Jan. 12, 2013
STANFORD, Calif. -
Following the graduation of six seniors from its 2011 NCAA national championship team, last year’s Stanford men’s gymnastics team found itself looking for a new group of gymnasts to emerge as leaders and top performers.
After a successful, yet injury-plagued 2012 season, Stanford returns in 2013 with a strong and experienced group of gymnasts poised to again challenge for the NCAA title.
The Cardinal wrapped up 2012 with a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Championships and saw four gymnasts earn All-America honors in five events – including now senior Eddie Penev’s NCAA championships on floor exercise and vault. Stanford returns all four All-Americans for the 2013 season.
The No. 5 Cardinal will not waste any time challenging itself, as the team opens its season Sunday at No. 6 California at Haas Pavilion at 2 p.m.
Head coach Thom Glielmi is excited about his team’s potential and believes it will benefit from strong leadership provided by the seniors.
“[The seniors] have to put in the work, put in the training and execute in the meet,” Glielmi said. “All of our seniors this year have that. They all know how to train, take care of themselves outside the gym and they know how to compete. It’ll be a big help.”
Glielmi notes the upperclassmen had a steep learning curve in 2012 after losing a group of seniors from 2011 that led the team’s run to a national championship, and that experience has helped prepare this year’s squad to excel.
“The first part of the  season, there really weren’t too many guys that seemed to step into that leadership role,” Glielmi said. “But by the end of the season we definitely saw guys emerge as leaders. And not just in the training, which is a big part of it because we want to make sure they’re setting a good example for the younger guys, but they commanded respect by showing up in competitions.”
One of the main goals for the Cardinal will be to ensure each member of the team improves throughout the season and contributes.
“I’m not as concerned about our placement in the earlier competitions,” Glielmi said. “If we win the early competitions, that’s great. But if we win and the guys screw up, I’m not happy. We have to develop these athletes and that’s the bigger picture for me as a coach – it’s not just the gymnastics development, it’s the team development, helping everyone understand their role on the team.”
In order to accomplish individual and team goals, Glielmi knows his team will need to remain healthy and fresh, an obstacle Stanford was forced to deal with last season.
“It’s important for the athletes to listen to their bodies and perform routines they can handle,” Glielmi said. “They have to have their stock routines – meaning routines that they are very comfortable with and don’t tax them too much – for their foundation of what their bigger routine is going to be at the end of the season.”
Glielmi notes this is easier said than done as his gymnasts are constantly striving to put forth their best performance. Yet, he hopes by tempering the gymnasts’ routines throughout the season, the team will hopefully be able to avoid the injuries that limited the team in 2012.
“We were definitely lacking in depth last year,” Glielmi said. “We had a couple of injuries that challenged the team.”
The team will enter 2013 dealing with a couple of injuries and will compete without Cale Robinson, Alex Strait, and Brandon Beckhardt for the duration of the season. However, Glielmi believes the team learned from last year’s challenges and will be able to overcome the unfortunate losses.
“What was really important – the guys rose to the challenge,” Glielmi said.
Stanford will look to its talented senior class, led by All-Americans Eddie Penev, Cameron Foreman and John Martin, to lead the team. Gabriel Alvarado, Jordan Nolff and James Fosco round out the talented group of seniors.
Three-time All-American and defending NCAA floor exercise and vault champion Penev is considered one of the elite gymnasts in the nation.
“There will be meets we will have Penev compete on all six events for us,” Glielmi said. “He’s definitely going to be a big contributor. I’m sure he’s expecting to repeat on floor and vault – he is certainly capable.”
Foreman returns after receiving his second consecutive All-America honor on parallel bars in 2012 and is expected to be a mainstay on parallel bars and high bar.
“Foreman has one of the best parallel bars and high bar routines being done in the NCAA right now,” Glielmi said.
John Martin, a 2010 All-American on pommel horse, is poised for a big year on multiple events.
“John is looking good on pommel horse, parallel bars and high bar,” Glielmi said. “I anticipate John in the mix for All-America honors on all his events.”
Alvarado, considered one of the most consistent performers on the team, will focus primarily on pommel horse.
“He’ll likely be our anchor on pommel horse, he’s very consistent and comfortable,” Glielmi said. “He’s improved his difficulty and has been doing the work. He’s the type of guy that can be up first or last and he’ll deliver the same routine.”
Nolff and Fosco are staples for the Cardinal on rings this year.
