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Brandis Heffner | College Gym News | April 22, 2022

Way-too-early power rankings for the 2023 college gymnastics season

Ragan Smith breaks down her NCAA title clinching routine

With the chalk finally settled on Oklahoma’s 2022 national championship title, it’s already time to start looking ahead toward who will be in the running for the title in 2023. The Sooners lose just a pair of routines from their championship lineups and are currently leading the way heading into next season, with many of this season’s powerhouses also figuring to once again be in the hunt for the top spot. A few of the past season’s surprise teams are also returning most of their rosters and should create some fun chaos for those final spots to nationals.

NEAR PERFECT: How OU's Ragan Smith clinched the 2022 team title

Similar to last season, this year’s traditional senior class has been granted a possible extra year of eligibility, but doesn’t get the benefit of not counting toward team scholarship limits like this year’s super seniors. With fewer seniors expected to return, a lot of the focus now switches back to recruiting and looking at incoming freshmen to fill lineup holes. Yet again, it’s hard to imagine a world where names like Trinity Thomas and Natalie Wojcik aren’t at least given the opportunity for another run, making it a fun but complicated season to predict.

For this edition of the rankings, all seniors who hadn’t confirmed an extra season by the time of publishing were counted as losses. In a list that’ll surely need many revisions throughout the offseason, here’s a way too early ranking of next year’s top 20 teams:

1. Oklahoma 

Not only did Oklahoma win the national championship, top the rankings at the end of the regular season and earn the highest-ever regular season NQS, it did so with over half of its routines coming from underclassmen. Top 10 and five-star recruit Faith Torrez can easily fill in for the two departing routines from the Sooners’ title-winning lineups, and the non-freshmen roster now has championship pedigree to give them added confidence. Oklahoma’s continued consistency gives it an outstanding shot at defending its title.

Clinching beam routine for 2022 NCAA gymnastics champion Oklahoma

2. Utah 

The only program to qualify for every NCAA championship will like its chances again in 2023, losing only a trio of routines from this season’s third-place squad. Those three routines shouldn’t be hard to replace with five-star and eighth-ranked recruit Makenna Smith en route to Salt Lake City in addition to an expanded offering from Kara Eaker, who only made beam lineups after her opening-meet injury. The Utes also recently announced the addition of walk-on Sarah Krump, who stands out on beam and floor. Also in the Utes’ favor is returning the entirety of its nation-leading beam lineup thanks to the extra year from star Cristal Isa.

3. Florida 

Florida’s 2023 roster is perhaps the most up-in-the-air of all the teams on this list due to the large number of star seniors who could return. Among them is Trinity Thomas, arguably the nation’s top gymnast for the last four years and newly minted three-time national champion; if she were to return, the Gators would jump to the top of this list. World championships medalist Kayla DiCello is the only current NLI signee, but it’s possible we could see an expansion of the freshman class if there are still open scholarships remaining after the seniors make their decisions. Florida is also returning key gymnasts Ellie Lazzari and Morgan Hurd from injury and showed good amounts of depth this past season as well.

Trinity Thomas scores another Perfect 10 on floor at 2022 NCAA gymnastics finals

4. LSU 

The Tigers left the 2022 season on a sour note after being upset in round two of regionals despite spending the entire season ranked in the top 10 and in contention to make nationals. A key senior class is departing, but LSU is fortunate not to lose many routines and already returns a lot of depth to replace them. Add in four recruits who were all rated four stars, and the Tigers are looking at another season in the title conversation, especially if Haleigh Bryant and Kiya Johnson are healthy from start to finish.

5. Alabama 

While Alabama is losing quite a few key routines from Emily Gaskins, Lexi Graber and Shallon Olsen, its top-rated recruiting class features both quality and quantity. Former Nastia Liukin Cup champion and five-star recruit Gabby Gladieux headlines a class of six gymnasts rated at least three-stars that should give the Crimson Tide another year of great depth. Combine that with returning standout routines from Luisa Blanco and a hopefully healthy Makarri Doggette, and Alabama has another recipe for success next season.

CHAMP HISTORY: See the complete history of who has won the NC women's gymnastics championship

6. Auburn 

Fresh off a program-record year and finishing in the final four, the Tigers should expect to be in the thick of things once again next season. Even with a few more years of Sunisa Lee, replacing Derrian Gobourne’s star power won’t be easy, but incoming five-star recruit Olivia Greaves looks to be a great option to levy some of the loss. Plus, a Gobourne return still hasn’t been ruled out, which would raise Auburn’s 2023 outlook significantly.

Suni Lee's floor routine at 2022 NCAA women's gymnastics championship finals

7. Michigan 

Nationals was certainly a disappointment for the 2021 champs, and now they must return to Ann Arbor needing to find replacements for a duo of key all-arounders from that championship team who also led the Wolverines throughout 2022. Replacing Natalie Wojcik and Abby Heiskell is no easy task, and with depth a recurring issue for the Wolverines, looking within to fill those lineup holes will be tricky. Incoming five-star recruits Kaylen Morgan and Paige Thaxton will be a big help, but there’s no sure-fire answers to those glaring lineup holes at the moment.

8. Missouri 

An unranked recruiting class is usually not a good sign, but the Tigers, thankfully, return the entirety of its remarkable and record-setting roster to offset that. Missouri can now claim some star power after Amari Celestine and Sienna Schreiber notched runner-up event finishes with this championship only bolstering its underclassmen-heavy roster with experience. That experience will be the edge the Tigers need in 2023, where they will now have to navigate the season with actual nationals expectations and the talent to repeat.

