Nov. 21, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota men's gymnastics program is pleased to announce the addition of six student-athletes for the 2014-15 season. Ryan Bergman, Tristan Duran, Jack Kramer, Yaroslav Pochinka, Jalon Stephens and Alex Wittenberg have signed with the Golden Gophers and will join the squad in the fall of 2014.
"I'm very excited about the quality and quantity of our incoming freshman class for the fall of 2014," head coach Mike Burns said. "We've obviously done a great job thus far of replacing our graduating seniors, which is also a big class of eight. It was a daunting task to be able to replace these seniors, especially with the quality of the gymnasts we're graduating. With this incoming class, I think we've exceeded our expectations.
"We're bringing in a very high level group of kids. Two of them competed at the P&G Championships in the junior division this past summer, and one of them, Yaroslav Pochinka, actually qualified into the senior division on the second day of competition. That's quite an accomplishment for a kid in his junior year of high school. In addition, Jalon Stephens was also at the P&G Championships this year, and he was a national champion on the vault in the junior division. The future of Gopher gymnastics looks extremely bright with this group of incoming freshmen."
Ryan Bergman is the lone Minnesota native in the Gophers' incoming class. A native of Lakeville, Minn., Bergman competes for coach Andre Berry at Classic Gymnastics. At the 2013 Minnesota Boys State Meet, Bergman placed first on rings, second on floor and third on pommel horse en route to finishing second in the all-around. He helped his Region IV team finish second at the 2013 Junior Olympic National Championships by taking second on parallel bars and fifth in the all-around. Bergman is a three-time Academic All-American honoree. He is the son of Doug and Lisa Bergman.
Burns on Bergman: "Ryan is a Minnesota native who will be on the team next year. Andre Berry, one of our alumni, is coaching him now, and he's really starting to take off. Ryan will most likely be an impact player on parallel bars, high bar and pommel horse as an incoming freshman. He has attended our camps over the last five or six years, and he grew up wanting to be a Gopher. I think it's awesome that we have a kid whose dream is now coming true. We don't have to teach him what it means to be a Gopher. Both his parents went to school here, and he has Maroon and Gold blood flowing through his veins. He'll lead the rest of the freshmen class in what it means to be a Gopher."
Tristan Duran joins the Gophers from Franklin Lakes, N.J., where he competes for coach Genadi Shub at the U.S. Gymnastics Development Center. He was a 2013 Junior Olympic qualifier, where he placed 21st in the all-around. Duran took eighth in the all-around at the 2013 U.S. qualifier and earned silver in the all-around at the 2013 Region 7 Regional Championships. Duran was a New Jersey all-around state champion in 2012 and 2011. Duran's personal bests are: floor (14.9), pommel horse (15.1), rings (14.6), vault (15.0), parallel bars (14.7) and high bar (15.3). The son of Alexander Duran and Marilyn Duran, he intends to major in business.
Burns on Duran: "One thing about Tristan that I like is that he is a very courageous gymnast. When I look at his high bar, I see a lot of potential and a lot of daring, which you need to have on high bar. He's going to help us a lot on every event. He's a solid all-arounder, but he also has events where he can score big. He is going to make the line-up for us a lot as a freshman. He's been coached well from a technical aspect, and we're looking forward to being able to build on the foundation Tristan has developed."
An all-arounder from Charlotte, N.C., Jack Kramer currently competes for Zenith Gymnastics under coaches Stass Savitch and Tom Lombardo. He is a three-time all-around state champion and a six-time Junior Olympic national qualifier. Kramer was a Junior Olympic all-around finalist in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013, and he competed for the USA Gymnastics Junior National team in 2010-11. Kramer lists catching his first Kolman on high bar as his most memorable sports thrill. The son of Cathy and Andy Kramer, he plans to study chemical engineering. Kramer is a three-time USA Gymnastics Academic All-American honoree. In addition to gymnastics, Kramer is a three-time state meet qualifier in diving at Ardrey Kell High School.
Burns on Kramer: "Jack's upside is unbelievable. He really has a lot of talent. Last year, he was slightly injured, so he wasn't able to perform at a level that showed off his abilities. He was a former member of the junior national team as a youngster. I think he's really going to surprise some people. We're really excited about Jack joining the program. He has a lot of high level of difficulty skills, and we'll be able to build some really solid routines out of what he can do right now. I think he might be a guy who rivals some of our top guys in the history of Gopher gymnastics."
