MPSF Men’s Gymnastics Week 3 Preview: Oklahoma, Air Force at Rocky Mountain Open; Cal, Stanford on byes

By Aidan Giusti | January 19, 2024
Air Force's Garrett Braunton on pommel horse at the 2022 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships.
© Amy Sanderson/Gymnastics Now

Week 3 of MPSF men’s gymnastics features a rematch between Air Force and Oklahoma, with Air Force hosting the Rocky Mountain Open this weekend. Cal and Stanford are both taking the week off before facing off again next week at the Stanford Open.

#2 Oklahoma & Air Force @ Rocky Mountain Open

Week 3 Matchup: Saturday, January 20 @ 8 p.m. ET | Nebraska, Oklahoma @ Air Force (Rocky Mountain Open) – Video (Free)


The Sooners looked to make a statement in their season opener last weekend, and they did just that, scoring the second highest team score in the NCAA (413.600) and only being two-tenths behind reigning four-time national champion Stanford. It will be hard to beat their 29/30 performance last weekend, but Emre Dodanli says, “We are building off our experience from last week and supporting each [other] this week for our upcoming comp.”

A season-high of 418.9 last year proves the Sooners have room to grow. Chasing down Stanford (and the rest of the NCAA) and proving they have what it takes to top the podium in April is no easy task, but with a team whose mentality is “if you want to achieve as bad as you want to breathe, you can do anything!” the motivation definitely seems there.

We get to watch the Sooners at the Rocky Mountain Open this weekend, where they will take on Air Force and Nebraska. Head coach Mark Williams said freshman Colin Flores and redshirt sophomore Fuzzy Benas will compete in the all-around as they try to qualify to next month’s Winter Cup. It will also be Benas’ first time competing all-around since the 2022 NCAA Championships after he missed last season due to multiple injuries.

Routines to watch:

  • Emre Dodanli on floor. Dodanli’s 14.75 on floor last week marks the highest score on the event in the country by 0.350. He opens the routine with a double-twisting double layout. A routine jam-packed with difficulty, his second half includes high level combination passes, including a front layout to front 5/2 (Randi) and a back 5/2 to front 1/1. The Turkish national team member exhibits great power and complete control from mount to dismount. As a legitimate contender to win the NCAA floor title this season, his routine is one watch each and every week.
  • Tas Hajdu on rings. Hajdu made quite the debut in McCasland Field House last weekend, scoring a 14.1 and taking home the rings event title. He opens the routine with an insane strength combo: back uprise to straight planche, lower to Maltese, Nakayama to cross. With the addition of solid swing elements and a tucked double-double dismount, Hajdu’s rings set is one you will want to watch for the next four years.

Air Force  

The Falcons look to hit the reset button this weekend as they host Oklahoma and Nebraska. Senior Oliver Zavel, who was out last week on concussion protocol, said that the season opener was “a good opportunity to gauge where we are at as a team realistically. We know we have a lot to improve on in terms of general cleanliness/form.”

Using last weekend as motivation, Zavel said, “We have high hopes for the rest of the season, and we aren’t letting a low team score define us and how we move forward. We are just getting started.”

Competing on their home equipment in front of their home fans will definitely help as the Falcons look to show the NCAA what they are capable of.

Routines to watch:

  • Erich Upton on vault. Leading the Falcons’ vault squad with his Kas 3/2 (Tsuk 5/2), Upton is going to be an integral part of Air Force’s lineup this year. As the anchor, he is responsible for finishing the rotation strong and helping set the tone for the rest of the competition. Competing the only 5.2 vault for the Falcons last week, Upton adds a level of difficulty that will help keep the Falcons competitive.
  • Sam Brown on pommel horse. Patrick Hoopes isn’t the only Falcon who is great at pommel horse. With a 13.95 in Week 2, Brown’s routine has great flow and high difficulty including solid flop and one-pommel elements as well as travel elements such as a Tong Fei, Magyar, and Sivado. A solid routine and a nice swing, Brown’s routine is just fun to watch.


After a strong performance last weekend, scoring a nation-leading 413.800, the Cardinal are on a bye this week before hosting the Stanford Open next week.

As they train through this weekend, Asher Hong said, “I think this first comp was a great starting point for our team. We had some minor and major mistakes, but it’s part of the process and we still have [a] lot of work this season. So as we prepare for the Stanford Open and the rest of the season, we are ready to keep our heads down, follow the training plan [head coach] Thom [Glielmi] has created, and make every practice count until our showing at NCAAs.”

Stay tuned for next week, when Stanford takes on California at home.


After earning a commendable 388.200 in their season opener, the Bears are off this weekend and will pick it up across the Bay at the Stanford Open next weekend.

Reflecting on last weekend and looking to the coming weeks, freshman Carter Kim had this to say: “It felt so surreal competing for Cal for the first time… it’s ecstatic and the pressure is like no other. It was just an irreplaceable experience that’ll stick with me literally forever.”

Describing his first competition as a “dream come true,” Carter says that, moving forward, Cal’s approach leading up to the Stanford Open and the rest of the season is numbers: “Our practices have been going well, and we deciphered our weak spot was the numbers. Even if we hit a solid set, do it again, make it better, striving for perfection is always the standard.”

Already sounding like a veteran, we’ll get to see the fruits of Kim and the rest of the Bears’ new training plan next weekend in Palo Alto.