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Golden Medals: Cal Rugby in Varsity Cup Semi vs. Penn State; M. Gym in NCAA; Cal vs. UW in crew

It is another busy weekend of top notch college competitions across various sports involving your California Golden Bears.

5th year senior Russell Webb will look to bring the Bears back to other Varsity Cup championship final.
Cal Varsity Rugby Twitter

Check back tomorrow morning for the preview/gamethread (although I will not be able to live update due to my plan to participate on March for Science...FYI, science is good for society!) post for both the men’s and women’s Big Slam (both event are televised by the Pac-12 Networks). The Cal women will be playing for the Pac-12 title at noon PT while the men will be playing for plenty of pride (and offer free Fuddrucker hamburgers to fans attending the meet) and postseason positioning at 3:30 PM PT.

Cal Rugby vs. Penn State in Varsity Cup Semifinal (Sat. 1 pm)

Roll On You Bears! Cal Rugby had an easy 71-7 romp of host Clemson in the Varsity Cup quarterfinal last Saturday. They will next host Penn State in the final home match of the season (both 15s and 7s)...although Cal fans can easily find their way down to Santa Clara in two weeks for the Varsity Cup (15s national championship) final should the Golden Bears prevailed on Saturday at 1 pm PT (stop by Witter after the Spring Game). The Cal Bears website mention a livestream, I will update the CGB Twitter page (@GoldenBlogs) should those links materialize by tomorrow afternoon.

Cal Bears only got through to the final last year via a narrow 1 point 14-13 victory over Central Washington...thus earning Central Washington the other top seed after the defection of BYU from this competition. Surprisingly, Navy defeated Central Washington last week by a 27-24 margin. Navy will visit Arkansas State (winner of 39-12 contest over Utah Valley, a side that upset UCLA in the opening round) in the other semifinal.

Despite the presence of youth across the lineup for the Golden Bears (15-3), they will again be a heavy favorite against Penn State (20-1). Penn State defeat Harvard 100-7 in the opening round and then Army 47-34, but has not have that much recent successes (they made the 15s final four in ‘95, ‘96, ‘99, ‘01).


The Nittany Lions come into the Varsity Cup semifinals averaging 59.8 points per game on offense while giving up 17.0 ppg defensively. They feature five first-team all-conference selections, including superlative senior flanker Malcolm May and Rugby East Forward of the Year Rob Irimescu, a junior at No. 8, in the forwards; and a trio of first-team backline selections in junior scrumhalf Jimmy Ronan, flyhalf Michael Dabulas and senior center Selby Niumataiwalu.

After blowing out Harvard in Round 1, Penn State jumped out to a 34-17 halftime lead against Army in the quarterfinals and held off the Black Knights to advance. Junior lock Ryan McNulty scored three tries and senior outside center Joe Kelly dotted down twice for PSU.

Its quarterfinal win was PSU's second of the year over Army, adding to signature victories this year that have included two wins over Navy, beating the Middies twice, 60-36 and 39-29; and a road win at Kutztown, 41-34. Penn State also recorded an impressive, 50-41 win over the senior men's club Old Blue of New York and brought home three wins from its Scotland tour, beating West of Scotland, 73-5, in Glasgow; Strathclyde University, 32-7, in Perthshire; and St. Andrews University, 46-31, in Fife.

The wins by Penn State over Navy, Army, and Kutztown are certainly impressive. As are their Scotland tour, but they also lost 29-19 to Indiana Hoosiers. Given the experience of Cal head coach Jack Clark and the trio of 5th year senior leaders in Russell Webb, Anthony Salaber, and Patrick Barrientes, expect the Bears to be ready on Saturday. I know several CGB folks will be in attendance. We may be seeing the return of the “photo essay” by TwistNHook from this match.

Should the Bears win, the Varsity Cup final will take place on Saturday, May 6th from the campus of Santa Clara University. That match will be broadcasted live by NBC Sports Network at noon PT (coincidentally, college rugby fans can travel from the Varsity Cup final to Moraga for the D1A national championship final that is scheduled to start at 4 pm PT on the same day; the D1A national championship will be broadcasted live by CBS Sports Network).

Cal Men’s Gymnastics in the NCAA Championships (April 21st-22nd from West Point, NY)

Given the limited number of men’s gymnastics teams in college, Cal Men’s Gymnastics was a shoo-in for the NCAA Championships all season long. Competing in the same conference as No.1 Oklahoma and No.2 Stanford (both of whom have visited Berkeley this year), Golden Bears know that they still have quite a bit of separation between themselves and the top squads.

