Season in Review: Cardinal Repeats

Season in Review: Cardinal Repeats


STANFORD, Calif. – Stanford captured its second consecutive men’s gymnastics national title on April 17 from Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis. The national title was the seventh in program history, as the Cardinal also won it all in 2019, 2011, 2009, 1995, 1993 and 1992. The seven men’s gymnastics national titles are the fifth-most team titles in the nation (Penn State 12, Oklahoma 12, Illinois 10, Nebraska 8). The championship capped an incredible run from the Cardinal in a season that was not guaranteed to be contested due to COVID protocols and uncertainty around the ability to compete safely.


Preseason Favorites

Stanford received 221 points and 12 first-place votes to claim the No. 1 spot in the College Gymnastics Association (CGA) Preseason Coaches Poll. Oklahoma checked in at No. 2 with 208 points and two first-place votes. Rounding out the top five in the preseason poll: Michigan (187 points, 1 first-place vote), Nebraska (171 points) and Illinois (156 points).


A Virtual Season

The NCAA approved the use of virtual competitions for men’s gymnastics in 2021, which opened the door for a unique season once the Cardinal was able to train and prepare for competition. The virtual competitions on the Virtius platform, created by Stanford alum Ambert Yeung, featured teams competing from their home gyms and remote judging from anywhere in the world – helping to lessen the potential spread of the virus by eliminating the need for travel. Five of Stanford’s seven head-to-head meets were conducted virtually in 2021.


Limited Roster for a Late Start


Hindered by a lack of training time and access to training space, Stanford got a late start to the 2021 season. The Cardinal, which reported back to campus on Jan. 23-24 to begin the onboarding process for the upcoming season, opened its season in week four – the last NCAA Division I program to begin the season. Stanford’s first meet came against William & Mary on February 10. Stanford entered the meet limited to just five competitors in five of the six events, but senior Andrew Bitner was unable to continue in the meet following his floor routine in the first rotation – leaving Stanford with just four scorers in four of the final five rotations. The Cardinal continued to piece together a lineup through the first few weeks and did not have a full slate of competitors until March 13 at Oklahoma – the sixth meet of the year.


Back-to-Back Champions

Turning in its best score of the year at 414.521, Stanford captured the 2021 NCAA championship. Oklahoma (411.591) and Michigan (410.358) followed in second and third, respectively. Nebraska took fourth with a score of 406.624, followed by Minnesota (406.291) and Illinois (397.991). The Cardinal entered the meet as the No. 3 seed overall based on national qualifying scores.

Junior Brody Malone repeated as an individual national champion, capturing the all-around and high bar titles for the second time in as many championship meets. Malone turned in an 85.064 in the all-around, edging 2021 Nissen-Emery Award winner Shane Wiskus (84.866) of Minnesota for the title. Malone hit for a season-best 14.466 to win the high bar championship, marking the fifth consecutive high bar title for Stanford. A career-best 14.366 on still rings (second overall) and a season-high 14.666 on floor also added to the stellar all-around total and nabbed All-America honors.

The native of Summerville, Ga. became the first NCAA men’s gymnast to win the all-around title in his first two championship meets. He is also the first to win the all-around in back-to-back seasons since Michigan’s Sam Mikulak (2013-14). With two individual national titles this year, Malone tied the program record for the most in Stanford history with five – joining Steve Hug and Akash Modi.

 


Strong All-America Haul


Led by four All-America selections for Brody Malone on high bar, still rings, floor and in the all-around, Stanford garnered 15 as a team – one shy of the program record set in 2020. Riley Loos and Ian Gunther both collected three All-America selections, with Loos taking third on still rings (14.166), fourth on floor (14.66) and sixth on high bar with a mark of 13.633. Gunther earned his selections by way of a fourth-place finish on rings (14.066), a fifth-place finish on pommel horse (13.633), and a seventh-place finish on parallel bars (13.833). Three Cardinal gymnasts took home All-America honors on vault, with Zach Martin taking second (14.900), Curran Phillips nabbing third (14.733), and Brandon Briones earning a share of fifth with a score of 14.666. Briones would also finish third overall in the all-around with a mark of 82.165 to claim a second All-America honor. Nissen-Emery Award finalist Blake Sun was the final Stanford gymnast to earn All-America honors, claiming a share of seventh overall on parallel bars with a score of 13.833.


Loos Takes Second at Winter Cup

Sophomore Riley Loos finished second in the all-around competition on day one from the 2021 USA Gymnastics Winter Cup to earn an automatic spot on the US Senior National Team. The native of El Dorado Hills, Calif. finished the competition with an overall score of 83.250 – second only to Michigan senior Cameron Bock’s 84.150. 2019 Nissen-Emery Award winner, and 2021 Olympian, Yul Moldauer took third with a mark of 82.600. Loos captured the event title on floor (14.250) and vault (14.750) while finishing top eight on all six events.


Three-Peat for Malone and Glielmi

Junior Brody Malone claimed his third consecutive Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Gymnast of the Year selection, while head coach Thom Glielmi also earned his third consecutive Coach of the Year honor, it was announced by the MPSF on April 1. For Glielmi, 2021 marked his fifth MPSF Coach of the Year honor, first earning it in the NCAA and conference championship season of 2009, then again in 2014 as a Co-Coach of the Year with Kip Simons of Air Force.
 
Malone is the first Stanford men’s gymnast to win consecutive MPSF Gymnast of the Year honors since Akash Modi took the honor in four consecutive seasons from 2014 through 2017, becoming just the third four-time MPSF Athlete of the Year in any sport, joining Tony Azevedo (Stanford Men’s Water Polo; 2001-04) and Aimee Harrison (Hawaii Women’s Diving; 2013-16).
 
