Jan. 6, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. - The preseason No. 1 ranked Stanford men's gymnastics team will begin the 2010 season with an exhibition match, the Cardinal vs. White intrasquad, this Friday, January 7, at 7 p.m. at Burnham Pavilion.
Stanford enters the 2011 season ranked No. 1 in the country and looking for nothing less than to finish at the top of the podium at April's NCAA Championships.
"Our goal is certainly the NCAA title," said head coach Thom Glielmi. "We want to be at a point where we are significantly better than the field to leave no doubt who is the best team."
The Cardinal have the ammunition to back up Glielmi's words, returning all eight All-Americans from last year and featuring a squad with 18 members, all of whom could make an impact in the lineup.
"I think we are much better right now than we were at this point last season," said Glielmi. "We have increased our depth and the difficulty of our routines."
Stanford is coming off a runner-up finish at the 2010 NCAA Championships, falling to Michigan by less than a point. The Wolverines will once again be formidable in 2011, while Oklahoma and Illinois should also be factors in the title hunt.
The Cardinal will be looking to regain the form of 2009, when it won its first national title under Glielmi. This year's squad has five seniors including Nicholas Noone who decided to come back for a fifth year and pursue a master's degree. Redshirt junior Abhinav Ramani and senior Tim Gentry will captain the squad that has 10 holdovers from the last championship team.
"Around 21 of our routines at nationals will be from seniors," said Glielmi. "There is a lot of experience and this is an extremely motivated group."
Stanford returns a pair of All-Americans in the event from last year in Alex Buscaglia and Eddie Penev. In addition, Josh Dixon was an All-American in 2008 on the floor and has an improved routine for his senior year. Glielmi considers this perhaps Stanford deepest event with four athletes with elite routines and several others not far behind. Penev is fresh off making the finals at the World Championships and should be a favorite for the individual NCAA title after finishing as the runner-up last year. Seniors Buscaglia and Dixon will also be in the mix as top contenders in the nation on the floor.
The Cardinal has depth in this event as well, with as many as eight competing for the six spots in the rotation. John Martin
returns after a sixth-place finish at the NCAA meet last year and "should have one of the three most difficult routines in the country," said Glielmi. Gabriel Alvarado
was also singled out as having a much-improved routine as does sophomore Jason Stevens
. Freshmen Sean Senters
and Chris Turner
will also join the mix that includes veterans such as Dixon, Jordan Nolff
, Ramani, and Ryan Lieberman
Rings was one of Stanford's strongest events last season and should be again in 2011. Gentry and Noone return as two of the top athletes in the nation after earning All-America honors each of the last two years. Last season, Gentry was third, while Noone was fifth at nationals. In addition, James Fosco and Nolff have high difficulty routines giving Stanford four very solid routines. Behind those four, there are at least five others with routine difficulties within a couple tenths of a point. Veterans Buscaglia, Dixon and Lieberman have all upgraded their routines since last season and will be in the mix to fill out the roster at NCAA's.
Returning NCAA Champion Penev will anchor the squad with an even more difficult vault than last season. Gentry and Dixon are also back after earning All-America honors in the event, giving Stanford three of the top four at the NCAA meet last year. Ramani has also upgraded his vault and along with freshman Cale Robinson, they could be counted on as contributors to the lineup. "We have upgraded a lot of the vaults and they have looked really solid on soft landings," said Glielmi. "We'll have to see how they transfer to hard landings, but we are definitely ahead of where we were last year at this time with the vault."
The Cardinal will be led on the parallel bars by Lieberman, who won the NCAA title in the event last year. Glielmi says Lieberman has improved both his difficulty and consistency since last year and should have one of the nation's top routines again this season. Noone is also solid in the event having earned All-America status the last two years. The event drops off a bit after those two with Glielmi saying, "We are looking for improvement in this event, but I think we are still pretty strong relative to the other teams in the country." Seniors Buscaglia, Dixon and Gentry may have to pick up the slack, having all upgraded their routines since last year. Cameron Foreman should also be in the mix, although he is recovering from injury to begin the season. The surprise is Stevens who has upgraded significantly and is forcing his way into the conversation.
Buscaglia leads the Cardinal on horizontal bar, fresh off his Gold Medal at the Pan-American Championships over the summer in Guadalajara, Mexico. He is a three-time All-American in the event, having placed fifth last season. "Buscaglia has the luxury of watering down his routine and it still being very difficult," says Glielmi. Ramani is also a returning All-American in the event and has upgraded his routine. Dixon is the wildcard in the event as Glielmi says, "He has upgraded his routine significantly where the difficulty is high, now we just need to see if he can be consistent." Lieberman, Martin and redshirt freshman Paul Hichwa have all also upgraded their routines and should be a factor. Foreman is also one to not count out.
With the depth of the Stanford squad, it will be difficult for anyone to be a true all-around contender. Last season nobody competed in the all-around at the NCAA meet - as the Cardinal just had too many athletes capable of contributing in specific events. This season, the expansion to 15 (instead of 12) on the competitive roster for each meet means it will be even more difficult to make the lineup in all six events. Seniors Buscaglia, Dixon, Gentry and Lieberman are some of the best all-around gymnasts in the country, but the depth of the team, not their individual talents may keep them from competing at nationals in every event. However, nothing is set, so perhaps one or more will step forward this season and prove worthy in all six events. "We are one year out from an Olympic year and those four all are contenders to make the U.S. team, said Glielmi. "I think they are each looking to use their final NCAA season as a springboard to making the team."
NCAA Champions, a World Championships finalist, A Pan-American Championships gold medalist and contenders for the U.S. Olympic team, this is the 2011 Stanford men's gymnastics team. While they will be exciting to watch, the immediate goal remains team oriented, win the NCAA team title and then let the individual honors take care of themselves.