2013 – 2014 Season Preview

There is a lot of optimism surrounding our team this year due to the large group of freshmen who joined our program this fall. Six new gymnasts from California, Oregon, and Washington have blossomed our team to a total of 12 members. Our team effectively doubling in size has created a competitive practice atmosphere for the first time since our 2005-06 season.

We continue to be led by Peter Moser who enters his fifth year on the team. Although the start values – or difficulty – of his routines are the highest on the team, inconsistent performances have hindered him competitively. The new team members have helped motivate Peter to “compete” his routines in practices and he is more consistently performing at a higher level than last year. We are keeping our fingers crossed that this will translate into better routines on meet days once competition season rolls around.  Last year, senior Greg Steward performed extremely well and placed higher in the all-around throughout the season. He was our most valuable gymnast last year and returns, but on a more limited basis, this season. The wear and tear of the sport on someone who is 6’1” and weighs 205 lbs is significantly greater than on the average 5’5”, 135-lb gymnast. Greg will compete on parallel bars and high bar at every meet, but we will use him sparingly on floor and vault to keep him healthy throughout the season. Greg has the ability to win high bar in a lot of meets this year; his routine is that good.

Also returning are juniors Franklin Stutevoss and Layton Oka, and sophomores Cory Tsai and Alex Maybruck. Franklin had off-season shoulder surgery and was not expected to be ready this season. However, doctors found less damage than anticipated – so good news for Franklin that he will be able to compete this year on floor and vault, which do not stress the shoulders too much. Layton has improved quite a bit this year as he begins to get his man strength. This is making a lot of skills easier for him and is helping him acquire ring strength moves also. Alex Maybruck will be in his second year on the team, but this is really the beginning of his second year doing full-time gymnastics. He has improved dramatically overall, though he is not yet ready to compete. He will be close to doing so by season’s end on floor, vault, and high bar. This will be Cory Tsai’s second year on the team, and if I had to choose a gymnast from last year’s team who was the most improved it would be Cory. Cory learned all the requirements on all the events with the exception of two on rings in just one year! Incredible really, especially because before last year, he had only really trained floor exercise for an exhibition team. My hat is off to Cory, and I look forward to him learning as much this season as he did the last.

This year’s freshman class that I alluded to earlier became as large as it is due to our recruiting efforts last year. Last season, Franklin Stutevoss set up a recruiting information station at an age-group meet in his hometown Portland, OR and it paid off in a huge way. A visiting team from Sacramento, CA called Extreme Gymnastics had three high school gymnasts in the competition; they met Franklin who talked up our program to them. From this meeting we coordinated a trip for them to come up, visit, and check our program out. It was great to have a recruiting plan in place that we were able to execute. Everything fell into place from there, and lo and behold, three new members from Northern California are on our team now. Justin Rowen is one of those California gymnasts, and you are going to be hearing his name a lot in these newsletters. Justin is a great athlete and a fearless gymnast who has incredible air awareness. He learns skills quickly and has the work ethic to maintain what he learns. Justin will challenge for top all-around on the team from the beginning, and will make a strong push to win Collegiate Nationals and eventually qualify to the highest-level meets in the country.

Wyatt and Daniel Zmrzel, also from Extreme, joined as well. Wyatt and Daniel are cousins and bring added depth to our team. Wyatt’s strengths are his basics on pommels, parallel bars, and high bar. He has a strong work ethic and is learning many new skills on all the events. I can see Wyatt really excelling as his strength increases to match his basics, which is already happening this year. Daniel has shoulder and back injuries that he is waiting to get results about,  and based on this information we will formulate a training plan for him. He is a good team player, and brings the team humor and intangibles like enthusiasm for making the annual team video.

New on the team from Portland, OR by way of Metro Gymnastics is Brandon Waller. Brandon has very good basics and was taught well by his age-group coaches. He has the gift of spring in his legs and continues to amaze me and his team members with this skill. He will be an immediate contributor on floor, vault, rings, and high bar and is working toward being competitive on pommels and parallel bars. Brandon is perfect gymnastics size and this points to a bright future in the sport for him. Max Soifer, originally from Maine but more recently Gig Harbor, joined our team at the end of summer. Before that, Max was training at Metropolitan Gymnastics in Tukwila. Max makes an impression on you with his strong work ethic and desire to get better today. His swing technique on pommel horse is very good, and I looking forward to seeing what he becomes on this event. He is also a good tumbler and will compete on vault as well. Max’s shoulder is bothering him a bit right now and we are training around it. Hopefully it’s not serious and he’ll be able to contend for the all-around by season’s end.

The sixth recruit this year became Aaron Moss, an upper-level gymnast from Cascade Elite, the gym where we train. Aaron has been training there since he began gymnastics many years ago. Now he is extremely talented and showing that talent daily. He has five really good events; I am pretty sure he will compete on all five, as he executes his routines with very good form. He has taken well to the team environment and thrived, as compared with last year when he trained alone much of the time. Though Aaron is a youngster by most accounts, his competitive experience is equal to anyone on our team. I would call Aaron a “gamer” because he loves to compete – which has helped the team tremendously since we are all competing daily in practice.

With 12 team members, each gymnast is competing for a spot on the competitive travel team, which is different from last year and previous years. This is a new situation for all team members, as the last time our team was this large was in 2005-06. That year we were deep with talent and we had a winning record in our competitions. It culminated with beating Arizona State at Collegiate Nationals for the collegiate club title. Though we are not quite as deep as that year’s team, we are only one or two gymnasts away from that kind of season. I am looking forward to seeing how we do this year, and happy that we are on an upswing.

Mark Russo