No. 8 Cal men’s gymnastics has only traveled three times this season, with two of three road meets coming within California. This Saturday, however, the Bears travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where they will compete against the No. 11 Wolverines. The Bears are currently 1-3, so what will it take for them to start winning their meets, despite how tough their competitor may be? Perhaps fine tuning their little inconsistencies, ones that have regularly beset the Bears in their meets, can help them get a much-needed win.
Just more than a year ago, the Bears competed against Michigan and Stanford in the Cardinal’s Burnham Pavilion. Cal barely clinched second place, inching past Michigan by less than a point, with a score of 431.550-430.900. Unfortunately for the Bears, that less-than-a-point victory came when the team had Kyle Zemeir and Kevin Wolting, two of Cal’s strongest gymnasts at the time. The two were both seniors at the time, Zemeir was a two-time All-American, while Wolting was a three-time All-American.
Now with that pair graduated, the Bears must rely on more of a team effort to repeat last year’s victory. At its most recent home meet, Cal came in third out of four teams at the Pac-12 Invitational, behind No. 2 Stanford and No. 7 Nebraska and ahead of No. 14 Arizona State. Sophomore Aaron Mah and junior Yordan Aleksandrov have consistently been some of Cal’s top competitors this season, with both competing in the all-around competitions. Mah is a member of Canada’s national team and Aleksandrov is a member of Bulgaria’s national team.
At the Pac-12 Invitational, either Mah or Aleksandrov achieved the highest Cal score in all of the events, save for the pommel horse. The pommel horse, an apparatus the Bears struggle on, was the lowest aggregate score for the home team, with redshirt sophomore Mitchell Awisus earning the highest score with a 12.900. Other redshirt sophomore Nathaniel Ramil is another Cal gymnast to be on the lookout for, namely on the vault, as he scored a 14.350 at the Invitational.
Though the pommel horse may be difficult for the Bears, it is a strong suit for the Wolverines, who are currently ranked ninth in the NCAA for the event. Although Cal has strong gymnasts in Mah, Aleksandrov, Awisus and Ramil, the Wolverines have their share of powerful gymnasts as well. Michigan sophomores Emyre Cole and Ryan Dunning as well as senior Anthony Stefanelli are all nationally ranked in the vault, rings and floor, respectively. At last week’s Winter Cup Challenge in Las Vegas, three of Michigan’s gymnasts, who were underclassmen, placed in the top 15 on the vault exercise. Thus, both Cal and Michigan evidently have strong underclassmen competitors, ones that can make or break the results for either team.
The inconsistencies the Bears displayed at the Pac-12 invitational, whether it be maintaining grip on the pommel horse or not falling from the still rings, must be fixed. If they aren’t, the Wolverines will not slow down, as they are nationally ranked in both of the events. In its four dual meets with Cal, Michigan has won every single time.
Patterns are patterns for a reason, and though Cal barely beat Michigan at the tri-meet with Stanford, Cal will need to change its performance to get its first win in a dual meet against Michigan. If not, history will repeat itself yet again, and Cal will lose for the fifth time to Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Avanti Mehrotra covers men’s gymnastics. Contact her at [email protected]