Take a moment and enter an alternate reality with me, one where college gymnastics reigns supreme. Envision a world where gymnasts dominate headlines, Friday Night Heights is a bigger deal than College Gameday, schools are adding programs in droves rather than cutting them and, most importantly, there’s a professional WAG league where all of our NCAA favorites can prolong their careers.
In light of this week’s NBA draft, I wanted to highlight some of 2022’s departing class in the form of a mock draft for our parallel universe featuring a pro gymnastics league that they could be drafted into. I’ll project and profile the first two rounds of the draft for a 10-team league with a code of points identical to what we see in NCAA, but in a five up, five count competition format—this is a professional league, after all.
To mimic the NCAA’s maximum 12 scholarships per team, our league will support rosters of 12, creating an ultra-competitive dynamic similar to other pro organizations. Therefore, what I took into consideration most when drafting was how many events the gymnast could do at the professional level—an event where they consistently scored 9.900 or better in college. Fall-risk was another big factor with teams unable to drop any scores, and the same, intangible wow-factor that can earn a gymnast more lenient deductions collegiately translates to the pro level, too. Lastly, similar to kickers and punters trying to get to the NFL, single-event specialists being drafted is a rare feat with limited roster spots available for limited abilities, instead being signed to teams post-draft as free agents to fill glaring roster holes.
With that being said, here’s my 2022 Professional Gymnastics League mock draft:
- Trinity Thomas – Florida
Just as she was the favorite for NCAA all around champion all season long, Thomas would’ve been the top draft pick projection all season long, and deservedly so. Fulfilling the gymternet’s prophecy by winning the title that was preemptively awarded to her only cements that Thomas would be the top overall draftee by proving she’s able to handle maximum pressure. Thomas has the ideal combo of difficulty and fine form that every gymnast desires and every front office would be fawning over the horde of 10s she scored this past season. Thomas would not only be the favorite for rookie of the year, but would likely be in league MVP contention after surely threatening for a pro gymslam in just her debut campaign.
- Lexy Ramler – Minnesota
A finalist, nominee, or winner of nearly every title and award out there, Ramler is an easy choice for second overall draftee and great addition to any program. Lacking a “wow-factor” E pass on floor is what gives Thomas the nod over Ramler, but her precision in every other aspect of the sport will translate incredibly well to the next level and is what separates her from her competitors. Also owning an extra season of NCAA experience over much of this draft class, including Thomas, Ramler would figure to be in the thick of awards races come the end of her rookie professional season.
- Megan Skaggs – Florida
The same technical prowess that helped Skaggs to a phenomenal collegiate career will help her succeed at the next level as well, already lineup ready on three events and boasting an ideal backup vault with her often stuck Yurchenko full. But even lacking a pro-level vault, Skaggs’ remarkable consistency is what keeps her a high first-round pick and gets her drafted before a few who could potentially be professional all arounders. Similar to her role at Florida, she’ll be the perfect sidekick to a superstar franchise all arounder in any organization.
- Ona Loper – Minnesota
Initially serving as Ramler’s perfect complement, Loper developed into Ramler’s equal by the end of their NCAA careers and also cemented herself as a Minnesota legend. Her pinpoint landings on vault and floor will be welcomed into almost any organization’s lineup, and the strides she made last season on bars and beam make her a solid option on any event. Loper boasts improved consistency having competed in the all around in every meet her super senior season and only having one bad outing, which will catch the eye of every franchise’s front office.
- Shilese Jones – Ascend Gymnastics Center
Once a Florida commit, in this utopia Jones’ collegiate absence is just due to her decision to forgo her NCAA eligibility and go pro—something I’m sure we’d see several gymnasts do if a league existed to do so. Coming immediately from elite, Jones has just as much ability as anybody on this list, but gets picked a little lower without any experience competing on a weekly basis like the former collegiate gymnasts. But on the contrary, this league provides Jones (or anyone who forgoes college) with a great opportunity to build consistency competing on a weekly basis in the elite offseason. With the biggest upside of any gymnast in the draft, Jones’ potential will make a team very pleased getting her as a steal with the fifth overall pick
- Nya Reed – Florida
Continuing the Gators’ dominance in this draft, Reed is the first true specialist off the board with her 9.900 reliability on two events as her biggest asset. Reed has the chops to be one of the most dynamic leg-event specialists at the pro level, just as she was collegiately, with even her average vault and floor scores warranting numbers that’ll impress any organization. That, combined with the superb reputation Florida has attained with this draft class, gets the specialist Reed drafted ahead of some NCAA stalwart all arounders.
- Maya Bordas – California
Although her vault won’t allow her to be an all arounder at the pro level, California’s first and only national champion is a viable option on the other three events thanks to improved outings on beam and floor this past season. Bordas’ biggest asset is bars, where she won that NCAA title, but her bouts with inconsistency senior year sees her get drafted last amongst this year’s top all arounders. However, with good form and four years of experience competing as an all arounder in college, Bordas will be an asset on any roster and thus comes off the board mid-first round.
