U.S. Nationals: Senior Mens Preview

Abbot is the defending national champion and is going for his third national title.  He has the 6th best short program score internationally, 10th best free skate score, and 9th best total score.  He always seems to do better at nationals than he does in international competitions so I expect him to skate clean here and raise his scores.  He’s had some struggles with his free skate this season and I think choreographically its the better of his two programs.  When he’s on, his skating is magical and his free skate has the ability to deliver big and captivate an audience. 

He’s being chased by young phenom Adam Rippon.  Rippon put up huge scores at Skate Canada to take the 7th best short program, 6th best free skate and 5th best total score of the season so far.  He wasn’t able to match these scores at Skate America and his triple axel deserted him and left him off the podium.  He and coach Brian Orser tried to shake off the bad program in the kiss and cry but we’ll have to wait and see what kind of mental game he brings to Greensboro.  He is really developing as an artist and his programs have a new level of maturity.  On the technical side, he’s the only skater in the world who performs a “Rippon Lutz.”

Brandon Mroz is also in the mix with an 8th best free skate and 10th best total score internationally for the season.  I’m not crazy about his programs this season but he fights for every element in his programs and he’s one of the only skaters who was consistent across the season and you can count on to land his jumps.  He’s also one of the only U.S. men to attempt and land quads in the Grand Prix.  He has been battling a shoulder injury and while he said he’s back to 100%, he did lose some training time.  He went to worlds his first year competing as a senior but dropped down the rankings last season and he’s eager to prove he belongs with the top men.

Ryan Bradley sat out the Grand Prix season before deciding to return to competitive skating.  He has been largely self coached this season and his sister will be with him in Greensboro.  His free skate is one of my favorite programs and he is truly the only skater who can execute it.  He’ll be one of the few men here executing quads.  He’s said repeatedly that he put too much pressure on himself last season when he barely missed out on going to the Olympics and he’s come back for his fans and the love of the sport.  His strength is his free skate, so he’ll need to set himself up with a good short program.  With no pressure he really has a chance to go out and enjoy the experience and has a good shot at the podium as well. 

Armin Mahbanoozadeh had the skate of his life to capture the bronze medal at Skate America.  He wasn’t able to get a second Grand Prix assignment but his score at the Nebelhorn Trophy shows some degree of consistency.  I think he’ll have to capitalize on other skaters mistakes to make the podium but if he skates clean he should easily finish in the top 5.

Richard Dornbush is another young skater to watch and recently walked away with the Junior Grand Prix Final title in December.  His Grand Prix Final score is the second highest international score posted by a US man this season but he also has the worst score of the season.  He’s also transitioning to a senior program which is 30 seconds longer so endurance could be an issue.  If he can skate like he did at the Final he’ll be on the podium.  Other young skaters to watch for are Grant Hochstein and Ross Miner.

A few other skaters to keep an eye on are Douglas Razzano who posted a 185.70 at Ice Challenge earlier this season and Jonathan Cassar who’s free skate to Schindler’s List dazzled me last season and I can’t wait to see at nationals.

You can also check out this great post from Backstage Barbie comparing all the best and worst mens scores from the Grand Prix season.  http://backstagebarbie.blogspot.com/2011/01/us-nationals-preview-senior-men-best.html

My podium predictions:
Gold: Adam Rippon
Silver: Jeremy Abbott
Bronze: Ryan Bradley
Pewter: Brandon Mroz

My USFSA Fantasy Picks:
A) Adam Rippon
B) Armin Mahbanoozadeh
C) Douglas Razzano

The skaters:

Jeremy Abbott: Abbott finished 9th at the Olympics and 5th at Worlds.  He is the 2007 Four Continents Bronze Medalist.  He won silver at NHK Trophy and bronze at Cup of Russia.  He is the 2005 National Junior Champion.  He is competing for his third consecutive national title.

