2023 U.S. Core Hydration Classic Men's Competition Preview
This year, the men will take part in the U.S. Classic for only the second time with a record-breaking number of gymnasts. I've highlighted a few key athletes to look out for on Sunday!
Aside from the thirty pre-qualified athletes, the U.S. Classic will serve as the final qualifying event for the majority of the field. According to USA Gymnastics documentation, approximately 12 spots remain to compete at the National Championships and all remaining gymnasts will qualify through the 10-point Program. The 2023 Bonus System will remain in effect for the U.S. Classic.
Session 1 will feature the junior athletes as well as athletes from Stanford, Penn State, Ohio State, EVO, + Yul Moldauer, Paul Juda, and more!
Session 2 will feature senior athletes from Oklahoma, Illinois, Michigan, ASU, Nebraska, and more!
The Core Two
Based on performances this year, it's hard to imagine a world's team without Yul Moldauer and Asher Hong on it. Aside from being one of the United State's best all-arounders, Hong brings something almost as invaluable as his all-around score – a 6.0 start value (SV) vault that he consistently performs well. The U.S. has a long history of bringing only 5.2 SV vaults to team international competitions which has hindered them.
High Performance Director, Brett McClure, repeated in his interviews at the 2023 Core Hydration Classic that increasing difficulty is the only way to catch China and Japan. McClure also noted that Great Britain is USA's direct competition for bronze. Last year, GBR brought one 6.0 and two 5.6 vaults to team finals, and they took bronze. Because vault incurs so few deductions compared to other events, this is a critical area for the U.S. to focus on increasing difficulty.
Moldauer, who has had an incredible season, recently won the all-around title at the Pan American Gymnastics Championships with a very competitive 84.200. He has also been demonstrating consistent upgrades on high bar, which has historically been a weaker event in his program. He will not be performing floor or vault but will be performing an upgraded dismount on still rings.
Moldauer said he is "excited" for the competition this week and that he's viewing this meet as a practice for championships. [Note: He is already pre-qualified to nationals and can use this meet as a last opportunity to test upgrades before competing in San Jose.]
In Contention, But Something To Prove
The most decorated gymnast of the field with two world medals, Donnell Whittenburg, has had a slow start to the season. After missing Winter Cup and petitioning onto National Team, he made his season debut at the Cairo World Cup. where falls, lack of backup grips, and a mistake on a tak 1/2 prevented him from qualifying for any event finals. He wrote of his experience in Cairo saying, "All I can do is learn from it and keep it moving."
Like Asher, Whittenburg is the only other gymnast in the field with a 6.0 vault capability. However, he has not performed that vault in competition in nearly a year, and is not expected to this weekend. In an interview, he said he will not be doing full difficulty as he is still recovering from an injury. In addition to an injury, he has also been struggling with the Twisties. This meet will serve as a test of his current endurance and as a warm-up for nationals.
Phillips has had flashes of brilliance this year on parallel bars, but has also shown some inconsistency on his standout event. This year, Zou Jingyuan will be competing at the Asian Games, so the competition for the parallel bars world title will be much more evenly matched. When he hits, he really is among the best in the world. This meet will be an opportunity to work out any issues before the National Gymnastics Championships in a few weeks.
The 2021 World Pommel Horse Champion was left off of the national team following the 2023 Winter Cup. Since then, he has worked to heavily upgrade his pommel horse routine to a 7.0 D score. The men's program documentation this year states that they will be favoring all-arounders for national team. While the Core Hydration Classic does not serve a role in the qualifications to the national, world's or the Pan-American teams, a hit here in addition to a hit both days at nationals will go a long way.
EVO gymnast, Shane Wiskus has been dealing with injuries over the summer and credits the medical staff in Florida for getting him back to being competition ready. Wiskus will compete three events this weekend (parallel bars, high bar, and pommel horse) and is looking forward to testing out some upgrades on those events. When Jessica from GymCastic asked him what skill he his most looking forward to trying out, he said a Makuts on parallel bars because he's doing it in a "strange way."
Following an injury to his labrum (an injury he's had since 2018), he had to relearn how to do the skill on his opposite arm! He said that it makes the skill easier because the second half of the skill is performed on his dominant arm. Like many others, Wiskus is pre-qualified for nationals, so he's using this opportunity to test out his new upgrades.
Riley Loos is a solid all-arounder with strong floor, vault, and still rings. Loos is one of the few with a 5.6 vault which will be important in his campaign to make the world's team. While not the highest scoring in the country on floor and still rings, he has made valuable contributions to Stanford on those events helping them to win the National Team Title.
Did I mention that the U.S. needs good rings scores? Cue Alex Diab. Diab will only be performing still rings (6.2 D) this weekend, but should he hit a good set, that will certainly set him up well to remain in the conversation for a place on the world's team.
Oklahoma Sooner, Fuzzy Benas, has been struggling with various upper-extremity injuries this past year. Known for his creative solutions, including a one-arm floor routine, Benas will seek solutions in his campaign to earn a spot to compete at the National Championships. Benas will compete on pommel horse, still rings, parallel bars, and high bar. He is not pre-qualified for the national championships.
Paul Juda is coming off a nine-month injury arc that caused him to miss the 2023 NCAA Season. The 2022 NCAA All-Around Champion said in a recent interview with Neutral Deductions, that he was able to use the past several months to work on bettering his pommel horse and still rings. Add those events to his world-class high bar and he may just find the redemption to his injury arc. He is pre-qualified for the national championships.
Youth Olympic Champion and 2021 Olympic Alternate, Brandon Briones only competed still rings and vault at the 2023 NCAA National Championships, but prior to his injury, he was one of the best all-arounders in the country. Should he be able to get back to top form, look for him to regain his spot on National Team in a few weeks. He is not pre-qualified for the national championships.
Colt Walker was a member of the 2022 World Championships team but was unable to compete at the 2023 Winter Cup due to injury; his petition was not accepted and he was left off of the national team. Walker had previously stated that he would compete all events except floor at the Core Hydration Classic; however, he is listed on all six events on the start list. He is pre-qualified for the national championships.
Colin Van Wicklen has tested positive for COVID-19. He will need to petition to compete at the U.S. Classic. Vitaliy Guimaraes has also withdrawn from the competition, but is pre-qualified to Nationals. Other updates will be posted here as they come available.
List of Prequalified Athletes
The full list of prequalified athletes includes Jeremy Bischoff, Landen Blixt, Garrett Braunton, Taylor Burkhart, Taylor Christopulos, Matthew Cormier, Alex Diab, Isaiah Drake, Michael Fletcher, Vitaliy Guimaraes, Asher Hong, Paul Juda, Josh Karnes, Ian Lasic-Ellis, Riley Loos, Brody Malone, Yul Moldauer, Stephen Nedoroscik, Kameron Nelson, Vahe Petrosyan, Curran Phillips, Fred Richard, Tyler Shimizu, Ian Skirkey, Blake Sun, Colt Walker, Donnell Whittenburg, Shane Wiskus, Khoi Young, and Oliver Zavel.
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Article by: Kensley Behel