- Lexi Graber – Alabama
Graber is the second specialist off the board as a result of her ability to surpass the 9.900 threshold on a trio of events. While her vault often lacks the landing to make it a professional lineup lock, it remains a promising option to add to her lineup-ready beam and floor. Any franchise will be intrigued by her floor resume from 2022 where she hit the critical number or better in all but one routine—a 9.850 in Alabama’s opening meet of the season. That’s an eye-catching stat any franchise will be happy to claim.
- Alyssa Baumann – Florida
Already Florida’s fourth draftee, it’s not just Baumann’s elegance that’s got her off the board in the first round, but her proven consistency on beam and floor for an astounding five years. She’s a reliable 9.900 whenever she’s in a lineup and with her technique she’s not leaving room for judges to criticize with built-in deductions. Baumann may lack flashy skills, but what she does she does extremely well, and that matters in any program.
- Carly Woodard – Oklahoma
Once just a beam specialist, Woodard’s draft stock rose drastically throughout the season after not only adding floor to her repertoire, but excelling at it without a single score sub-9.800. The 2022 NCAA team champion’s beam resume is equally as impressive, boasting a perfect score in her senior season to complement just two falls in her entire career. Beam doesn’t get any less challenging at the professional level, with front offices always welcoming a track record like Woodard’s.
- Savannah Schoenherr – Florida
Schoenherr’s prowess on bars is her advantage over the rest of this year’s draft class, where there’s a lack of overall depth and few standout routines outside of the top all arounders’. She has a standout routine on bars, and her 10.0 start value vault gives her a second viable event and gets her off the board to begin round two of the draft. Florida continues to dominate, producing just under half of all the picks at this point in the draft and putting its 2023 class in contention for best of all time.
- Kyla Bryant – Stanford
Stanford’s anchor the last few years, Bryant is selected 12th overall due to her exciting gymnastics that you can’t help but want to watch. She processes big skills on bars and beam that can add useful depth to most rosters, and having scored 9.900 or better in every single floor routine her super senior season, Bryant is a must in any pro floor lineup.
- Shallon Olsen – Alabama
The Olympian of the class, Olsen possesses the above-and-beyond difficulty that front offices desire for its scoring potential. Vault was uber consistent for her last season and her newfound confidence on beam, particularly in the postseason, is a stock raiser as it adds another realistic event to her repertoire. However, keeping Olsen out of the first round is her slight regression on floor, where she once brought the wow-factor but was under 9.900 more often than over this year.
- Rachel Baumann – Georgia
The younger Baumann sister’s decision to opt out of her available COVID year adds another chapter to the family legacy, cementing them as one of only a few sibling duos to ever be drafted in the same year (presumably). As one of the more consistent gymnasts in a program now notorious for embodying the contrary, Baumann gets off the board mid second round thanks to her 10.0-club membership that offsets a lack of an E pass on floor and her ability to go up on three events if needed.
- Megan Roberts – Georgia
Competing on a trio of events in every meet and having scored sub-9.7 just once last season, Roberts’ ability to simply hit is her most valuable asset to any pro team. Consistently being close to or at 9.900 could see Roberts become a great leadoff on several events at the next level in addition to adding general depth to any roster, with organization’s jumping at the opportunity to take that resume with the 15th overall selection.
- Margzetta Frazier – UCLA
Once easily a first round pick, Frazier gets bumped to the second round after spending the season on the sidelines with injury. Most teams wouldn’t risk a draft pick on a gymnast who hasn’t competed in over a year, but Frazier’s former elite experience and NCAA stardom is enough to entice a front office to bet on her. As a potential three event powerhouse when healthy, she’s got the upside to be a steal with the 16th overall pick.
- Drew Watson – Auburn
A key part of Auburn’s NCAA finals run this season, Watson’s consistent Yurchenko one and a half on vault and having an E pass on floor makes her an appealing second round pick. Her floor scores at the end of 2022 makes that event less of an option at the next level, but the vault she’s been hitting for years could slide nicely into most pro team lineups.
- Christina Desiderio – LSU
The Tigers’ stalwart beam leadoff could easily replicate her role at the professional level, with her improved floor work her fifth year giving her another competitive event and upping her draft stock. Desiderio’s untimely first miss of the year on the national stage when her team needed it most decreased her overall capital slightly, but not enough to not get drafted with two event depth as an asset.
- Emily Muhlenhaupt – Boise State
A 9.900 machine on bars, Muhlenhaupt accomplishes the rare feat of being drafted as a one event specialist. The beam she showed a few times this year lacks the consistency to be viable at the professional level, but Muhlenhaupt’s incredibly consistent work above the crucial score on the draft class’ weakest event allows for her to sneak into the draft as a late second round pick.
- Alexia Burch – Utah
Burch’s scoring potential on three events makes her a valuable asset to some rosters, but her inability to consistently make Utah’s lineups raises some questions about her abilities to make professional lineups. Vault difficulty bodes in her favor, as does her work on beam in the postseason appearances she did make for the Utes in 2023. Holding the pedigree of being a Utah gymnast paired with her scoring potential makes her worthy of a gamble for a franchise to finish off the draft.
So, who would you draft if you owned a professional gymnastics team? Did I get it right? Patiently awaiting a billionaire investor so we can find out…
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Article by Brandis Heffner
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