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Minnesota, Iowa vs. Nebraska men's gymnastics, 3/24

Nebraska men's gymnastics coach Chuck Chmelka (right) celebrates a Husker performance as gymnast Alex Magsam looks on in March. The Huskers have an infusion of young talent this season.

The Nebraska men's gymnastics team sees no ceiling on what it can accomplish in 2019.

Much of that stems from the Huskers' recent success at the NCAA Championships, where they have finished seventh (2016), sixth (2017) and fifth (2018).

In order to continue the momentum, the Huskers must replace eight seniors who accounted for 15 of 30 routines at last year's NCAAs.

Replacing half of a lineup can be an uphill battle for any program. But coach Chuck Chmelka and the Huskers don't see it that way.

Their excitement is fueled by a talented freshman class. There are seven of them, and with so many lineup spots to fill, they are expected to make immediate contributions, starting at Saturday's season-opening Rocky Mountain Open in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

"The young guys are really good," Chmelka said. "Now we just got to see if they can compete and we're trying to do everything we can to mimic stuff like that and put pressure on them in practice and just see where they end up. Give them the best opportunity to hit and get confidence, and if we can do that, we're going to have a really good meet (Saturday) and we're going to have a really good season."

True freshmen Charles Giles (Lake Zurich, Illinois), Khalil Jackson (Houston), Dillan King (Eagle Mountain, Utah), Evan Kriley (Tampa, Florida), Dylan LeClair (Townsend, Massachusetts) and Noah Urwiler (Lincoln Southwest) and redshirt freshman Mitch Tyndall (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) are set for their first meet as Huskers.

Most of the freshmen have competed at national and Olympic events at the junior level. Jackson (high bar in 2014), Giles (vault in 2017) and King (high bar in 2015) were Junior Olympic champions, and Tyndall was a member of the Canadian Junior National Team in 2012 and 2013.

Chmelka said the group will be able to contribute on multiple events, and events like high bar are expected to receive a points boost.

"It's really a good feeling knowing how good they are and how talented they are," Chmelka said. "Now we've just got to show it in a meet."

Senior captain Anton Stephenson said he sees a strong blend on the roster from top to bottom, a mix that will allow the Huskers to continue to shoot for big goals.

"I think we do have a good base," Stephenson said. "We have a lot of leaders on this team in the upperclassmen that have guided the mentality of this team and what we do with our gymnastics. But the freshmen have firepower. They have pizzazz."

Nebraska's new-look lineup will be put to the test Saturday at the Rocky Mountain Open. The field includes No. 1 and defending national champion Oklahoma, No. 4 Minnesota and No. 6 Ohio State. Nebraska is ranked seventh in the College Gymnastics Association preseason poll. In addition to a strong field, teams will battle the altitude, and Chmelka said he's looking for a good base to build from after Saturday.

With so many new faces, it's unclear how the lineups will look from week to week this season. What is clear: Expectations are not changing.

"I don't think we want to limit ourselves by setting goals too low," Stephenson said. "What we have said from the start, we want a conference title. We want to be Big Ten champions. At NCAAs, I definitely think we can do better than last year and hit the top four, which would give us a trophy to put in that case."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.

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