There was a time when Charlie Giles thought he had accomplished all he could in gymnastics. And truth be told, he was a bit burned out.
But something flipped for Giles, and the Husker men’s gymnast is glad it did.
Giles’ Husker career is down to its final two competitions, and he has a chance to accomplish a lot more. There will be opportunities to repeat as an All-American and he’s one of eight finalists for the Nissen-Emery award, the Heisman Trophy of men’s gymnastics.
And when Giles graduates in August, he plans to coach full-time at Nebraska School of Gymnastics in Lincoln. The program needs more girls coaches, so that’s where Giles will spend most of his time.
“I’m not getting out of the sport,” Giles said. “I definitely wanted to come back and share my knowledge of the sport, which is what we need from former gymnasts.”
First, though, is a chance to add on to what has already been a standout senior season.
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After not winning an event title as a junior, Giles has won seven of them, including four on pommel horse and two on vault. Giles is ranked second nationally on pommel horse and third on vault. He also is a strong contributor on floor exercise.
Giles’ confidence continues to build heading into the Big Ten Championships, which are Friday and Saturday at Penn State.
“I think for me, it’s being very trusting in my training,” he said. “Because when you go out to competitions, you tend to overthink things, but I’ve learned in the past just trust what I’ve done and trust what I know how to do, and with that being said, just go out there and have some fun. That’s really it.”
It took some time for Giles to find his footing at Nebraska, and not just on the competition floor. The Lake Zurich, Illinois, native says a learning disability led to some struggles in the classroom as a freshman.
In fact, school was much more challenging than adjusting to college gymnastics.
“It bothered me a lot in the past because that’s all that I could think about even though I knew that I had the help that I needed,” Giles said. “It was always in the back in the mind of, ‘Well, I’ve got this homework assignment to do and I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to do it.’
“When you’re in the gym, you’re supposed to only be thinking about the gym, and if you don’t think about that, then that’s how you get hurt. I found a way to disconnect from it and able to get ahead in school, which helped.”
It also translated into stronger performances at gymnastics meets.
Giles earned All-America honors as a freshman on vault and was the Huskers’ top performer at the end of last season. He took third on vault at the Big Ten meet and earned All-America honors on pommel horse and vault.
This year, Giles’ scores on floor exercise (14.65), pommel horse (14.90) and vault (15.05) are career highs.
Those performances led to Giles being named a finalist for the Nissen-Emery award. Fellow Husker Evan Kriley also is up for the award; Nebraska is the only school with two finalists.
Giles called it a “huge honor.”
Within the past couple of years, Giles has found new energy in the gym. He said he’ll never forget the moment NU finished third at nationals in 2019, and the chance to compete alongside his brother Cooper, a Husker junior, helped lead to an unforgettable collegiate experience at NU.
A chance to add more hardware at Big Tens and NCAAs awaits Giles, as well as a chance to lead the Husker men to another top-three finish at the national meet.
For Giles and the Huskers, there’s a lot more to accomplish.
“Yeah, it is coming to the end of my career, but I think that’s just fueling me to do better than what I’ve been doing so far,” Giles said.
The Huskers enter the Big Ten meet ranked No. 4 nationally. Team and all-around competitions will take place at 6 p.m. Friday, and individual finals will begin at 6 p.m. Saturday. BTN will have coverage both nights.
Reach Clark Grell at 402-473-2639 or [email protected]. On Twitter at @LJSSportsGrell.