Meixi Semple Iowa State

LIVE BLOG: No. 35 Iowa State at No. 7 Auburn

It’s another jam-packed Friday of NCAA gymnastics! Conference matchups have begun around the country, but tonight I’ll be bringing you an SEC vs. Big 12 showdown as the Iowa State Cyclones travel to Auburn. This will be the first home meet of Auburn’s 2022 season, and the Auburn Arena debut of Olympic Champion Sunisa Lee. The atmosphere is sure to be electric as both teams try to improve their performances from last weekend.

Iowa State comes into this competition having not had the start to the season it would have preferred. The Cyclones competed at the Chow’s Winter Classic Cup last Friday, where they were bested by Temple 194.525-194.025. The team counted falls on beam and floor, although scores on vault and bars did improve from week one. Freshman Hannah Loyim competed in the all around for the first time, setting or tying personal bests on three events. She and junior Maddie Diab, currently tied for No. 19 nationally on floor, have been bright spots in lineups facing a ton of pressure from season-ending injuries. Another devastating loss was announced on Tuesday, when senior superstar Addy De Jesus posted on Instagram that she would not be competing this season. De Jesus was the 2021 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year after transferring from Nebraska, and posted big all around scores in nearly every meet last season. Iowa State will have to rely on stronger performances from its remaining athletes as well as its large freshman class if it wants to make another run at the postseason.

Auburn, in contrast, is off to a great start in 2022, nearly posting a school record road score last Friday to take down conference rival Arkansas 197.250-197.200. The performance was enough to bump the Tigers up to No. 7 in this week’s national rankings. Sophia Groth was named the SEC Co-Freshman of the week after posting career highs on vault and floor and nailing a 9.900 in her first appearance on beam. Fellow freshman Sunisa Lee earned a 9.950 for her restructured bars routine, and made her highly anticipated debut on floor with a 9.875. Auburn’s young talent has deservedly received a lot of hype, but the strong all around scores provided by junior Cassie Stevens and the huge potential of seniors Derrian Gobourne and Drew Watson cannot be denied. Expect dynamic performances from the Tigers as they compete in front of their home crowd for the first time this season.

Iowa State is still looking for its first win in 2022, and oh boy, would this be a big one. An upset against an SEC powerhouse would put the nation on notice, and Auburn will do all that it can to prevent that. The Tigers have big goals for this season, and will be looking for more than a win tonight. They want to prove that they are more than Sunisa Lee and company, capable of posting huge team scores in the SEC and beyond.

Are you ready for some incredible non-conference action? I can’t wait!

Iowa State projected lineups

Auburn projected lineups: Vault Bars Beam Floor

Update: Sunisa Lee will be competing bars and beam tonight.

Rotation 1: Auburn VT, Iowa State UB

Glenn (Auburn): Good Yurchenko full, a bit of pike down and a single step slightly forward and to the side. 9.725.

Maxwell (ISU): Perfect first handstand, big Yaeger caught well, good handstand in the bail and good final handstand. Great form on the dismount and a small hop back. Great start for Iowa State! 9.825.

Walsh (Auburn): Nice straight body on the Yurchenko full with a nearly stuck landing. She’s excited about that one! 9.800.

Palacios (ISU): Good first handstand, a bit close on the piked Yaeger, arches her back in the next handstand but recovers well, sticks the double layout! 9.850.

Groth (Auburn): Sticks the Yurchenko full! A bit of bent knees and leg separation in the air. Wonderful way to perform in your first home vault! 9.875.

Loyim (ISU): Strong first handstand, beautiful floaty piked Yaeger, tight form on the Pak and transitions. Great double layout dismount with a small hop back. That will be a big number when she sticks! 9.800.

Hubbard (Auburn): Yurchenko one and a half, huge distance but a bit of knee bend in the air and a hop forward. 9.850.

Cooke (ISU): Nice Shaposh to start, hits the high bar handstand, tight form on the double layout but a big hop back. 9.775.

Watson (Auburn): Good Yurchenko one and a half, knees slightly bent in the air and a small hop to the side. 9.875.

Basuel (ISU): Great first handstand, HUGE straddle Yaeger, hits the bail and final handstand, piked in the first flip on the double layout dismount but hits the landing with a small hop back. 9.775.

Gobourne (Auburn): Big Yurchenko one and a half, great form in the air but takes a step forward and the back foot also comes off the mat. 9.850.

