No. 11 Cal men’s gymnastics has won the MPSF Championship a total of three times in school history, with the most recent win coming in 2004. It’s been 13 years since, and though the Bears face exceptionally tough competition this year in the championship, they will be looking to get a fourth title this weekend. Haas Pavilion will be full of some of the best talent in the nation Saturday, as Cal will host No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 2 Stanford and No. 10 Air Force for the 2017 Championship.
Yet a victory Saturday will be tough for the Bears. Cal lost to both Stanford and Air Force during its regular season, while never matching up against Oklahoma. 2017 will be the 25th year of the MPSF Championship, and the Sooners have won a total of 16 titles. They have won the championship six years in a row and 2017 could easily be their seventh title based on their regular season performance — Oklahoma has not lost a single meet this season. That being said, the team just barely clinched a win over Stanford during a conference meet, 432.300-432.050.
Cal finished its regular season in a face-off against rival Stanford — ultimately falling 422.00-406.00. Although the end result was a loss, the Bears earned one of their highest total scores of the season. With that in mind, the Bears have the capability to keep their competition alert and on their toes, as anything can happen in a pressure-filled meet.
Last year going into the championship against the exact same competition, the Bears were ranked seventh and the Air Force was ranked 11th. Ultimately, Cal finished that evening in third place with a score of 435.550. When the Bears faced the Falcons earlier this season it ended in a close loss, 403.900-395.750. That, however, was more than a month ago, and since then the Bears have improved their performance. The margin shows yet again that the Bears can be the dark horse Saturday if they can overcome some of the events that have given them the most issues.
While the pommel horse has proved to be a pitfall for the Bears in many of their meets, their strong suits lie in the high bar and floor events. Most recently against Stanford, junior Gagik Gharibyan came in second place on the high bar, while sophomore Aaron Mah and junior Yordan Aleksandrov tied for third. Mah and Aleksandrov additionally compete in the all-around event for the Bears. Redshirt junior Michael Rauchwerger often shines on the floor, and against the Cardinal last weekend, he continued to shine, coming in third with a score of 14.700.
While the Bears look to get a win this weekend, the Sooners, Cardinal and Falcons are all especially tough and competitive competitors. Even though rankings, rosters and meet results have all changed in the last year, the only thing under the Bears’ control is their performance — which will be determined based on their consistency and confidence.
Avanti Mehrotra covers men’s gymnastics. Contact her at [email protected]