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A Homespun Guide to the 2017 U.S. Men’s Gymnastics Championships

Posted on 15 August 2017 by admin

By Shelli Koszdin

As the United States men move into a new quadrennium, the storyline has shifted from one of the dominance of one man (Sam Mikulak) to the head-to-head rivalry of Akash Modi and Yul Moldauer. Which one will emerge as the champion at the end of race? Or will other men push one or even both of them out of the top two spots?

All Around

The AA is expected to come down to a battle between Akash Modi and Yul Moldauer, with Modi having the edge in difficulty and Moldauer in execution. Based on their 2017 past performance, Modi should come in with around a point-and- a-half D score advantage and Moldauer with a similar advantage in E score. When competitors are this close in ability, chance will play a large role in who comes out on top.

Challengers to Modi and Moldauer for a place on the podium or even the top spot are Allan Bower (who has beaten both of them in the past and had the highest NCAA AA total and E score in 2017 (88.75/55.15) and Donnell Whittenburg, who has competed the highest difficulty in the field, but whose execution often takes him out of the race.

Others who could be dangerous include Marvin Kimble, who has some of the highest D scores in the field and came back to win the U.S. men’s National Qualifier after failing to even make the U.S. National Team at Winter Cup. If they have a great day Sean Melton, Colin Van Wicklen, Alec Yoder, Kanji Oyama or Donothan Bailey have a shot at the podium. Big surprises can come from those who improved towards the end of the NCAA season (Melton, Yoder) or those who have not competed much (Oyama).

Although they are probably not factors for the AA podium or World team, the competition between incoming freshmen Cameron Bock (Michigan) and Shane Wiskus (Minnesota) will be a mini preview of the 2018 NCAA season.


Unless something unexpected happens, Eddie Penev is going to Montreal. His main rivals are absent or retired, and the men who can come closest to him on FX will probably be on the world team for other events. He has world class difficulty with a routine he has shown he can hit internationally. Penev is probably the best Montreal medal hope for the United States.

Penev’s main competition (the men who have the highest probability of coming within sniffing distance of 15) are Moldauer, Modi, Melton, and Whittenburg. Despite having substantially lower difficulty, Moldauer may be the man who pushes Penev the hardest.

Pommel Horse

Olympic medalist Alex Naddour should be the heavy favorite, with the most difficult routine in the field.  Pommel horse is a bit unpredictable, which could allow another man to sneak into that spot. The most likely candidates to upset Naddour are Alec Yoder, Allan Bower, Brandon Ngai, or Donothan Bailey. Marvin Kimble can’t be ruled out, as his difficulty is comparable to Naddour’s. If he hits both days and Naddour doesn’t, things could get interesting.  NCAA champion Stephen Nedoroscik, former Sooner Michael Reid, and Antonio Castro of Nebraska have a shot at the podium and/or a chance to make the other competitors a bit nervous. Sam Mikulak has not scored well this year, but has the potential to be at the top if he hits.  It has been reported Mikulak, still rehabilitating his surgically-repaired achilles tendon, will only be competing on pommel horse and high bar. 

Still Rings

Donnell Whittenburg looks like he has this one locked up, but he might not. If for some reason Naddour doesn’t win PH, he is capable of winning this one. Moldauer should be in the podium picture, as this is another event in which he punches far above his weight considering his slightly lower difficulty. Sean Melton has a shot to pull an upset for a world team spot here. Others to watch are Trevor Howard, Allan Bower, Marvin Kimble, and Sean Neighbarger (incoming Ohio State freshman).


As it takes only one vault to win the U.S. Championship, a gymnast must show two vaults both days to be considered for a spot on the world team, the U.S. vault champion may not be the same man who goes to worlds. It’s also an event where people tend to show up with surprises (David Sender dropping a Yurchenko double pike out of nowhere in 2009, and Whittenburg with his Ri Se Gwang in 2014).

Donnell Whittenburg has the most difficult vaults in the U.S., so if he hits both days, he gets a spot. Eddie Penev is the only other man who will certainly compete two vaults in Anaheim. Men with vault D scores of 5.6 who could be a threat for the podium (or a Worlds spot if they come up with a second vault) are Anthony McCallum, Matt Wenske, Colin Van Wicklen, and Marvin Kimble. Others capable of pushing 15 if they hit are Bower, Neighbarger, Alex Powarzynski, Van Wicklen, and Kyle King.

Parallel Bars

The top men on this event are Modi and Moldauer, with Whittenburg and Bower right behind them. These four men own all of the 15 + Parallel Bars scores in the USA for 2017. Others who might sneak in are Sean Melton (most likely), or Marvin Kimble.

High Bar

This is the one event where there is likely to be the source of the biggest surprise. Akash Modi is the only man in the field who has broken 15 in 2017 (not too much should be made of this – within the 2017-2020 COP, HB is probably going to be a lower scoring event than it has in the past). As Modi will likely be on the team for other events, this spot could be filled by Colin Van Wicklen, Sean Melton, Chandler Eggleston or Jalon Stephens.

The Big Picture

This is the most probable team based on the current information – Modi, Moldauer, Whittenburg, Naddour, Penev and some other guy for HB.  My pick for Some Guy is Colin Van Wicklen.

Modi Modi Modi Modi Modi Modi Modi
Moldauer Moldauer Moldauer Moldauer Moldauer Moldauer Moldauer
Penev Naddour Whittenburg Whittenburg Whittenburg Some guy


Another iteration is to take one all-arounder and leave more berths for specialists (fill in the blanks). Mathematically, this does provide more chances for medals, but of course the choice will depend on who actually makes the team. In 2013 the U.S. only sent out one all-arounder (Mikulak), but that was probably to allow Dalton and Legendre to both try for FX and VT. It remains to be seen if a similar situation arises this time.

Moldauer Moldauer Moldauer Moldauer Moldauer Moldauer Modi
Penev Naddour Whittenburg Whittenburg Modi Some guy.
Whittenburg Modi Naddour Penev Whittenburg


Soon we will find out. These guesses will probably be out of date by Thursday night!

If you don’t like my picks, use the data from the link below to make some of your own.  Scores in red are from international elite events, bold black are from USA elite events and the others are from NCAA.



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