By Jerry Wright
Jerry Wright was a Division II men’s gymnastics coach for 20 years at San Francisco State University and was the personal coach for four women’s team individual event national champions, as the women’s team assistant coach. He is in the National Gymnastics Judges Association Hall of Fame, recognizing his role as founding father of the NGJA. He was Indiana University’s leading scorer in the 1957 Big Ten Championships and he has been associated with the sport since 1949.
Once again, gazing into my crystal ball, it is possible for me to predict that the 2010 Men’s NCAA Gymnastics season is completely unpredictable.
It is even difficult to predict which teams might be in the top 12 because they all seem to be so equal for this coming season.
When I say equal I mean that there will be a five team race for the title between California, Illinois, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Stanford. After that there will be a small drop off for the next three between Minnesota, Ohio State and Penn State to determine who makes it to the Super Six. After that there will be Iowa and Nebraska in a group and then there will be a contest between UIC, William/Mary, Temple and Navy to decide the number 11 and 12 teams to advance to Nationals.
My wild guess is that this race is going to be for Michigan to win or lose. They have the ability to win if they are at their best. (Please note that in the following I have generally listed only those gymnasts that placed in their conference meet or at the NCAA Nationals in Aca E 09.)
1. 2009 Runner-up Michigan loses 7 seniors, among which are Joe Catrambone (1-HB-BT; 5-HB-NCAA)and Ralph Rosso (7-SR-BT). This duo, however, accounted for only about 0.5 difference in the Team Finals score. In other words Michigan will be a serious factor again.
In addition Michigan still has the dynamic duo of Thomas Kelley (1-AA, 8-SR, 3-PB, 2-HB-Big Ten; 3-PB, 2-HB-NCAA) and Chris Cameron (2-AA, 2-FX-BigTen; 4-FX, 6-PHNCAA). They also return Phil Goldberg (1-SR-BT; 2-SR-NCAA), Adam Hamers (5-PHBig Ten), Ben Baldus-Strauss (8-V-Big Ten), David Chan (7-PH-Big Ten-possible Nissen nominee), Ryan McCarthy (8-PB-Big Ten), and Torrance Laury. Freshmen: Garret Hamers (OR), Monk Seaman (NY), and Rohan Sebastian (OK). Summary: Kelley and Cameron will carry UM to the top.
2. Defending champion Stanford loses Bryant Hadden (1st-SR,5-PH-MPSF, 8-SRNCAA), Sho Nakamori (1st 4 events-MPSF, 4-PB, 4-HB-NCAA), and Jason Shen. Although these are huge losses the team still has plenty of scoring power returning in Josh Dixon (1-FX, 2-V, 3-HB-MPSF), Tim Gentry (2-SR-MPSF; 4-SR, 3-VNCAA), Nick Noone (5- SR-MPSF; 3-SR, 7-PBNCAA), Kyle Oi (8-SRMPSF; 7-SR-NCAA), Alex Buscagalia (4-V, 1-HB-MPSF; 10-V, 3-HB-NCAA), Ryan Lieberman (5-PB-NCAA), and Greg Ter-Zahariants (4-FX, 4-PH, 7-V, 7-PB-MPSF-possible Nissen-Emery nominee). Freshman: Quality looking group with: Eddie Penev (Bulgaria), Paul Hichwa (Iowa), James Fosco (IL), and Jason Stevens (TX). Summary: amazing what a taste of victory can do to a program; makes them want more.
3. Illinois produced some outstanding freshmen and sophomore talent last season and this bodes very well for 2010. Even without Coach Yoshi Hayasaki the talent is there for the Illini to make a run for the National title. New Head Coach Justin Spring has jammed 20 years experience into his 4 years as a competitor and 3 years as Assistant Coach at Illinois and is ready to take over.
Leading the Illini will be the amazing Paul Ruggeri who has won 3 NCAA titles in two years and came close to winning two more. In addition he won two Big Ten titles in Aca E 09. Also returning will be the very talented and very competitive Tyler Mizoguchi (6-FX, 7-PB-Big Ten), C.J. Padera (3-PH-Big Ten), Dan Ribeiro (1-PH-NCAA, 6-PH-Big Ten), Roger Pasek (6-FX-NCAA). Also coming back is the very talented soph. Austin Phillips, Brian Liscovitz (5-PB, 8-HB-Big Ten), Luke Stannard (1-PH-Big Ten, 1-PH-USAG – possible Nissen nominee), and Tyler Williamson (4-SR-Big Ten). Losses are: Ross Bradley, Chris Lung (4-PH-Big Ten; 10 HB-NCAA) and Nick Strango (6-SR-Big Ten). Freshmen: Only one listed at this time: Malcolm Brown (IL). Summary: This is a group of determined and talented gymnasts that will never give up.
4. California Coach Barry Weiner has indicated that he thinks he will have the best team he has ever had and this takes into consideration that his teams placed first in 1997 and 1998, so this is saying a lot. California loses the great Kyson Bunthuwong (6-AA, 7-FX, 2-PB-MPSF; 9-PH, 4-AA-NCAA) but retains brother Kyle (3-AA, 6-FX, 6-PH, 6-HB-MPSF; 10-PH, 5-AANCAA), Glen Ishino (5-AA, 5-V, 3-PBMPSF; 4-PH, 5-PB, 2-AA-NCAA), Jim Kerry (8-PB-NCAA), and Bryan del Castillo (6-HBNCAA). Cal also loses Kyle Brady (5-SR, 5-PBMPSF; 6-SR, 2-PB-NCAA), Evan Roth (4-SR-MPSF; 1-SR, 5-V-NCAA).
This observer does not see the incoming freshmen being able to replace Kyson Bunthuwong. Freshmen: Dennis Mannhart (Swiss), Donathon Bailey, Steven Lacombe, Jeffrey Langenstein, Christain Monteclaro, and Jean-Nathan Monteclaro (all from CA). Summary: Cal is traditionally so thin depth wise, that a single key injury could be devastating. Freshmen might overcome this.
5. Oklahoma loses Chris Brooks (2-AA, 7-PH, 3-V, 4-HB-MPSF; 6-AA-NCAA), but return the incredible Steven Legendre (1-AA, 1-FX, 1-V-, 9-HB-NCAA). They also return Ian Jackson (injured early last season, but expected to return fully recovered). The tough part for OU is they do not return any other MPSF or NCAA place winners other than Corey English (3-PH-MPSF). To add to the problem OU also loses Russ Czeschin (6-V-MPSF and 8-V-NCAA), Jason Laughton (5-HB-MPSF), Kyle McNamara (10-PB, 7-HB-NCAA), and Jacob Messina (7-PB, 6-HB-MPSF and 8-PH-NCAA).
In view of this Oklahoma just may be a bit down in Aca E 10. Freshmen: Great group of rookies that could take OU all the way to the top. Top two JO AA Champions Alex Naddour and Jake Dalton (NV) plus Chris Stehl – WOW!!! Summary: The trouble with OU is that a few years ago, after losing about half their team, I predicted they would be down the next year and instead they turned it around and won Nationals.