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Husker men finish third at NCAAs for their best finish since 1999

April 21, 2019 GMT

The Nebraska men’s gymnastics team accomplished its best finish at the NCAA Championships in 20 years with a third-place showing Saturday in Champaign, Illinois.

The Huskers scored a 407.489, which was nearly two points better than their preliminary round score from Friday.

Stanford stunned defending champion Oklahoma, edging the Sooners 415.222-414.556 for the national championship.

Nebraska was the top finishing team from the Big Ten. Michigan (406.354) was fourth, Illinois (405.358) was fifth and Penn State (399.725) was sixth.

But more importantly, the Huskers are bringing home some hardware. The top four teams receive trophies.

Saturday’s performance was the latest celebration point for a program with eight national championships as it continues its rise back to the top. NU finished sixth in 2017 and fifth in 2018.

A jump to third place comes with a team that was in somewhat of a transition. Twelve Huskers are either freshmen or sophomores, and NU entered the season needing to replace more than half of last year’s NCAA rotations.

But NU coach Chuck Chmelka liked what he had with the freshmen, and he still had heavy hitters in senior Anton Stephenson, junior Jake Bonnay and sophomore Griffin Kehler.

The Huskers actually held the lead through two rotations Saturday, thanks to a 72.065 on vault. Nebraska fell to third after the fourth rotation (65.398 on parallel bars), but slipped past Michigan with a 70.065 on floor exercise on the fifth rotation.

NU had three scores of 14.333 or better on floor, led by Bonnay’s 14.400, which earned him eighth place and All-America honors.

By the fifth rotation, Oklahoma and Stanford had pulled away from the rest of the field, but Nebraska and Michigan battled for third. The Huskers maintained third on the final rotation with a 66.731 on pommel horse.

In addition to the third-place finish, the Huskers had several All-Americans, led by their senior captain Stephenson. In his final meet with the Huskers, Stephenson scored an 14.866 on vault to place third. He finished second on the event last year.

Stephenson also finished seventh in the all-around.

Sophomore Josh Martin scored a 13.600 on pommel horse to finish eighth, freshman Charlie Giles scored a 14.600 on vault to place eighth, and freshman Khalil Jackson scored a 13.833 on high bar to place seventh.

Stanford’s Brody Malone won the all-around title.

Oklahoma had won four straight national championships entering this weekend. The Cardinal’s 0.7-point win snapped Oklahoma’s streak of 121 straight wins in duals and meets, the third-longest streak in NCAA history in any sport.