The chance to get to see two top-10 teams square off is rare. The opportunity to see three top teams compete is even more of an anomaly. On Sunday, the Cal men’s gymnastics team will host Stanford and Oklahoma in a three-way contest at Haas Pavilion.
The meet, scheduled for noon, will feature three of the best gymnastics squads in the country. Oklahoma currently holds the number one seed, Stanford is ranked fifth, and Cal rounds out the group with a rank of seven.
This marks the Bears’ fourth meeting with the Cardinal this season. Cal won the first contest on Jan. 13, besting Stanford with a score of 340.900-334.800. But the Bears fell a week later in Palo Alto, suffering a defeat on Jan. 21, 345.200-340.450. The third meeting cost the Bears a drop in national rankings as they beat Nebraska, but again lost to Stanford in another tri-meet.
Former Cal gymnastics team member and current head coach Tim McNeil attributes the Bear’s recent difficulty to “not having full lineups.” According to McNeil, the team was without junior Dennis Mannhart.
“He had an infected hand,” McNeil said. “It was just a fluke thing. It was a small cut, and then it swelled up to three times its normal size.”
McNeil seems confident that Mannhart will be back in action this weekend, even though his coach said “he is still not at 100 percent.”
Many of the top gymnasts competing on Sunday are coming off of a fierce competition at the 2012 Winter Cup Challenge in Las Vegas. The two-day event served as a qualifier for the United States’ men’s gymnastics team.
The Bears were represented by Donothan Bailey, Glen Ishino and Steven Lacombe, as well as former Cal team members Kyle Bunthowong and Bryan del Castillo. All-Americans Cameron Foreman and Chris Turner competed from Stanford. The Sooners, not to be outdone, sent juniors Jake Dalton, Troy Nitzky, Chris Stehl, sophomore Presten Ellsworth and freshman Dylan Akers.
Cal’s Ishino was the only one of these athletes to secure a spot on the men’s national team. The senior also earned the MPSF’s Gymnast of the Week award. McNeil said Ishino’s performance on the pommel horse was “really exciting.” He said Ishino “completely dominated, winning by the biggest margin that I have ever seen.”
McNeil is excited for the meet on Sunday and a chance for the Bears to avenge their recent losses against Stanford. He’s especially looking forward to “big release moves on high bar and floor tumbling, which are always big crowd pleasers.”