The No. 3 Stanford men’s gymnastics team beat No. 2 California on Saturday, 364.4 to 358.8 in front of a large Burnham Pavilion crowd. The Cardinal bounced back from last week’s loss to the Golden Bears, improving its overall score by over 15 points and easily putting up its highest team score so far this season.
With only two meets under its belt, the Cardinal is already making a statement to be the top team on the podium at the NCAA Championships. Its 364.4 finish was three points better than Stanford’s highest team score last season.
The Cardinal started off the competition with a strong showing on the floor exercise to jump out to a 61.4 to 58.9 lead. Freshman Cale Robinson stuck nearly all his tumbling pass landings to put up a solid 15.4. Seniors Alex Buscaglia and Josh Dixon followed with their usual dependable routines, scoring a 15.1 and 15.9, respectively.
Sophomore Eddie Penev started the pommel horse event with a fall, putting pressure on the rest of the lineup. However, redshirt sophomore Jordan Nolff fought to stay on the apparatus and the rest of the lineup followed suit and hit the next four routines. Chris Turner proved to be the superstar freshman on the pommel horse, hitting a solid routine and landing the dismount to earn a 15.0.
Senior Ryan Lieberman continued the team’s momentum and produced a 14.2 while the redshirt sophomore duo of Gabe Jefferson and John Martin closed the event off with a 14.9 and 15.3, respectively. The rotation set the pace for the rest of the competition as the Cardinal went to the rings ahead of Cal by four and a half points.
“I think that gaining an early lead on Cal really took them out of their game,” said senior co-captain Tim Gentry. “They still had a pretty good performance, but once we took an early lead we never looked back.”
Rings was a clean event for the Cardinal as Lieberman and Gentry both scored career bests. Lieberman put up a 15.1 and Gentry performed a tight routine with few form breaks to produce a 15.8. Buscaglia (14.6) and sophomore James Fosco (15.4) also made significant contributions.
The team experienced a minor dip in momentum on vault as it made a few uncharacteristic mistakes. Still, Penev, last year’s NCAA champion on the event, debuted with a strong 16.3 vault and Gentry did a double front for a 16.1.
Stanford improved significantly from last meet on the parallel bars with a 59.9. Dixon had a career-best 15.4 and 2010 NCAA champion Lieberman also scored well with a 15.2. Redshirt senior Nick Noone closed off the event with a 14.7.
The men finished the meet strong on the high bar with a 59.7. Redshirt sophomore Cameron Foreman contributed on the event with a 14.9 while Buscaglia finished off the meet in the anchor position with a high 15.6.
“Ultimately, the goal is to perform better and better with each meet, and we did exactly that Saturday night,” Lieberman said. “We went out and competed closely to how we have been practicing, and in return gained some new confidence that will carry over to the next competition.”
The Cardinal will next compete on Feb. 3-5 at the Winter Cup Challenge in Las Vegas, in which select athletes will perform at the invitational meet.