March 16, 2013
The eighth-ranked California men’s gymnastics team found no better way to end its regular season than to beat sixth-ranked and defending national champion Illinois at home in Haas Pavilion Saturday. The Golden Bears downed the Illini 427.00-425.650 on their Senior Night and Alumni Night.
“To take Illinois down on senior night with the double dual meet was the most amazing meet of the year for us,” said men’s gymnastics assistant coach Colin Christ. “We’ve been gaining momentum every meet, just getting better and better. This team is so young that I don’t think we can tell how great its potential is yet because it is so young. I think we can surprise a lot of people, and I’m sure we surprised a lot of people tonight by beating Illinois.”
California claimed at least a share of a Top 3 finish in five of the six events as well as the all-around. The team exhibited strong performances in every rotation, missing just one routine through the first four events, but the meet still came down to the last performance with the scores nearly matching.
The men started with a 73.750 team total on the floor but failed to place in the Top 3. On the pommel, freshman Takahiro Kawada continued his string of impressive performances, registering a 15.150 to take the top prize.
The team posted its best rings score of the season with a 72.150, and senior Steven Lacombe capped off his senior career in Haas pavilion with a 15.50 to place first and match his season-best total. Teammate Christian Monteclaro finished just a few decimals behind with a 14.750 routine to earn third.
The Golden Bears swept the vault titles, as Lacombe and freshmen Kyle Zemeir each used a 15.050 total to share first and junior Matthew del Junco’s 14.750 earned him third place. Zemeir’s score was a new career-best. The three contributed to the team’s overall score of 73.80.
Heading into the final two events, Cal led with a little less than three points, making it crucial for every gymnast to hit his routine in the “five up, five count” system that tallies every score. Unlike previous meets where the team would usually falter, the final ten Golden Bear competitors stayed solid. On the parallel bars, the team used a 70.70 total with a No. 1 finish by sophomore John Liu, and on the high bar the team earned a 69.250. Freshman TJ Bzoskie finished in third place with a score of 14.00.
Freshman Kevin Wolting entered the all-around competition for the Blue and Gold, finishing with an 84.20 to beat out the Illini’s Joey Peters.
The team impressed more than 900 fans, family and alumni in attendance to celebrate the end of senior Jean Monteclaro and Lacombe’s careers along with Alumni Night. The meet’s result capped off an already successful day that included a dinner for alumni and friends.
“We’re here to stay. We’ll stay strong and committed. We have that much support, and it’s something that’s bigger than all of us,” Christ said.