“Nolff does the work in the gym and knows how to compete,” Glielmi said. “He does all six events but he’ll definitely challenge on floor, pommel, rings, and parallel bars. He’s one of our best rings guys.
“Fosco is one of the best ring guys in the country and it wouldn’t surprise me if he challenged for the national title. He’s learned how to make sure he’s peaking for the competitions. He’s also cleaned up and added difficulty to his routine and is looking good.”
The Cardinal also expects contributions from its younger All-Americans including redshirt junior Paul Hichwa, redshirt sophomore Sean Senters and junior Chris Turner.
“Hichwa looks great on high bar and floor, and has put together a nice parallel bar routine – so he potentially could be a three to four event guy with vault,” Glielmi said.
“Sean [Senters] is going to help us on floor, pommel horse and vault. Additionally, he’s in the mix on the other events, it’s just a matter of training, endurance and confidence.”
Turner finished the 2012 strong, recording personal season high scores in each of his five events over the last five meets of the season. Glielmi believes Turner’s role may expand and he could possibly compete on all six events at a couple meets.
“He’s looking solid on all six events, but his pommel horse, parallel bars and rings will provide us big scores,” Glielmi said. “He’s very consistent on his high bar, floor and vault. It wouldn’t surprise me if he competed on all six events at some point.”
Sophomores Brian Knott and Michael Levy are expected to crack the lineup in multiple events after seeing limited time last season.
“Brian is looking good on parallel bars,” Gilemi said. “He’s also knocking on the door for high bar, floor and pommel horse.
“Mike has come a long way. He’s made many corrections both technically and in his approach to the practices, and it’s making a big difference. He’ll likely be in the lineup on rings, floor and vault.”
Stanford welcomes four freshmen with Kevin Baker, Jonathan Deaton, David Frankl and Dennis Zaremski all looking to find spots in the lineup.
“Baker is talented and still learning the training program,” Glielmi said. “He can help us on floor, rings, parallel bars and vault.
“Deaton adds depth to the program. He seems to be hovering around the sixth spot on most of the events. The one thing I saw with [Jonathan] is that he’s a solid competitor but he’s going to have to get into the meet to show the team that he can step it up.”
Glielmi believes Frankl could see time on the pommel horse early in the season and possibly earn spots in additional events as well.
“Frankl is looking like he’ll be in the pommel horse lineup,” Glielmi said. “He’s also pretty clean on parallel bars and rings and is starting to get consistent. He could surprise some of his teammates this season.”
Glielmi has been impressed by Zaremski’s training and his improvements to this point already.
“[Zaremski] has a lot of potential and is still learning how we expect our gymnasts to train,” Glielmi said. “He might not break into the lineup early, but he should garner spots by midseason on rings, parallel bar and high bar.”
The Cardinal also welcomes freshman Wilson Patton who will use his freshman year to train and develop.
In leading the Cardinal, Glielmi will be joined by assistant coach Brett McClure who returns for his third season, and welcome first-year assistant coach Karl Zeihn.
“It’s been great with Brett and Karl,” Glielmi said. “They’re both extremely solid and technical coaches. That’s one thing that’s been easy, is we are all on the same page with how we’re going to develop the athletes technically and also how to peak and train them with our combined experience.”
One of the main focuses of the coaching staff this preseason has been adjusting to the new format for team scoring.
In previous seasons, four gymnasts would perform and only four scores counted toward the team score. This season, five of six performances will count toward the team score up until March 1, at which point only five gymnasts will perform with all five scores counting.
“I’m really looking forward to this season with the new team format for scoring,” Glielmi said. “It’s just more fun when every routine matters, and that’s a big part of what we’re trying to drive home – your routine is going to count, no matter what.
“It’s important for the gymnasts to learn from mistakes during high pressure situations so they can learn how to handle their nerves, getting them to do what they do in practice.”
Glielmi believes the new system will also enhance the fan experience and is excited about the team’s home events.
“We have some really good competitions coming up at Stanford,” Glielmi said. “We have the Japanese national team coming here, then we have the Big Flipoff that’s going to be televised on the Pac-12 Networks, so we’re looking forward to that.”
A team loaded with experience, Glielmi and the coaching staff will do its best to ensure the team remains focused on what matters most – peaking at the NCAA Finals.
“Our goal is always to win,” Glielmi said. “When you’re in the mix enough, it’s not about third, it’s about winning. We figure out what our potential as a team is and that’s our goal – and that means every guy on the team having the meet of their life at the same time at the NCAA Championships.
“When we do that, we’ll win.”