Kathryn Thaler competes on beam for Nebraska at 2022 Big Fives.

Teams Poised to Wreak Havoc on the Rankings in 2023

From big-name freshmen and important gymnasts returning from injury to new—or almost new— head coaches, these seven teams could shake things up in 2023. Some are trying to rebound and return to nationals while others have their sights set on regionals qualification. All seven have something to prove, whether that’s living up to a big 2022 finish or breaking through after a few off seasons. Regardless, these are teams to watch come January.

No 32. North Carolina

The first season with Danna Durante as the head coach was a good one for the Tar Heels. North Carolina became regular-season EAGL champion and qualified to regionals after four years of missing out. With as good as 2022 was, the Tar Heels were dealing with injuries from key contributors in Hallie Thompson and Lali Dekanoidze, which hindered the team’s scoring potential at the end of the season. Going into 2023, the Tar Heels are losing very few postseason routines and are gaining a strong freshman class that includes the fourth-ranked recruit of the class of 2022 in Gwen Fink. North Carolina has the potential to have a vault lineup with four 10.0 start values, as well as additional difficulty on floor and more depth on bars and beam. 2023 is looking to be a good year for the Tar Heels.

No 9. Michigan State

Michigan State is coming off a historic season. The Spartans advanced to the Seattle regional final, and Skyla Schulte qualified to nationals as an individual. The team is losing some key routines from Sydney Ewing, Ashley Hofelich and Lea Mitchell, but the veterans and the stellar freshmen should be able to step up to the plate. The Spartans are gaining the DP Senior E national champion in Nikki Smith, along with Sage Kellerman and Olivia Zsarmani, who placed ninth and second in the Senior D division, respectively. Not only is Michigan State gaining some highly anticipated freshmen, but the veterans are poised to continue shining with more experience under their belts. Sophomores Schulte and Gabi Stephen and junior Baleigh Garcia will likely continue to contribute massive scores. The Spartans are also gaining Tara Walsh, a junior transfer from Auburn. Walsh competed vault five times for the Tigers in 2022, scoring a high of 9.825. 2023 should be another outstanding year for Michigan State, and the team could continue to rank as high as the top 10 week after week. 

No. 14 Stanford

Fresh off a surprise berth to the Seattle regional final, the Cardinal landed its highest finish since 2016 in 2022. Though star Kyla Bryant has graduated, the incoming freshmen were just named the No. 1 class of 2023. Featuring Anna Roberts, Taralyn Nguyen, Claire Dean, Ashley Carter, Ava Sorrento and Porsche Trinidad, the group is poised to keep the Cardinal moving forward. It’s getting crowded at the top, but this could be the year we see Stanford return to nationals.

No. 16 Arkansas

Arkansas is entering its fourth season under head coach Jordyn Wieber. Wieber’s third season leading the Razorbacks showed some struggles, particularly on bars. While the team is losing some key members of their 2022 team, they do have some impactful returners as well. Bailey Lovett and nationals qualifier Kennedy Hambrick are both taking fifth years. The Razorbacks are also adding former UCLA standout Norah Flatley, who transferred to Arkansas for her fifth year. As for the team’s struggles on bars in 2022, the incoming freshmen have the potential to give that lineup a boost. Reese Drotar, Jaime Pratt and Cally Swaney are great on the event, and Swaney placed third there in the Senior D division at this year’s DP nationals. With the outstanding fifth-years and freshmen on Arkansas’ roster, 2023 could be the Razorbacks’ year to break into the top 10. 

No. 46 Rutgers

The Scarlet Knights have been steadily climbing the rankings under head coach Umme Salim-Beasley. With a class of three former four-star recruits—Gabrielle Dildy, Nailah Adams and Rachael Riley—walking in the door, Salim-Beasley will be able to entirely remake her lineups. Adams had knee surgery in the spring, though, so her immediate availability is unknown. This is a group that certainly has its eye on a regional berth, and 2023 could be the year. 

No. 38 Nebraska

The Huskers have had four off seasons; two tough years and two that were almost unrecognizable for a team with as much history as Nebraska. After missing regionals two seasons in a row—a first in program history—Nebraska is bringing in Hungarian elite and former four-star recruit Csenge Bácskay to lead a solid freshman squad, and added proven beamer Sophia McClelland as a junior transfer from BYU. Nebraska has brilliant gymnasts on its roster; if Heather Brink can find a way to lead the team to consistency and the squad can avoid major injuries, it’s a group that should return to the postseason.

No. 12 UCLA

UCLA is entering a new era. With a completely new staff, stellar freshmen and returning stars, the Bruins will be a team to look out for in 2023, led by sophomore Jordan Chiles who is fresh off of a gold medal performance in the world championships in Liverpool. Without the pall of mistrust that hung over the team last year, the talent on the roster should have an opportunity to shine. With Margzetta Frazier back for a fifth year and a freshman class led by the No. 1 recruit, Selena Harris, the Bruins should be back on track to make a nationals appearance.

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Article by the editors of College Gym News

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