2022 U.S. Classic: Brody Malone, Donnell Whittenburg impress as field pushes difficulty

By Patricia Duffy | July 31, 2022
2022 U.S. Classic: Brody Malone, Donnell Whittenburg impress as field pushes difficulty
Brody Malone competes on parallel bars at the 2022 U.S. Classic. (© Lloyd Smith)

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – The 2022 U.S. Classic was the first-ever to include a men’s competition since its inception in the 1980s, and even though the decision was made to not give out medals or have an awards ceremony for the men, Brody Malone (Stanford) and Donnell Whittenburg (Salto) both still walked away with two titles a piece.

In only his second meet competing all-around this season, Malone took advantage of the U.S. men’s bonus system that awards difficulty, earning an 88.558 in the all-around, including 2.558 in bonus points. The 22-year-old competed four routines with 6.0+ start values, pushing his D-score enough to earn additional points on all events but vault.

The reigning world high bar bronze medalist was able to earn a good chunk of those extra points with a world class set on his best event, high bar, notching a 16.016 (6.3, 8.6) with a 1.116 bonus. The routine included high-flying skills like the Cassina, Kolman, and a triple Tkatchev series, finishing with a laid-out double-double.

Malone has essentially been competing nonstop since last year, going from the Olympics to worlds to NCAA to two world cups and, somehow, throwing in some time for minor angle surgery. Understandably, this was his first meet competing all-around since winning silver at NCAAs in April.

“For him to balance the recovery act and continue to be out there on the international level was pretty impressive,” Men’s High Performance Director Brett McClure said of Malone, who he called the “default leader” for the U.S. men’s team after Sunday’s meet. “We’re just starting to see him come back into shape as an all-arounder just now. He has not been [competing at this level] all year long.”

Just in time for U.S. Championships, Malone put it all together and hit six-for-six. Even though there is always room for improvement, specifically on pommel horse – a set he muscled through this weekend, the defending U.S. all-around champion said his fitness has been trending up and “getting better and better” after being in a rough spot a few weeks ago.

“A lot of these routines was the first time I’ve competed them,” Malone said after the meet. “So it’s nice to get a competition under your belt before you go straight to USAs.”

Whittenburg was easily the biggest name competing in the second session. The two-time world medalist made his domestic return to the all-around after competing in the German Bundesliga circuit this past spring, finishing third all-around with an 85.018.

The 27-year-old topped the field on his two best events, vault and rings, which he started and ended with, respectively.

Opening on vault, Whittenburg opted to show just one skill. That skill, the Ri Se Gwang (full-twisting double tucked Tsukahara), is the hardest vault any U.S. man is competing right now. Massive through the air and with just a small hop on the landing, Whittenburg earned the highest score of the meet with a 16.780, including a 1.780 bonus.

Despite finishing on rings (he prefers to do the reverse – start on rings and finish on vault), Whittenburg put the cherry on top of a great night with a huge laid-out double-double dismount and a 15.522 (0.522 bonus).

“I had [some] little mistakes here and there, but it’s definitely heading in the right direction,” Whittenburg said. “So just gonna get back in the gym and try to get some extra endurance… Probably add in a couple of upgrades, but honestly, at this point in my career, it’s just trying to hit sets because I know that’s what they’re looking for.”

Stanford’s Colt Walker finished second in the all-around with an 85.264. The standout routine of his night came on parallel bars, where he earned a 15.860 (0.810 bonus) to win the event title.

Rounding out the event winners were Penn State’s Matt Cormier, who hit a huge floor set to earn a 15.222 (0.522 bonus). 

Fellow Nittany Lion and reigning world pommel horse champion Stephen Nedoroscik competed for the first time since winning gold in Kitakyushu, Japan, last fall after dealing with nagging injuries.

The goggle-wearing gymnast fell early in his set but, thanks to a massive difficult score (6.5) and 1.193 in bonus points, he still posted a 14.743 and won the pommel horse title. He’s training a 7.0 D-score set that would be one of the, if not the, most difficult routine in the world if successfully competed.

“This is the best we’ve looked in July outside of the rush of an Olympic year,” McClure said after session one. “There are a ton of new skills being tested, which is exactly what we wanted this event to be.”

In the junior session, Toma Murakawa (Gymnastics Olympica USA) won floor, pommel horse, rings, and vault on his way to the all-around crown. His combined 129.550 was over four points ahead of runner-up Zach Green (Stanford Boys).

Junior gymnasts were scored on technical sequences Saturday evening at USA Gymnastics World in Woods Cross, Utah, to verify their eligibility to compete at the Junior Elite level. U.S. Classic men’s junior all-around and apparatus scores are cumulative and include marks earned on technical sequences Saturday in addition to those received Sunday at Maverik Center.

Paul Juda (Michigan) and Samuel Phillips (Nebraska) scratched from the meet, with the former pulling out beforehand after he hyperextended his knee. Phillips injured his left ankle during the first half of the competition and scratched after floor. Both gymnasts were seen on crutches after session two.

Full results: Junior | Senior | 10-Point Results

This weekend’s meet also served as a qualifier for those still looking to earn a spot at the 2022 OOFOS U.S. Championships in Tampa, Florida, next month.

2022 OOFOS U.S. Championships qualifiers from 2022 U.S. Classic

Juniors

  • Toma Murakawa (Gym Olympica USA)
  • Zach Green (Stanford Boys)
  • Cash Johnston (Houston Gym Academy)
  • Brendan Storm (Gym Olympica USA)
  • Dylan Shepard (Gymnastics USA)
  • Evan Reichert (Premier West)

Seniors

  • Colin Flores (WCOGA)
  • Noah Sano (UC Berkeley)
  • Ian Skurkey (Illinois)
  • Javier Alfonso (Michigan)
  • Daniel Simmons (Oklahoma)
  • Will Fleck (Penn State)
  • Evan Hymanson (Stanford Boys)
  • Caleb Melton (Penn State)
  • Joshua Karnes (Penn State)
  • Landen Blixt (Michigan)
  • Blake Sun (Stanford)
  • Kameron Nelson (Ohio State)
  • Taylor Christopulos (Nebraska)
  • Isaiah Drake (U.S. Naval Academy)
  • Donnell Whittenburg (Salto)
  • Matt Cormier (Penn State)
  • Donnell Whittenburg - Salto
  • Yul Moldauer - 5280
  • Michael Jaroh - Penn State
  • Colt Walker - Stanford)
  • Shane Wiskus - USOPTC
  • Fred Richard - MEGA
  • Shane Wiskus (left) and Yul Moldauer (right)
  • Stephen Nedoroscik - Penn State