9. Michigan State 

Head coach Mike Rowe has led one of the most remarkable turnarounds of any program in recent memory with this season’s ninth-place finish a stark difference from his debut head coaching performance in 2018 where the Spartans finished ranked 40 spots lower. Much of this season’s success can be accredited to the underclassmen whom Rowe recruited, and his recruiting prowess is why Michigan State will likely enjoy another season as a nationals contender. Five-star and seventh-overall recruit Nikki Smith can replace half of the Spartans’ departing routines herself, leaving only a few holes for this team to fill before next season.

10. California 

For how impactful the departing class was for California over the last few years, it’s crazy how few routines it’s actually losing from this year’s postseason lineups. British elite Ondine Achampong, the No. 2 recruit in the 2022 class, and American elite eMjae Frazier are not only immediate answers to some of those lineup holes, but they will finally give the Golden Bears the vault difficulty and “wow” skills they’ve lacked in their recent run of top 11 finishes. With the core of lineups returning thanks to Andi Li and Nevaeh DeSouza, California will once again threaten for a nationals bid.

11. UCLA 

After a season where far too many of its headlines weren’t about great gymnastics, UCLA begins its offseason with more drama as it must now focus its efforts on a search for a head coach. Repeat nationals misses is certainly a disappointment for a gymnastics blue blood like the Bruins, but next year’s roster is once again promisingly stacked with nationals-level talent. The nation’s top recruit, Selena Harris, highlights a pair of incoming five-stars, which will help bolster UCLA’s depth as gymnasts like Emily Lee and Sara Ulias will also return from injuries.

12. Oregon State 

Olympic champion Jade Carey had the Beavers ranked in the top 15 all season long, and with only two routines leaving, they should expect to be able to build upon that performance. Madi Dagen opting to return is a major factor in that, along with two incoming four-star recruits that should give Oregon State even more options to choose from. Jennifer McMillan’s bars set could also be crucial on the event that held the Beavers back most this past season.

Jade Carey's bar routine at 2022 NCAA women's gymnastics semifinals

13. Arkansas 

The fifth-year announcements from Bailey Lovett and NCAA qualifier Kennedy Hambrick swung the Razorbacks’ 2023 outlook significantly as they no longer need to replace over half of their postseason routines. Now, Arkansas should have plenty of depth to fill holes and elevate totals as it returns a few key gymnasts from injury and is bringing in the nation’s third-ranked recruiting class, headlined by five-star and sixth-overall recruit Morgan Price. If it can be managed correctly, the bars lineup will be reloaded to give Arkansas a shot at redemption on its troublesome event from this season.

TRINITY THOMAS: Watch Thomas' second perfect floor routine from the weekend

14. Kentucky 

Year after year depth is the reason Kentucky finishes in the top 15, and it’s the reason why it’ll likely do the same in 2023. A top 10 recruiting class is a great counter to the good chunk of routines expected to depart, with four- and five-star recruits potentially able to replace the quality as well. Another season of Raena Worley is also a benefit, but the Wildcats still seem to lack any routines capable of equalling her star power on a regular basis to elevate them to the next level: nationals.

15. Denver 

The Pioneers are returning the most resilient roster for next season after managing a 13th place finish in a season where they saw all but one senior end her career by tearing her Achilles. A duo of four-star recruits should help improve the depth of the five-member lineups Denver put forth in the postseason, with Rylie Mundell and Jessica Hutchinson looking ready to step into the scoring potential hole left by Lynnzee Brown.

16. Arizona State 

Finishing outside the top 20 is undoubtedly a disappointment for Arizona State, who earned the 16th overall seed heading into regionals. Honestly, even that seed was a slight disappointment for a team that returned all but a few routines from a top 10 finish a season earlier. But, much of that ninth-place squad from 2021 is still on the roster and just now needs to overcome a bad season. The Sun Devils should have plenty of depth, too, with a few key gymnasts expected to return from injury and four-star recruit Kimberly Smith capable of making lineups.

17. Stanford 

The Cardinal’s string of upsets from play-in to regional final to finish 14th may be a sign of things to come as it has the second-ranked recruiting class to look forward to next season. Replacing just about half of the postseason lineups won’t be an easy feat, but Stanford should have plenty of routines to choose from between its quartet of four- and five-star recruits who are also bringing some much needed vault difficulty.

18. Ohio State 

Using not a single all-arounder in 2022 may pay dividends in 2023 as the Buckeyes have very few routines to replace from a top 20 season. Incoming five-star recruit Payton Harris can fill most of those holes immediately and looks to be a good complement to potential breakout star Elexis Edwards, fresh off her NCAA championship appearance.

19. Illinois 

The Illini sit in a good spot heading into next season, losing just a handful of routines and returning its core —including the duo of NCAA championship competitors Mia Takekawa and Mia Townes. Its incoming freshman class isn’t necessarily offering immediate answers for the bars and beam lineup holes, but Illinois’ early season beam woes gave plenty of its returning roster at least a few routines of competition experience.

20. Minnesota 

Now without eight near-guaranteed 9.9s from Lexy Ramler and Ona Loper, the Gophers are entering somewhat of a rebuilding phase for the first time in a while. Needing to replace half of its routines from NCAAs will be tough, but Mya Hooten and a pair of four-star recruits won’t let Minnesota fall off the map completely. Plus, both of the Gophers’ top recruits are strongest on beam to offer a potential solution to the event that plagued them all season long.

Next in Contention: Arizona, BYU, Georgia, North Carolina, Washington

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