CGN Roundtable: A Look Back at the Class of 2021 Recruit Ratings

Our next release of recruit ratings is right around the corner. But before we get to those, we’re looking back at our first. We debuted ratings for the class of 2021 in October 2020. That means our first crop of rated gymnasts recently finished up their first college seasons. In this week’s roundtable, we’re taking a look back at that first group, how the gymnasts did in their first season in college and how we did with our evaluations.

First off, is there anything to note about the first ratings as a sort of disclaimer, based on what we might have changed since to improve the system?

Talitha: I’m going to mention two things. First, we made some changes to the elite ratings, as our calculations seemed to rate elites’ gymnastics higher compared to their level 10 counterparts. Second, we didn’t rerate gymnasts taking into account their senior year performances, and that left us a bit dissatisfied. I will elaborate on this below, but had we rerated gymnasts, things would have looked slightly different.

Jenna: I’ll add that we made some changes to how we calculated score points for level 10 gymnasts as well, with those changes being applied to subsequent classes starting with the class of 2022. This allowed the level 10s and elites to be on a more level playing field with regards to the ratings.

Let’s talk about the five-stars. Who did we predict would kill it in college? Who might not have done as well as their five-star rating predicted?

Talitha: The usual elite suspects, such as Olympians Sunisa Lee, Jade Carey, Leanne Wong, Jordan Chiles and Emma Malabuyo, among others, were predicted to have a stellar freshman season—and they did! Incidentally, the first freshman to score a perfect 10.0 in college this year was Wong, who was our highest-rated gymnast. Under-the-radar five-star recruits, moreover, such as Skyla Schulte and Lali Dekanoidze, were game-changers for Michigan State and North Carolina, respectively. Some gymnasts, such as Jacey Vore, Riley McCusker and Kara Eaker, contributed to their respective teams less than their rating would have perhaps anticipated, but they were all coming back from lower-leg injuries. Watch out for them next year!

Brandis: I think Amari Celestine deserves a shout out here. She flew slightly under the radar in terms of stardom, but she was a stellar three-eventer in a freshman class that made an immediate impact for Missouri. Celestine was the edge the Tigers needed for their surprise nationals run and gives them a heel leg-up for the years to come.

Who was rated—but not five-stars—but in hindsight probably should have been? Why didn’t we ultimately rate them higher?

Talitha: Sloane Blakely of Florida and Jocelyn Moore of Missouri were four- and three-star recruits, respectively, and should have been rated higher. We knew it before they arrived in college, but as I mentioned above, we didn’t rerate gymnasts after their senior year performances. We acknowledge that something should be done about it—to give late bloomers or elites who drop back to level 10—the credit they deserve, but for now our bandwidth and other time constraints doesn’t allow for a senior year rerate.

Rebecca: I also want to throw out Jordan Bowers as a gymnast whose senior season would likely have pushed her over the edge into 5 stars. Sophia Groth is a possibility, as is Alex Theodorou.

Brandis: Sophia Groth comes to mind as well as she played a major part in Auburn’s tremendous rise to relevancy this season and was a pleasure to watch compete. Danielle Sievers is another name that became more prevalent as the season went on, putting up some clutch performances in Oklahoma’s title-winning postseason.

Jenna: I think if we had rerated gymnasts after their senior season Grace McCallum definitely would’ve been bumped up to five stars, as her form improved greatly in the leadup to the Olympics. Elites in general are difficult to rate due to a small sample size of routines and the high amount of difficulty they compete with; it’s a guessing game of who will be consistent and perform with good form when they compete easier routines in NCAA. At the same time, we can’t just automatically give all high-level elites a five-star rating because that’s not an objective system. We end up relying mostly on form, paying closer attention to the skills that are more likely to be brought to NCAA rather than the more difficult ones. 

Were there any unrated gymnasts, for one reason or another, that should have been rated based on their freshman season performance?

Talitha: Alabama’s Lilly Hudson for sure! Again, we were aware that she was likely a four- or even five-star recruit before she started her college career, but there were not enough videos at our disposal—for some time not at all, actually—to rate her gymnastics correctly. Once they became available, it was too late.

Rebecca: Danae Fletcher, same story. We got vault and floor videos and some training clips but couldn’t find a full all-around set that was recent enough to rate. Clara Hong and Ruthuja Nataraj were misses, and that’s just based on the fact that a lot of their best JO performances came in their senior seasons. Same with Jenna Hlavach.

Who do you think still has a chance to break out over the next three seasons of college gym?

Talitha: There are some gymnasts who didn’t compete at all this season due to injury who are poised to have strong college careers, including five-star recruits Morgan Hurd of Florida and Emily Lee of UCLA, as well as three-star recruit Moorea Linker of Oklahoma.

Rebecca: Lindsay Bacheler (four stars) at Maryland could have been a game changer had she been healthy. Tori Tatum (four stars) at LSU was also AWOL. Minnesota’s pair of four-star freshmen, Haley Tyson and Lauren Pearl, didn’t see much lineup time in 2022 and didn’t look like their old selves when we did see them. Luckily, Minnesota’s huge number of graduating seniors means they should get plenty of chances to gain experience in 2023. The Georgia freshmen also underperformed, but what else is new? We made the decision very early not to factor a gymnast’s commitment into her rating, meaning that there’s no “but will she be able to make lineups at Florida?” as well as no discussion of which teams typically don’t transition freshmen to college well.

Brandis: She only competed the all-around once last season, but Anapaula Gutierrez (three stars) got competition lineup experience on all four events for Stanford throughout the year and could be an all-around stalwart moving forward. Her Yurchenko one and a half is a huge asset to a team that’s consistently lacked some difficulty on vault, and she made an impact by performing her best routines of 2022 in the postseason when it mattered most.

Jenna: I’ll add three more names to this already large list: Tory Vetter (Ohio State), Kalyxta Gamiao (Arkansas) and Frankie Price (Arkansas) could all have a huge impact over the rest of their careers.

Is there anything else you find interesting or want to point out about our first group of rated gymnasts and their freshman season in college?

Talitha: All freshmen who scored a perfect 10.0 this season were five- or four-star recruits: Leanne Wong (VT and UB), Jordan Bowers (VT), Grace McCallum (UB), Sunisa Lee (UB and BB), Jade Carey (UB and FX), Jordan Chiles (UB and FX), Sage Thompson (UB), Emma Malabuyo (BB), Kara Eaker (BB) and Sloane Blakely (FX).

Rebecca: I think we did a great job of identifying a lot of gymnasts who became standouts at smaller teams. People like Megan Ray (UC Davis), Sidney Washington (Pitt), Ella Chemotti (Eastern Michigan) and two rated Ohio State freshmen (Kaitlyn Grimes and Stephanie Berger) were money all year long.

Jenna: I’ve said this before, but the goal of a rating system is not to get every rating exactly right, and that’s especially the case in a sport like gymnastics where injuries are so common and can have such a lasting effect on a career. The best way to measure the success of a rating system is to look at the percentage of each rating group (e.g. the five stars, the four stars, etc.) that met or exceeded their perceived NCAA potential over the course of their careers (not just their freshman season). The five-star class should have a higher “hit rate” than the four stars, which should have a higher rate than the three stars, and I do think that was the case based on this class’s freshman season. It’ll be fun to look back in three to four years to evaluate the class based on its whole career!

READ THIS NEXT: CGN Roundtable: On Recruit Ratings

Article by the editors of College Gym News

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