Ryan Bradley: Bradley finished 18th at Worlds and 5th at Four Continents.  He is the 2007 national silver medalist.  He finished 4th at nationals last season.

Adam Rippon: He placed 6th at the World Championships with a personal best short program score and is the reigning Four Continents champion with a personal best free skate score.  He is the 2008 and 2009 Junior World Champion.  He won bronze at Skate Canada with a personal best total score and finished 4th at Skate America.  He is known for his signature “Rippon Lutz” performed with both arms over his head.  He is the 2008 National Junior Champion.  He finished 5th at nationals last season.

Brandon Mroz: Mroz finished 4th at Four Continents last season.  He won silver at Cup of China with a personal best free skate and total score and bronze at Trophee Eric Bompard.  He is the 2007 and 2008 National Junior silver medalist and the 2009 National silver medalist.  He finished 6th at nationals last season.

Armin Mahbanoozadeh: He placed 10th at the World Junior Championships.  He won bronze at Skate America with personal best scores across the board.  He finished 8th at nationals last year.

Keegan Messing: Messing finished 4th at the World Junior Championships.  He won gold at JGP Brasov Cup and placed 4th at Czech Skate to qualify for the Junior Grand Prix Final where he placed 5th.  He is the 2009 National Junior silver medalist.  He finished 9th at nationals last season. 

Richard Dornbush: He finished 4th at JGP Cup of Austria and won gold at Pokal der Blauen to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where he won gold with personal best scores across the board.  He finished 11th at nationals last season.

Douglas Razzano: He is the 2005 National Junior pewter medalist.  He finished 15th at nationals last year.

Ross Miner: Miner is the 2009 national junior champion and placed 10th at the World Junior Championships.  He finished 9th at NHK Trophy with personal bests in the short and free programs and 7th at Cup of China with personal best scores across the board.  He missed nationals last season due to injury.

Joshua Farris: He won silver at JGP Brasov Cup and gold at J. Curry Memorial to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where he placed 6th.  He is the 2009 National Novice Champion.  He is the reigning National Junior silver medalist.

Jason Brown: He qualified with a 1st place finish at Midwestern sectionals.  He won silver at JGP Courcheval and finished 6th in Japan.  He is the 2009 National Novice bronze medalist and the reigning National junior champion.

Grant Hochstein: He qualified with a 2nd place finish at Midwestern sectionals.  He finished 5th at World Juniors.  He placed 10th at Skate Canada with personal best scores across the board.  He is the 2009 National Junior pewter medalist.  He finished 7th at nationals last season.

Jonathan Cassar: He qualified with a 1st place finish at Pacific Coast sectionals.  He finished 12th at nationals last year.

Scott Dyer: He qualified with a 1st place finish at Eastern sectionals.  He is the reigning National Junior pewter medalist.

Christopher Caluza: He qualified with a 2nd place finish at Pacific Coast sectionals.  He finished 8th at nationals last season at the junior level.

Andrew Gonzales: He qualified with a 3rd place finish at Pacific Coast sectionals.  He is the 2008 National Junior bronze medalist.  He finished 18th at nationals last season.

Parker Pennington: He qualified with a 3rd place finish at Midwestern sectionals.  He finished 16th at nationals last year.

Alexander Johnson: He qualified with a 4th place finish at Midwestern Sectionals.  He is the 2009 National Junior bronze medalist.  He finished 17th at nationals last season.

Sean Rabbitt: He qualified with a 4th place finish at Pacific Coast sectionals.  He finished 11th at nationals last year at the junior level.

Jason Wong: He qualified with a 2nd place finish at Eastern sectionals.  He finished 10th at nationals last season.

Wesley Campbell: He qualified with a 3rd place finish at Eastern sectionals.  He finished 21st at nationals last year.

Lloyd Ting: He qualified with a 4th place finish at Eastern sectionals.

Note: Stephen Carriere had qualified for nationals but had to withdraw due to injury.