary. Look for her double tuck dismount. 

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Up. The entire lineup is returning and will be bolstered by Kenlin and Henderson.

Floor

Potential Contributors: Guerin (9.920), Killian (9.840), Castle (9.825), Greenwald (9.825), Gilchrist (9.810), Agrapides (9.805), Kaji, Henderson, Kenlin, McSweeny, Nick, Caelen Lansing

How It Looked Before: Floor was Iowa’s signature event on the heels of Libby’s stellar choreography and strong work from Guerin in particular. Kaji was also brilliant in her four floor outings. The Hawkeyes topped out at a 49.400 here.

How It Looks Now: Henderson needs some collegiate polish, but assuming her Achilles is healthy enough for tumbling, watch out for her full-in in the rafters and excellent leaps. Kenlin has struggled on floor since returning to level 10 but is certainly capable of a strong college routine, especially with smart construction. Nick and Lansing add depth, as does McSweeny pending her health.  

Trending up, down or too early to tell? Up. With increased depth Libby will have the luxury of playing with the lineup. If Henderson and Kaji’s Achilles are up for floor work, they will both add 9.9-level sets. 

Overall Outlook

Iowa is on its way up. A healthy Henderson alone is enough to make that case for a team losing no routines, but with a number of realistic routines from Kenlin and McSweeny if she’s healthy, and depth from the other freshmen, this team has a lot of added potential. The biggest remaining question is whether Kaji, Henderson and Kenlin will all be healthy enough at the same time to catapult Iowa farther up the Big Ten ladder, especially pressing with Maryland hot on its heels.

READ THIS NEXT: Potential Lineups: SEC Part II


Article by Emily Minehart

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