The realistic best case scenario expectation for this weekend is personal records (PR’s) across the board for the Bears. This meet will also mark the end of head coach Brett McClure (former Olympian) regime as he is transitioning to a job with USA Gymnastics. We shall see what the future holds for Cal Men’s of the cheapest program but one that is again on the chopping block despite four NCAA national titles in its history (1968, 1975, 1997, 1998).

That ‘97 team had a reunion earlier this year back at Haas.

Both Men and Women Cal Crew take on Washington (all 4 teams are either No.1 or No.2 in the country)

Yale and Harvard may have been the original crew powerhouses back in the day, but West Coast power like Cal and Washington have dominated the sports (particularly on the men’s side) in the last half of a century. It is always special when the two sides race one another in their annual rivalry. Both the Men and the Women will be racing up in Seattle this weekend, in one of the most anticipated non-national championship races.

For the Cal women, early season wins over then No.2 and No.3 Ohio State and Michigan squads still have them drop a spot in the rankings to the Washington Huskies (who are under a brand new coaching regime).

The 106th Cal-UW dual is previewed by Rowing Related.

They give the Cal women’s the edge in both V8, 2V8 but the Huskies in V4. For the men, the V8 race is “too close to call” with the edge to UW - plenty of future Olympians on both sides.

The Varsity Eight

HuskiesThe Washington men's varsity eight has a ton of power, but also a huge upside—you don't have to look any further than four seat Arne Landboe to see what we're getting at there. Landboe (6'9" and 220 lbs) is a former kayaker and swimmer, and we can confidently say is likely sub 5:50 for 2k right now (and a guy that we think Dave O'Neill might really like this summer when putting together the U.S. U23 team).

Meanwhile, in stroke seat is the guy who broke the mould—German international Philipp Nonnast, we believe, not only became the first freshman to row in the varsity eight at Washington (formerly, the frosh would always compete at the frosh level), but also stroked the top boat for the Huskies at both Pac-12s and IRAs last year. So, yeah, he's pretty good—we're going to call him the UW rowing Markelle Fultz.

But he's far from the extent of the international talent in this crew. Six seat Simon Van Drop is a 6'8" Dutch oarsman who won junior worlds in the eight in 2015, and backed that up with a U23 gold (also in the eight) for the Netherlands last year. Sitting right behind him is Serbian standout Viktor Pivac, a medalist at both the U23 and senior levels (most recently winning the men's pair at U23s along with his counterpart in the Cal men's varsity eight, Martin Mackovic—of him, more later).

Add in U.S. U23 and senior national teamer Ben Davison in the bow seat, and you're in pretty good shape.

Golden BearsSo we already name dropped Wegrzycki-Szymczyk, and for good reason, but the supporting cast behind the Polish Olympian at stroke is flat-out outstanding (hey, they won it all last year, didn't they?). In other words, UW isn't going to be the only one with multiple athletes going 5:50 or faster.

Also, Mackovic and Pivac aren't the only ones who are teammates during the summer—Cal six seat Maarten Hurkmans (6'7" and 215 lbs) was in that same U23 gold medal-winning Dutch men's eight with Van Dorp last year. Sitting right behind him is Mackovic, who posted a 5:55 to Instagram last year (but we're betting that he might just be eating at Burger King if he's posting that score this season).

Another international battling to be in the varsity eight for the second straight year is Austrian Ferdi(nand) Querfeld, who is coming off a golden 2016, winning Pac-12s and IRAs with Cal in the varsity last year, and then capping off the season with a win in the men's straight four at U23 worlds. Plus, his fellow Golden Bear Christoph Seifriedsberger (he of the 1:38.2 hour of power last year) was in that same crew at worlds—now, he's in a freshman in the varsity eight at Cal. And in the two seat thus far in 2017 has been California native Kyle Flagg, who raced with the U.S. U23 team last year in Rotterdam.

While this race is likely too close to call, we're going to call it anyway because that's what we do—we're giving a slight edge to Washington here on their home course.

The weekend action will be streamed online. Here are the schedule and streaming info.


April 22, 2017

9:00 AM: Women's V4+

9:12 AM: Women's 3V8+ (plus UW Freshman 8+)

9:24 AM: Men's 3V8+ (plus UW 4V8+)

9:36 AM: Men's Freshman 8+

Row Back: 9:45-10:05 AM

10:10 AM: Women's 2V8+

10:22 AM: Men's 2V8+

10:34 AM: Women's V8+

10:50 AM: Men's V8+

LIVE STREAM AND OTHER COVERAGEIn partnering with the Pac-12 Networks, the entire Cal Dual will be broadcast live on Twitter, as well as the Husky Live Stream. Live results can be found on and will be posted on Twitter (@UW_Rowing) throughout the morning.