A native of Plano, Texas, Yaroslav Pochinka will join the Gophers from the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy where he is coached by Pavel Sadovskiy. Pochinka lists competing in the senior session of the 2013 P&G National Championships as his most memorable sports thrill. He also took 11th in the all-around at the Junior Olympic Level 9 in 2010. Pochinka has earned the following career-bests: floor (14.8), pommel horse (14.0), rings (15.1), vault (15.2), parallel bars (14.35) and high bar (13.55). He is the son of Mike and Zoya Pochinka and is interested in studying human biology or applied mathematics.
Burns on Pochinka: "In Yaroslav, we have a really solid all-arounder. He has a couple events that really spike. His vaulting is world-class, and he has a lot of power. He's a very physically strong athlete, so his vault and rings are especially good. He's the kind of guy who could be a Big Ten finalist on those events as a freshman. He has that kind of potential. His other events are really good, too. For a big strong kid, he swings really good pommel horse - that's a nice bonus. He's very powerful on floor as well, and he has a lot of high-difficulty skills on that event. Yaro is going to be counted on heavily as a freshman, and he could make the line-up in all six events."
Jalon Stephens joins the Gophers from Shreveport, La., where he competes for Jill's Gymnastics (GymS'port) under coach Sean Keefe. Stephens took first on vault at the Junior Olympic National Level 10/Elite in 2013 and also placed first on vault at the P&G Championships (Level 10) in 2013. His career best scores are: floor (14.9), pommel horse (13.2), rings (14.15), vault (16.35), parallel bars (15.0) and high bar (14.9). Stephens lists seeing his name in first place on the scoreboard at the 2013 P&G Championships as his most memorable sports thrill. Stephens intends to study kinesiology, and he is the son of Rodney and Vivian Stephens.
Burns on Stephens: "Jalon is an untapped reservoir of unbelievable talent. He qualified for the P&G Championships and was a junior national champion on vault, so it's not like he's unknown. He has a lot of high capabilities in the sport. I think his best gymnastics is still to come. He's physically mature, super powerful, and really quick-twitch. Floor and vault are his two best events, and I think he could really develop on parallel bars and high bar. I think we can really take Jalon to the next level with those four events where he's already very good, and the other two events are going to come around nicely. He should be a real threat at the Big Tens and the NCAAs on floor and vault and possibly as an all-arounder."
Alex Wittenberg joins the Gophers from Buffalo, N.Y., where he competes at the Greater Buffalo Gymnastics Center for coach Michael Morse, a Minnesota gymnastics alum. Wittenberg was the 2013 New York state champion on vault and won state titles on floor and parallel bars in 2012. He is a four-time Junior Olympic national qualifier and placed ninth on high bar at 2013 Junior Olympic nationals. An all-around competitor, Wittenberg has career-bests on floor (13.9), pommel horse (13.9), rings (14.2), vault (14.4), parallel bars (14.0) and high bar (13.8). Wittenberg attends Kenmore West High School and is a three-time academic All-American first team honoree. He is the son of Emmanuel and Annette Wittenberg.
Burns on Wittenberg: "Alex is from Buffalo, New York, where his coach is Minnesota alum Michael Morse. He's making great strides this year and starting to come into his own after being injured during part of his junior year. Floor is his best event, and he could be a real player on that event. He's doing some nice things on floor right now. He's an all-arounder, and the rest of his events are pretty solid. I think he could develop into a real competitor on pommel horse. He's going to be one of those names most people don't know right now, but after one year, people will know him. I'm looking forward to seeing him evolve."
The Gophers open the 2014 season with the exhibition Alumni Meet at the Sports Pavilion on Saturday, Jan. 11.
Preview: Gophers set for quad at Stanford
Minnesota will travel this weekend to compete against Stanford, and the National Teams from both Japan and Canada.
Day Two: Winter Cup Challenge
Stephens finished 23rd in the all-around competition, while alum Mannon finished fifth on pommel horse. Incoming freshman Wiskus also competed in the all-around finals, finishing 12th.
Day One: Winter Cup Challenge
Stephens, Wiskus, Mannon advance to the 2017 Winter Cup Challenge finals this Saturday, Feb. 18. in Las Vegas, Nev.