MPSF Men’s Gymnastics Week 4 Recap: Cal breaks the 390s, Oklahoma falls to Illinois

By Aidan Giusti | January 29, 2024
Stanford's Colt Walker on vault at the 2023 Core Hydration Classic.
© Amy Sanderson/Gymnastics Now

In Week 4 of MPSF men’s gymnastics, California improved by 8 points from the Cal Benefit Cup, breaking the 396s and showing the Bears can be competitive with Ohio State, Penn State, and Navy. Stanford improved at home and broke 70 on three events. Illinois’ strong second half was enough to defeat Oklahoma in Urbana-Champaign.

#9 California @ #2 Stanford

Final score: Stanford: 415.250 – California: 396.300

Stanford

The Cardinal hosted another successful Stanford Open this weekend inside Burnham Pavilion. Stanford looked to reclaim the No. 1 spot in the NCAA, and a 415.250 team score was just enough to slip by Oklahoma in the latest rankings.

The Cardinal saw improvements on four events this weekend, most notably a 2.4-point jump on vault and a 2.85-point jump on parallel bars. A difficult rotation on high bar and a near 6-point decrease from Cal Benefit Cup on the event, among other things, stopped Stanford from breaking into the 420s. Stanford took home event titles on everything except high bar: Colt Walker won floor (14.65), Khoi Young won pommel horse (14.8), vault (14.85), and parallel bars (14.9), and Asher Hong won rings (15.15), and the all-around (84.95). Young took second in the all-around by one-tenth. Also competing all-around for the Cardinal was Brandon Nguyen, who scored an 80.50 and earned fourth place, qualifying to next month’s Winter Cup.

Competing vault and high bar in his debut for the Cardinal was freshman Zach Green, who scored a 13.9 and 11.95, respectively. Taylor Burkhart, a staple in the Cardinal’s lineups, was resting this weekend ahead of international competitions. Freshman David Shamah and sophomore Arun Chhetri also got reps this weekend, with Shamah putting up a strong 14.35 on the parallel bars and Chhetri scoring a 12.8 on rings and 13.15 on parallel bars.

California

The Bears’ mantra for the last two weeks was numbers in the gym. We got to see the effect of the increased numbers this weekend, and in short, it paid off. The Bears improved 8 points from opening weekend at the Cal Benefit Cup, breaking the 395s and showing the NCAA they can compete with teams like Ohio State, Penn State, and Navy. Best Bear award went to freshman Brendan Strom, who made a strong debut for the Bears, scoring a 13.25 on floor, and a pair of 13.5s on vault and parallel bars. 

Also returning to the floor this weekend, junior Jasper Smith-Gordon put up a 13.4 on floor after two years away from the event. Darren Wong made his way back on four events this weekend, most notably winning the high bar title with a 13.55. The best way to characterize his routine is sharp and fast; with a Tak half, straight and straddle Tkatchev, and piked Endo and stalders, Wong’s routine has a good level of difficulty but is brought to the next level with his precision. Rounding out the top scores for the Bears was Noah Newfeld on floor (13.45), pommel horse (13.8), and parallel bars (14.3), Theodor Gadderud on rings (13.85), and Jelani Sweet on vault (14.4). 

Newfeld had himself a day, notching an 81.4 in the all-around, which earned him third place and a ticket to Winter Cup. Freshman Carter Kim also competed all-around but struggled on a handful of events. The Bears struggled on a few events, but pound-for-pound saw significant improvements overall, namely a 2.1-point increase on vault, 3.65-point increase on parallel bars, and a 4.3-point increase on rings. The Bears make the trip back to Palo Alto again next weekend for another matchup with the Cardinal.

#1 Oklahoma at #5 Illinois

Final score: Illinois 407.200 – Oklahoma 406.650

Oklahoma

Illinois came from behind in the final two rotations to beat Oklahoma in Urbana-Champaign. Fuzzy Benas and Dan Simmons were out this weekend due to sickness and injury, respectively. Freshman Nico Hamilton made his college debut with a solid 13.8 on parallel bars. Vault was the only event where the Sooners improved from last weekend nation-best score, posting an impressive 72.15. While Oklahoma did not have an all-around competitor, the team did take home four event titles: Emre Dodanli on floor (14.5), vault (14.75), and high bar (14.1), and Ignacio Yockers on pommel horse (14.25). It may not have been the high scores we saw from the Sooner last weekend, but a 406.650 was still the third highest team score of the weekend.

Some notable showings for the Sooners included Tyler Flores making his vault debut, putting up a 14.3. Brigham Frentheway scored a career-best 13.8 on high bar and made his season debut on floor with a 14.3 of his own. Zachary Marckx returned to the rings lineup with a 13.25. Despite a couple of mistakes throughout the night, the Sooners still marked 10 routines at or above a 14, including an all 14+ vault lineup. As the team who set the bar very high in Week 3, Week 4 was not the showing Oklahoma hoped for, but it reminds us that some days you’re 100% and some days you’re not. When Oklahoma isn’t at 100%, the team is still comfortably in the 400s and one that can and will be competitive all season.

#10 Air Force

The Falcons are on a two week stretch of byes before competing at the All-Academy Championships against Army and Navy on February 10.