There comes a time in the season of every sports team when you have to lay everything on the line and go for broke. For the No. 7 Cal men’s gymnastics team, this moment came Thursday, when the Bears traveled to Oklahoma to compete in the NCAA championships. Cal competed over a span of three days and ended up finishing fifth in the nation with a final score of 432.100.
“The team did awesome. They went out there and fought for each other just like they’ve done all year long,” said head coach Brett McClure. “They put on a really strong performance that’s going to help out the future of the program.”
Cal came out swinging Thursday in its first day of competition. The goal on Day One was simple: Perform well enough to qualify for the team finals, which took place the following day. The Bears didn’t have it easy in the first session of the NCAA championships, as they competed against No. 2 Stanford, No. 3 Penn State, No. 6 Minnesota, No. 10 Air Force and No. 11 Nebraska.
Still, the Bears were able to put on one of their best performances of the season as they finished with an overall team score of 433.700 — a score good enough for a second-place finish in session one that allowed them to advance to the team finals Friday.
“The team was really nervous heading into Day One, but they knew what they were capable of,” McClure said. “They got into a rhythm from the very first event that became contagious.”
It was the core group of veterans that led the charge in the team finals, especially when it came to juniors Kevin Wolting and Kyle Zemeir. Wolting finished at the top of the pack with an overall individual score of 88.200, earning him a fifth-place finish.
But it didn’t end there for Wolting. He was able to earn two more All-American honors Saturday in the individual event finals. His first all-American honor came after the floor exercise, where he tied for sixth place with a score of 15.375. He followed this with another All-American performance on the vault, as he finished in second place with a final event score of 15.075.
Zemeir also had a strong showing throughout the three-day competition, following in Wolting’s footsteps. He was able to earn all-around All-American honors during Friday’s team finals, finishing in eighth place with a final all-around score of 87.700. He would go on to perform well in the individual event finals, earning an All-American honor on the parallel bars with a 15.000.
The highlight for Cal came on its sixth event, the vault exercise, where Wolting led the team with a score of 15.100, one of the best event performances of the night. The Bears also got a strong showing from junior Ryan Patterson, who finished with a vault score of 15.000. No Bear scored below a 14.350.
But it was the team’s performances on the other five events that really hurt its chances of taking home a championship, especially when it came to the pommel horse, where the team scored a 67.750.
The NCAA championship title was instead awarded to No. 1 Oklahoma, which had a final team score of 447.050. Still, the Bears are proud of the season they had and are excited for the future of the program.
“This season was just the beginning of what we’re capable of doing, so it’s definitely a great year to come,” McClure said.
Alex Quintana covers gymnastics. Contact him at [email protected]