Orrego (ISU): Big arch on the low bar handstand, hits the pak and Shaposh transition, almost gets caught on the low bar half pirouette, good final handstand, releases a bit too early on the double layout and has to pike down but escapes with just a hop forward. 9.600.

McLaughlin (Auburn, exbhibition) : Yurchenko full on back tuck off, small hop back and low chest on landing.

AFTER ONE: Auburn 49.250, Iowa State 49.025

A strong start for both teams, although neither one was exactly on fire with their landings. Auburn had some huge vaults and did three one and a halves today (plus exhibitioning another 10.0 start!) The Tigers could be in for some big scores later in the season. Iowa State had wonderful form overall on bars, with high-flying release moves. There would likely have been some 9.9s without the hops on dismounts. That was by far a season high bars score for the Cyclones – let’s hope they can keep the momentum in the next rotation!

Rotation 2: Iowa State VT, Auburn UB

Orrego (ISU): Good Yurchenko full, slightly piked and a big hop back. 9.750.

Watson (Auburn): Slightly short on the first handstand, hits the Ray, good final handstand, beautiful form on the full-twisting double back and nails the landing. Wonderful start! 9.850.

Loyim (ISU): Oh no! Hand slipped on the table and hits her feet as she goes into the twist. She landed flat on her back and looks shaken, but is walking away after coach and trainer observation. Hope she’s okay! 7.000.

Stevens (Auburn): Great Ray to start, slightly short on the final handstand, whips the double layout around and nearly sticks the landing. 9.850.

Bergstrom (ISU): HUGE Yurchenko full, beautiful form in the air, just the hop back. 9.850.

Smith (Auburn): Hits the Shaposh to Pak transition, strong final handstand, a bit of bent knees and under rotated on the double layout, small hop forward. 9.725.

Boychuk (ISU): Another big Yurchenko full, slightly piked in the air, hop back. 9.800.

Brusch (Auburn): Huge air time on the Shaposh and bail connection, slightly short on the final handstand, gigantic double layout with a small hop back. 9.875.

Hong (ISU): Sticks the Yurchenko one and a half! Not a ton of height or distance and a fairly deep squat on landing, but she’s pumped! 9.850.

Gobourne (Auburn): Nice first handstand, big amplitude on the Tkatchev to Pak salto, hits the final handstand, great form on the full-twisting double back and a stuck landing. Should be a huge score! 9.900.

Maxwell (ISU): Great Yurchenko one and a half, nearly sticks the landing! Just a bit of a lean. So glad the Cyclones were able to recover from the early low score! 9.900.

Update: I either misread Maxwell’s score originally as 9.825 or there was an error with live stats. Regardless, she’ll win the event!

Lee (Auburn): Nice first handstand, beautiful form on the Maloney to Pak to immediate Maloney half, hits the final handstand and does a great full-twisting double back dismount, just a small hop back. 9.900.

Sabados (Auburn, exhibition): Great Ray and strong form throughout, good form on the full-twisting double back dismount, sticks the landing. Good for her!

Did I hear the commentators say that Auburn coaches think Suni might be ready for all around in 2-3 weeks? *intrigued emoji*

Rotation 2 Scores: Iowa State 49.150, Auburn 49.375

AFTER TWO: Auburn 98.625, Iowa State 98.175

Another set of strong routines in the second rotation! Iowa State recovered from Loyim’s scary vault with two (nearly) stuck landings for another season-high event score. Auburn was great on bars, but again there were some hops on landings that kept a few routines from scoring huge. Both teams are on pace for their highest scores of the season if they compete well on beam and floor. It’s shaping up to be a good one!

Rotation 3: Auburn BB, Iowa State FX

Hollingsworth (Auburn): Perfect full turn to start, hits the bhs loso series well, pause in the switch leap to switch half connection, slight wobble on the split three-quarter, finishes with an aerial to layout full and sticks the landing. A solid start for the Tigers on beam. 9.875.

Boychuk (ISU): Great double pike to open, maybe some flexed feet if you want to be picky. Second pass is a one and a half to front layout done well, hits the leap pass, finishes with a strong double tuck, chest a tiny bit down on landing. Great first routine! 9.825.

Brusch (Auburn): No wobbles on the front aerial to split jump, no wobbles on the bhs loso series either. Doesn’t hit the split on the switch leap and pauses with a small wobble to break the connection to the straddle side. Finishes with a gainer full off the side and sticks the landing. 9.875.