With Malone capturing the honor in his first three seasons on The Farm, Stanford has now earned 10 MPSF Gymnast of the Year selections in the last 18 years. Joining Malone on the list are Modi, Tim Gentry (2011), Sho Nakamori (2009) and Dan Gill (2004).


Nissen-Emery Finalists

Stanford’s senior captains Andrew Bitner and Blake Sun were named finalists for the 2021 Nissen-Emery Award. The duo joined Cameron Bock (Michigan), Bennet Huang (Iowa), Matt Wenske (Oklahoma) and Shane Wiskus (Minnesota) as finalists for the prestigious award. The Nissen-Emery award is given annually to the top senior gymnast in the nation. Recognized as the highest honor in the sport, it was presented to Wiskus at the NCAA Championship banquet prior to the start of the NCAA Championship.


Coaches of the Year

For the third consecutive year, Stanford’s men’s gymnastics coaching staff, led by 19th-year head coach Thom Glielmi, was named CGA National Coaching Staff of the Year. The National Coach of the Year selection is the fifth of Glielmi’s career after previously guiding the Cardinal to titles in 2009, 2011 and 2019. Assistant coach Syque Caesar has now been named Regional and National Assistant Coach of the Year in three consecutive seasons, while assistant coach Mark Freeman has been lauded as Regional and National Assistant Coach of the Year in each of his first two seasons with the Cardinal.

As of 1973, the National Head Coach and Assistant Coaches of the Year are presented annually to the coaches of the team that wins the NCAA Championships. The Cardinal captured its seventh NCAA title this year – repeating as national champion after winning it all in 2019. Stanford’s coaching staff also earned the honor in 2020 after the CGA held a vote to determine the winners due to the 2020 season being canceled short during the COVID-19 global pandemic.


Excellence in the Classroom

In addition to capturing the 2021 national title, 12 Stanford men’s gymnasts were named MPSF All-Academic Scholar-Athletes.


Malone Wins U.S. Gymnastics Title

Brody Malone, Stanford’s two-time NCAA champion and two-time NCAA all-around winner, added his first U.S. Championships national title in June, finishing atop the podium from Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

 

Malone finished the two days of competition with a combined score of 170.700 and held on to his first-day lead throughout the second day. Rising Stanford junior Brandon Briones (167.150) and Cardinal alum Akash Modi (165.500) took fourth and sixth in the final standings, respectively. Former Cardinal Robert Neff (162.350) and rising senior Ian Gunther (162.200) also finished in the top eight, taking seventh and eighth in that order. Rising sophomore Colt Walker (12th, 160.300) and incoming freshman Taylor Burkhart (15th, 159.400) continued the strong showing from the Cardinal.

 

Malone finished top four on four of the six events, including winning vault with a combined mark of 29.000 – his 14.700 on day one holding as the top individual mark overall. Malone took second on rings (29.150) and high bar (29.500), and fourth on pommel horse (28.100). A two-time NCAA champion on high bar, Malone hit for a 15.050 on day two, finishing with the best high bar score of the meet and second-highest score on any event.


Cardinal Headed to Tokyo

USA Gymnastics named five athletes to the U.S. Olympic team for men’s artistic gymnastics following the conclusion of the men’s competition at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials held June 24 and 26 at The Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis. Brody Malone was the all-around champion after posting the two highest single-day all-around scores to clinch the top spot with a combined 171.600. Runner-up Yul Moldauer also earned an automatic selection for Tokyo. London and Rio Olympic Games veteran Sam Mikulak and University of Minnesota standout Shane Wiskus rounded out the four-person team. Former Ohio State standout Alec Yoder was selected to the +1 quota spot that the U.S. men earned through their performance at the Senior Pan American Championships. Joining Malone in Tokyo as replacement athletes are rising junior Brandon Briones, who finished fifth overall in the all-around, and former Cardinal Akash Modi. Modi is making his second appearance as an alternate after earning the same spot in 2016. Malone will become the first Stanford men’s gymnast to compete at the Olympics since Jair Lynch in 1996. He will also be the third overall, joining Steve Hug (1972, 1976) and Lynch (1992, 1996).


The Future is Bright

Stanford head coach Thom Glielmi announced the signing of five of the top gymnastics prospects, inking one of the best recruiting classes in the nation during this year’s signing period.

 

Stanford’s recruiting class features Taylor Burkhart (Morrison, Colo./Two Roads Charter HS), Nick Kuebler (Seattle, Wash./Metropolitan Gymnastics), Ian Lasic-Ellis (Dover, Mass./Massachusetts Elite Gymnastics Academy, Luke McFarland (East Hartland, Conn./Daggett Gymnastics) and Khoi Young (Bowie, Md./Sportsplex Gymnastics).

 

“We are extremely fortunate to have another remarkable class. I cannot think of any other class we’ve had that had so many tier-one recruits. Five are either current or former USA Junior National Team Members,” Glielmi said. “And while their gymnastics prowess is impressive – all have events that are at a senior level – what stands out to me is their strength of character. By all accounts they will seamlessly transition to the senior ranks and to our team culture. It’s a very exciting time for the program. The current team is outstanding, and I think that was a big draw for these guys. They are eager to contribute and want to train at the highest level. When I look at this class, there are certain events that are ridiculously good, pommel horse being one of them. This class will challenge for spots in the pommel lineup as soon as they walk into the gym. It’s very motivating, and all the credit goes to their coaches. The caliber of junior gymnasts being produced in the USA is astonishing.”



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