MPSF Men’s Gymnastics Week 4 Preview: Cal vs. Stanford part 2, Oklahoma looking to make more magic

By Aidan Giusti | January 26, 2024
The California men's gymnastics team at the 2022 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships.
© Amy Sanderson/Gymnastics Now

After training through last weekend, California and Stanford will pick things back up with their second matchup of the season, this time in Palo Alto as Stanford hosts the Stanford Open.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma makes the trip to Big Ten territory for a head-to-head matchup with Illinois.

#9 California @ #2 Stanford

Week 4 Matchup: Saturday, January 27 @ 10:00 p.m. EST | California @ Stanford (Stanford Open (w/ Team USA)) | Video (Virtius)

Stanford

Coming off a 413.800 at the Cal Benefit Cup, Stanford will look to reclaim their spot as the No. 1 team in the country this week after Oklahoma usurped the Cardinal during their bye week. Last season proved that Stanford is more than capable of breaking into the 420s, and the question is really how high in the 420s can they reach?

This may be a new season, but according to Taylor Burkhart, “Nothing has really changed. The guys in the gym are keeping their heads down and constantly bringing the intensity in the gym.”

For a team that has had the success this team has, trusting in and executing the training plan is definitely the way to go. With Burkhart expected to rest this weekend, and the team’s other national team members resting next weekend, hopefully we get to see some new faces repping the Cardinal. 

Routines to watch:

  • Ian Lasic-Ellis on high bar. With a Kolman, straight and straddle Tkatchevs, and a Tak half, this routine has a good level of difficulty; what makes this routine one to watch is Lasic-Ellis’ control from start to finish. 
  • Taylor Burkhart on vault. Burkhart’s half-on, double full off is one of the rarest vaults you’ll see in the NCAA (and the world). In addition to being unique, Burkhart’s vault has great power and technique.

California

After a week off, the Bears take a trip across the Bay for the Stanford Open. After a 388.200 opening weekend and pushing numbers in the gym, Cal looks to break into the 390s and align itself with Navy, Penn State, and Ohio State.

Ahead of this weekend, Theodor Roald Gadderud said, “We knew as a team that we needed to increase the numbers in the gym, and I believe that this has helped everyone on the team, me included, but it wasn’t easy… I believe that the increased numbers in the gym are going to be shown on Saturday.”

Numbers are the name of the game for Cal, so it will be interesting to see the results of two weeks of hard work.

Routines to watch:

  • Tyler Shimizu on floor. A staple of the Bears’ floor lineup, the junior added some difficulty during the offseason. He now opens his routine with a triple full. The best way to describe his routine is dynamic tumbling and soft landings. His passes have great power and control, and his routine adds a certain level of poise to the Bears’ lineup. 
  • Tucker Yasunaga on high bar. One of three freshmen in the lineup for Cal two weeks ago, Yasunaga didn’t look like a rookie. From his high-flying Tkatchevs to his Zou Li Min and stuck dismount, he had great control throughout his entire routine. His routine may not be the most difficult, but his clean lines and confident swing makes his routine a good one to watch.

#1 Oklahoma @ #5 Illinois

Week 4 Matchup: Sunday, January 28 @ 5 p.m. ET | Oklahoma @ IllinoisLive Stats | Video (BTN)

Oklahoma

After an incredible 420.350 performance in Colorado last weekend, the Sooners have earned the top spot in the NCAA. The Sooners will look to continue this hot streak as they travel to Illinois this weekend.

After a great all-around performance and qualifying for Winter Cup last weekend, freshman Colin Flores said, “We all did our jobs as a team, hitting 100% of our routines this past weekend, and I am extremely excited to see what this team has in store for this season. [Rocky Mountain Open] is a meet we all plan to build off of as we are working to make improvements each step of the way.”

Flores echoed head coach Mark Williams’ mentality, “Our plan moving forward is more of the same, while trying to develop our difficulty – put some things we’ve been training into meets – and continuing to bring in more of our newcomers to the lineup as the season goes on… It’s early, so we know we need to maintain that focus and energy as the season progresses and, of course, the X-factor of staying healthy.”

After finishing fourth at NCAAs a year ago, it seems Oklahoma is back on the road to challenging Stanford (and others) for the national title.

Routines to watch:

  • Zach Nunez on pommel horse. With a 14.8 of his own last weekend, Ignacio Yockers isn’t the only Sooner to watch out for on pommel horse. While we’re on the lookout for Nunez to compete on other events soon, it’s nonetheless entertaining to watch him and Yockers dominate the pommel horse scene in the NCAA. 
  • Fuzzy Benas on parallel bars. Benas’ 14.8 from last weekend puts him in second on parallel bars in the NCAA. His routine pairs high difficulty with great control. If last week was any indication for the rest of season, the big takeaway is to watch Benas on parallel bars (and every other event).

#10 Air Force

The Falcons are off for the next two weeks before competing at the All-Academy Championships on February 10.