Cooke (ISU): Starts with a front double twist to immediate stag jump, good landing on that. Hits the leap pass, and finishes with a one and a half to front full with a small step to the side. 9.825.

Stevens (Auburn): Bhs loso series off direction, but takes a step back with a small wobble to the side. Hits the leap well and does a perfect Stevens (front toss to kneeling). Quick wolf turn no wobbles, and finishes with a stuck dismount. Another strong routine. 9.825.

Wilke (ISU): Floor debut for this big tumbler, and she opens with a high piked full-in, just a small step forward. Second pass one and a half to front layout, great landing there. Big double pike to finish, but over rotates and has to take two or three steps back. She also stepped out of bounds with both feet. 9.600.

Groth (Auburn): Bhs loso bhs series with no wobbles. Doesn’t quite hit splits on either switch leap or switch half. Beautiful straight legs on all her skills, including a nailed front aerial. Solid side aerial to full twist dismount with a stuck landing! She’s a star. 9.900.

Andrea Maldonado (ISU): Good front double to punch front, nearly sticks but shuffles backward slightly. Big double pike second pass with a controlled lunge back. Hits the leap pass well, and finishes with a Rudi. Front foot slides back a bit but that’s her best routine so far this season. 9.875!

McLaughlin (Auburn): Split leap to bhs loso series hit well. Slightly bent at the hips on the side aerial but no wobble, slight lean on the full turn. Great toe point on her leap series and no balance check. Finishes with a gainer pike off the end with a nice stick. She’s excited about it! Auburn has officially survived beam. 9.900.

Diab (ISU): Beautiful front double twist punch front layout, she has great form and gets so much air on the connected skill. Second pass is a one and a half front layout to stag jump, another good landing. Finishes with a Rudi punch back loso, gets slightly hung up in the air but pulls it around with just the chest down. Great routine! 9.900.

Lee (Auburn): Wobble on the wolf turn to start, nothing major. Another wobble on the front aerial. Side aerial to loso series, way off and unfortunately can’t save it. She’s a bit shaken, and doesn’t hit split in either of her leaps. Finishes with a bhs gainer full off the side, just a small hop back. 9.425.

Parker (ISU): Big piked full-in to start, but takes two steps and goes out of bounds. Hits the leap series and one and a half to front layout second pass. Under rotates the double pike and takes a step forward. Unfortunately Iowa State will have to count a low score on this event. 9.475.

Smith (Auburn, exhibition): Beautiful front walkover mount, nice scale with a hold. Slightly off to the side on the bhs loso series but escapes with a wobble. Finishes with a bhs to one and a half off the end, strong landing. Nice exhibition routine! That would make a beautiful addition to this already strong lineup.

Orrego (ISU, exhibition): Nice double tuck to open, a slight move of the front foot in the step back. Hits the second pass well and does a nice leap pass. Finishes with a double pike, slightly under rotated and takes a step forward.

Rotation 3 Scores: Auburn 49.375, Iowa State 49.025

AFTER THREE: Auburn 148.000, Iowa State 147.200

Auburn with another solid beam rotation, allowing Suni’s fall in the anchor spot to be dropped. Iowa State had a great showing on floor, but will have to count Wilke’s difficult landing. Still, another strong rotation score and the Cyclones are on pace for a huge improvement from last week! The meet win isn’t entirely out of the picture either if Auburn has any difficulty on floor. Can’t wait to see how the final rotation shapes up!

Rotation 4: Iowa State BB, Auburn FX

Steinmeyer (ISU): Good front toss to beat jump to open, off to the side on the bhs loso series and falls off. Recovers well with the side leap series, slight wobble on full turn, sticks the round off one and a half dismount. Not the start the Cyclones would have hoped for. 9.150.

Hubbard (Auburn): Full-twisting double back to open, a bit too much power and hops back but stays in bounds just barely. One and a half to front full to finish. Solid start. 9.800.

Bergstrom (ISU): Wobble on the full turn. Front toss connected to bhs series, slightly piked at the hips and leans a tiny bit. Hits the switch leap to switch leap series with no wobbles. A bit off to the side on the side aerial to full twist dismount but hits the landing. 9.750.

Leigh Oldham (Auburn): Big double pike to start, stick-straight legs in the air and a controlled lunge. Good one and a half punch front layout second pass, a bit of leg separation in the air. Hits the wolf one and a half leap with no problem. Finishes with a double tuck and over rotates, taking a step out of bounds. 9.675.

