There is some amount of predictability in the sport of college men’s gymnastics. While there is no way of knowing in advance whether a certain gymnast will stick his landing or fall off during a difficult element, there is an ability to look at patterns in this sport. There are the clearly dominant and superior teams and those that do not contain strong enough gymnasts to be a topic of conversation.
The Cal men’s gymnastics team seems to continue to rest somewhere in the middle. The Bears are good, there is no doubt. They have remained in the top 10 in the country for the entire season. And having faced multiple teams that have found their resting zones in top five throughout the year, Cal has been unable to overcome the biggest demons that have plagued it.
And these demons will only continue to haunt the Bears in Columbus, Ohio, when they take part in the NCAA Championships at Ohio State’s St. John Arena, beginning Friday.
No. 4-seeded Cal will be taking part in the first of two quarterfinals on Friday, hoping to qualify for the NCAA Team Finals on Saturday. The Bears will be up against MPSF Champion No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 5 Minnesota, No. 8 Penn State, No. 9 Nebraska and No. 12 Navy. The second session features host and Big-10 Championship the No. 3 Buckeyes, No. 2 Stanford, No. 6 Illinois, No. 7 Iowa, No. 10 Air Force and No. 11 Michigan.
The top-three scoring teams from each session make it to the finals the next day. The top-three individuals from each event not already qualified on a team or as an original competitor will also move on to the finals, with non-team qualifying gymnasts also taking part in the qualifiers.
The three teams seeded ahead of Cal will easily be its biggest challengers. The Bears’ qualifying score for the tournament, 434.313, is more than four behind Ohio State and more than 14 less than the Sooners’ top mark, 448.800.
Cal has lost to the Cardinal five times this season, including a meet Jan. 24, when the Bears hosted both Stanford and the Buckeyes, but ultimately fell to fourth place.
The team, however, scored its highest total team score in program history March 13 in a win against Army and Washington. Cal put together a 442.150, the first time the school has ever scored above a 440. The Bears were unable to get even close to matching this score at the MPSF Championships, finishing behind Oklahoma and the Cardinal with a 435.550. They will need to replicate their record-breaking performances this weekend in order to have a chance at overtaking these tough opponents.
Cal will be aided by seven seniors and a completely healthy squad, which had been an issue earlier this season. Senior co-captains Kyle Zemeir and Kevin Wolting, the team’s typical all-around competitors, will need strong performances in order to influence the team’s overall score in their last meet as Bears. The goal all season has been to continue to raise the team’s overall score for the postseason. The postseason is here. The landings should now be stuck at a higher percent than ever with a whole year under everyone’s belts.
It’s now or never.