Practice makes perfect. At least that’s what the No. 9 Cal Men’s gymnastics team, which has now had weeks of practice and two competitions is hoping. Although the first meet against Stanford and the following Stanford Open did not go as well as they would have liked, the Cal men are back in the gym preparing for Saturday’s SC United Open. The Bears will face off against No. 13 Arizona State, No. 19 Temple and No. 20 SC United this Saturday at the Platinum Sports Center in Simi Valley, California.
The SC United Open is hosted by the Southern California Men’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association, an organization created to help improve college gymnastics in Southern California. Given the NCAA rankings of all of its competitors, Cal has a good shot at being successful at the Open.
ASU is a young team — it has only five juniors and seniors, with the 15 other team members being freshmen or sophomores. Despite its lack of veteran college gymnasts, ASU should not be underestimated, given it is still in the top 15 NCAA teams. Temple University’s men’s team is, similar to ASU’s team, a club team. But, in contrast, it is an older team; 11 of its 15 members are upperclassmen and they thus sport a larger number of veteran gymnasts.
SC United is also a club team, with its members from schools all around Southern California, including UCLA. At least half the team consists of underclassmen. Most recently, SC United placed fourth at the Rocky Mountain Open, behind No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 8 Air Force and Club Oklahoma.
The Bears’ participation in the SC United Open may be exactly what the team needs right now, especially because it lost its first meet to No. 2 Stanford, and came in second, behind Stanford again, at the Stanford Open this past weekend. The especially tough competition in their first two weeks of the season, however, helped the Bears understand what parts of their routines they need to work on. For example, Cal struggled on the floor exercise during the Stanford Open, likely because of its loss of energy toward the end of the competition.
Yet four of Cal’s gymnasts, junior Gagik Gharibyan, redshirt sophomore Nathaniel Ramil, sophomore Aaron Mah and junior Yordan Aleksandrov have consistently performed well during the past two weeks, despite facing tough competition from Stanford. Gharibyan, Ramil, Mah and Aleksandrov can especially help the team succeed this weekend, namely on the vault, parallel bars and all-around events. The vault event, in particular, has proved to be fruitful for the Bears early on in the season, and this trend will likely continue with strong performances from gymnasts like Gharibyan and Ramil.
The SC United Open will hopefully be a breather for the Bears. Given that Cal is ranked higher than all of its competitors, the Open can be an opportunity for the Bears to shine. Although only time can tell how Cal will do, the team must strive for the Open to highlight its strengths rather than its weaknesses. Starting their season off with difficult competition, the Bears are more motivated than ever to be more successful from here on out.
Avanti Mehrotra covers men’s gymnastics. Contact her at [email protected]