NORMAN, Okla. – The Navy men’s gymnastics team rounded out its most successful trip to the NCAA Championships in program history on Saturday night with nine Midshipmen competing in the event finals. Aiming to attain All-American status, Josh Williams (Sr., Cypress, Texas) and Giovanni Gambatese (Jr., Pewaukee, Wisc.) each challenged for one of the valued top-eight positions on the rings and high bar, respectively and came within fractions of a point of such goals. Williams finished tenth, 0.067 points out of eighth, while Gambatese was 0.234 points out of a four-way tie for seventh place.
“What an amazing weekend to cap off a history-making season for Navy Gymnastics!” exclaimed head coach Kip Simons. “The guys were hungry and ready to capitalize on the opportunity they had this weekend on the national stage. We weren’t perfect, but when 25 guys commit to the grind day-in and day-out, you don’t have to be perfect on game day to get the results you desire.”
The first of 45 competitors to participate in a rings routine this evening at the Lloyd Noble Center on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, Williams posted a score of 13.933 as he executed his 5.2-level of difficulty routine with an 8.733 grade. That score stood at or near the top of the standings for most of the meet until the sixth and final rotation when Stanford’s entire five-man rings lineup finished first, second, fifth, sixth and seventh overall. That blockade of Cardinal gymnasts pushed Williams just off the medal stand. Michigan’s Paul Juda claimed the final All-American honor for the rings with a score of 13.966, just 0.067 points ahead of Williams.
Competing alongside Williams on the rings on Saturday night were the trio of Cash Buske (Sr., Madison, Wisc.), Isaiah Drake (Fr., Los Angeles, Calif.) and Alexander Brown (Sr., Lafayette, La.). Buske finished in a tie for 34th with Michigan’s Cameron Bock with 13.266 points, while Drake tied Penn State’s Matt Cormier for 36th at 13.133. Brown placed 45th with a score of 11.633.
One of four Midshipmen to compete on the high bar on Saturday night, Gambatese improved on his 14th place finish from 2021 as he tied for 13th overall at this year’s championship. The Wisconsin native posted a score of 13.766 that matched Illinois’ Hamish Carter. The judges graded his 5.0 routine with an execution score of 8.766. Gambatese ended up 0.234 points out of running for All-American as Raydel Gamboa from Oklahoma, Jesse Tyndall of Ohio State and Adam Wooten from Michigan all tied for seventh with 14.000 scores. Drake and Buske also were in action on the high bar and turned in respective scores of 13.266 and 12.00, that ranked 25th and 38th overall. Syam Buradagunta (So., Westborough, Mass.) was the fourth Mid on the high bar in the event finals; he finished 42nd with an 11.433 result.
Another event that was well-populated with Navy gymnasts was the floor exercise. Drake led the quartet of Mids on the floor as he came in 27th with a score of 13.633. The freshman all-arounder earned 8.133 execution points on his 5.5-point routine. Williams, Caleb Hickey (So., Carthage, N.C.) and Connor Van Loo (Jr., Freeland, Mich.) finished within 0.033 points of each other as Williams placed 38th at 13.066 ahead of Hickey and Van Loo, who tied in 39th with identical 13.033 scores.
Three members of the Navy squad competed on each of the pommel horse and vault apparatus. Buradagunta led the Mids’ effort on the pommel horse with a score of 12.600 that tied Illinois’ Michael Fletcher. The sophomore, who had qualified for three event finals executed his 4.7-level routine with a 7.900 score from the judges. Ronan McQuillan (So., Katy, Texas) and Drake also were involved in the finals of the pommel horse and finished respectively in 35th and 42nd place with 12.000 and 11.266 marks.
On the vault, Drake fronted Navy’s work on Saturday night. In the first NCAA Championship Event Final of his career, Drake hit his 5.2-level vault with an execution grade of 8.966 for an overall score of 14.166. That score was good for a tie for 25th with Clay Stephens of Illinois. The other two Mids in the finals of the vault were Van Loo and Buradagunta, who each came within 0.4 points of Drake. Van Loo tied for 32nd place with a 13.866 total, while Buradagunta ranked 35th with a 13.766 effort.
As part of his all-around competition, Drake was the lone Midshipmen to post a score on the parallel bars. Drake’s performance on the parallel bars netted him 12.2 points on a 7.1 execution score of his 5.1-point routine. He finished 39th in the standings.
One of 16 gymnasts testing themselves in the all-around, Drake earned 77.664 combined points over the six events. He ranked 14th at the end of the evening, trailing Nebraska’s Sam Phillips by just 0.299 points as the Cornhusker scored 77.963 points to finish in 13th.
“I’m so proud of our seniors as they raised their hand for the final time of their career this weekend,” said Simons in closing. “Their leadership will be greatly missed, but I know they will be moving on to great things as officers in the Navy and Marine Corps.”
In the team finals, Stanford won its third straight NCAA Championship with a dominant score of 423.638. The host Oklahoma Sooners edged out the Michigan Wolverines by a razor-thin margin of 414.555 to 414.490 to finish second in the standings. Nebraska was just off the podium in fourth with a score of 406.453. Ohio State and Illinois rounded out the standings with respective marks of 399.326 and 398.523.