“Boys, boys, boys …” are going to be front and center this week. As has been the case all season, the tense competition makes this one of the hottest events. There is also an interesting battle brewing — last year’s surprise medalists vs. last year’s predicted medalists. While they all have international experience this year, they want a little more … namely, a spot on the World team. But, that’s no easy task, especially with only two spots available.
The Break Down
Richard Dornbush — He made his name known last season when he nearly upstaged Ryan Bradley’s swan song. His personality is charming, and he carries that through every program. He has to hit the jumps, though, from start to finish. He doesn’t necessarily have the levels to keep up with the world’s best, but if he’s on and someone else is the slightest bit off, he’ll hold his own.
Adam Rippon — Sometimes — actually, far more often than we like to admit — we see a skater with the all the right pieces who can’t seem to put them together all at once. Just last year, Rippon started the season strong, but failed to bring it at Nationals. This season, he once again has challenged himself artistically with choreography and music, as well as technically with a quad lutz. No, he hasn’t hit it. And yes, he still struggles with the triple axels sometimes. But he’s had some time to gel with both the programs and the jumps. After missing Worlds last year, he’ll be hungry for a spot.
Jeremy Abbott — Talk about hungry for some redemption. Jeremy is, undoubtedly, the best skater in America. However, there are times where he lets the nerves, the pressure, the expectations, or whatever else it may be, get in his head and he struggles. This season, his programs are nothing short of brilliant. The challenge of balancing creative choreography, emotional depth, and technical prowess is massive. Through the Grand Prix, he was almost there. If he gets all the way there, this could even top his first National title performance. Yes, they’re that good.
Ross Miner — Not willing to easily give up his own chance at a repeat medal, Miner will be an interesting piece of this puzzle. Like so many inexperienced young skaters, when he’s on, he’s great. But the consistency isn’t quite there. He has a great long program this year that, I think, highlights his strengths. There’s not a lot of wiggle room at the top, but he’ll be vying for one of those spots.
Brandon Mroz and Armin Mahbanoozadeh stand an outside chance at breaking up the top-four party. Mroz, of course, started the season with a ratified quad lutz. Mahbanoozadeh had as good a chance as any last year at Nationals. These are two skaters who have good moments, but tend to not have good skates. That’s a problem when the stakes are high all around.
Don’t forget about some of the younger guys who have impressed — Joshua Farris, Keegan Messing, Douglas Razzano, Stephen Carriere, Johnathan Cassar, Max Aaron … the list goes on!
The fact is, the US men have depth. They may not all be able to compete against the Chans and Plushenkos of the world, but they’ll compete in San Jose. They’ll make memorable moments, and they’ll put themselves in position to make a move next year. That’s what I love about Nationals. You not only get the chance to see the country’s best, but the country’s future. With that list of names, the future is bright, for certain.
For now, though, the “future” entails a handful of minutes to determine who moves on and who goes home. Those top four guys? You better believe they all want their shot at Nice.
We’ve seen how the predictable can fall through entirely. However, I don’t expect that to happen again. I’m going to go with the likeliest scenario for this one.
1. Jeremy Abbott
2. Adam Rippon
3. Richard Dornbush
For my “bold” prediction, I’m going to say Max Aaron surprises some people and finishes well.
Feel free to let me know what you think! Who is your pick for an upset?