Loyim (ISU): Good to see her back after the scary vault. Nice switch leap switch leap to start. Hits the bhs loso with a lean to the side. Front aerial to beat jump no wobbles, and good full turn. A small step to the side on roundoff one and a half dismount. Good recovery routine! 9.850.

Brusch (Auburn): Punch front through to double back, perfectly controlled landing. Huge height on the leaps and no issues hitting splits. Great double pike to finish! That should be a big score! 9.900.

Palacios (ISU): Misses the foot on the side aerial and falls onto the beam in the second skill. That will take out her acro requirement and be a big error unfortunately. Good leap series and hits the dismount, but a tough go of it for Iowa State. 9.050.

Groth (Auburn): Front double full to start with a controlled lunge. Beautiful split on the leap series. More great form on the one and a half to front layout. She’s so polished. Finishes with a Rudi, hops back on landing but stays in bounds. 9.850.

Basuel (ISU): Step and a wobble to the side on the switch half to start. Nails the bhs loso series. Really floaty! Great full turn and solid switch leap to split jump. Great form on the side aerial for full twist dismount and just a tiny shuffle on landing. Back on track! 9.775.

Watson (Auburn): Great double Arabian to start, well-controlled landing. Another strong landing on the one and a half to front layout. Hits the leap series well. Nearly sticks the double tuck to finish but chest was a tiny bit low. 9.825.

Semple (ISU): Float bhs loso series, no wobble. Slightly overdoes the full turn but escapes with only a tiny lean. Beautiful extension on the leap series and again no wobbles. Nails the side aerial full twist dismount. Wonderful finish! 9.850.

Gobourne (Auburn): Huge open double tuck to start, beautiful landing. Crowd getting into it. She’s so in her element here it’s ridiculous. Give her all the money. Perfect one and a half to front layout second pass. Nails the double pike to finish! That should be a big one! 9.975!

Maxwell (ISU, exhibition): Off to the side on bhs loso and falls. Another wobble on the full turn. She looks rattled. Another wobble on the leap series and a step on the gainer pike dismount.

Brown (Auburn, exhibition): Big full-twisting double back to start, a bit of a lack of control on the step back. Great punch front to double back to finish! A quick and dynamic routine!

Rotation 4 Scores: Iowa State 48.375, Auburn 49.350

FINAL RESULTS: Auburn 197.350, Iowa State 195.575

The 9.8s just kept coming for Auburn and it results in a season-high score! A bit of a scare with the out of bounds, but Derrian Gobourne was dazzling as usual to help the Tigers drop the score. Give her a 10 already! Unfortunate turn of events for Iowa State, but it will only have to count one fall after the rest of the lineup was pretty solid. A HUGE improvement for the Cyclones in their third meet! Over a point above its season high from week one. This team showed it is capable of solid performances, but it will be all about keeping this momentum in the rest of the season.

Event Winners

VT: Maxwell (ISU) 9.900

UB: Gobourne (Auburn) & Lee (Auburn) 9.900

BB: Groth (Auburn) & McLaughlin (Auburn) 9.900

FX: Gobourne (Auburn) 9.975

AA: No competitors

Ryan’s Stories of the Night

This was Auburn’s second-highest score in program history, and to score into the 197s two weeks in a row shows that this team isn’t playing around. The Tigers were definitely helped by some home scoring tonight, but will be a legitimate threat once they start sticking those landings. Sophia Groth is quickly becoming a standout competitor with her strong three-event performances, and although nerves got the best of Suni on beam tonight, she looks like she’s growing into her anchor role on bars. Iowa State has faced a ton of setbacks this season, so it was great to see it come into a daunting SEC arena and put on a season-high performance. The Cyclones have good basics on every event, and should be capable of going into the 196s with a hit beam rotation. Hopefully this is the start of an upward trajectory for them!

I do want to close with a final note: the commentators said that Auburn’s crowd tonight was a sellout of over 9,000 fans, and that the Tigers have already secured sellouts for all remaining home meets this season. What an incredible feat for this program and for the sport! Thankful to be a part of this moment. I appreciate you all tuning in!

READ THIS NEXT: LIVE BLOG: No. 10 Kentucky at No. 11 Alabama

Live blog by Ryan Wichtendahl

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