July 31, 2009
By Larry Watts
Forget those Wheaties boxes. If Brandon Wynn's star continues to rise in the world of men's gymnastics, the Ohio State junior could be destined for the front panel of Rice-A-Roni.
Wynn, who did not compete in the all-around competition during the Big Ten Championships, recently pulled off the top all-around score at the USA Gymnastics 2009 Men's Qualifier in Colorado Springs. His score of 87.635 topped a field of 88 competitors, including former Buckeye teammate Jake Bateman (second, 87.2).
During his run to the top, Wynn also took first in the parallel bars (15.235) and grabbed seconds in the rings (15.05) and floor exercise (15.2). His scores in both parallel bars and floor exercise were both career highs. Wynn, Bateman and sophomore All-American Steven Spencer, who took second in the pommel horse (15.15), give the Buckeyes three competitors in the VISA Championships Aug. 12-14 in Dallas.
"I probably shocked a lot of people by taking first, but it wasn't a shock to my coaches or myself," Wynn says. "My coaches have seen the preparation I have put in. When you put that kind of time in you hope to get results. I knew I was going to have a huge competition."
Although he did take third in the rings during the Big Ten Championships, he was held out of the all-around competition due to swelling in his right knee. He bounced back to claim All-American honors by taking eighth in the all-around at the NCAA Championships.
The Voorhees, N.J. native, who is majoring in finance, has been carrying a full load of classes while working in six days of practice per week this summer. He hits the gym twice for workouts (totaling 5 1/2 hours) on four days and spends another 2 1/2 hours practicing on the other two days.
"My gymnastics has been coming along for a while now," says Wynn, who was a first-team All-Big Ten selection as a freshman. "A collegiate season is a lot different than a normal USA season. The collegiate season has a lot of competition week after week and there's a lot of pounding on the body, so you're not really going to do your best each week.
"With the longer break, I think my routines are becoming more perfected. So it may be a surprise to some people, but if you have really been watching my gymnastics it would be a pretty natural progression. What you are seeing now is the result of a lot of hard work in the gym."
What people are also seeing is the product of a strict dietary regime. Through consultation with his mother and coach early in high school, Wynn, who estimates he weighs in at 158-160 pounds during the season, removed all sugar, fat, white flour and red meat from his diet.
"We experimented with some things and tailored my diet to how I wanted to train," he says. "You have to be strong for this sport, but you also have to have low body fat. When I do eat meat, it's usually fish or grilled chicken. And I drink a lot of water.
"I don't miss the red meat at all. Once you stop eating something, like red meat or sugar, the body starts to reject it. Your body has its own way of telling you that you don't want that anymore. A cheeseburger and fries might taste good at the time I'm eating it, but the way I feel afterward outweighs the pleasure."
But no meal is complete unless he has brown rice. Whenever the Buckeyes take a road trip, Wynn has to make sure he finds a restaurant that serves brown rice, even if it means breaking off from most of his teammates. The rice is always part of his pre-meet preparation.
"We'll usually go into the gym early on the morning of the competition for a light stretch, to test the equipment and for visualization," he says. "Right after that, I'll go have something small to eat, like some vegetable. After a 90-minute nap, I'll take a shower, eat my rice and get ready for the competition, which includes picturing myself going through my routines."
Wynn is no stranger to the VISA Championships, which is the national meet for gymnasts. He competed in the junior competition in 2006 and was the junior national champion in still rings, which he considers to be his strongest event.
"I try not to look at this competition as being different than any other," he says. "I just want to do the same thing I have been doing in the gym every day."
Wynn does admit there will be extra pressure since he will be competing against members of the U.S. Olympic team and a berth on the national team is the reward for the top finishers.
"There's going to be added pressure, but you have to believe in yourself," he says. "I'm young (20 years old), so I know I have a lot of my career ahead of me. I always try to look at these competitions in the light that's it's still early in my career.
"I think I can be one of the top ones in rings. I had a bad dismount at the qualifier, so I know I'm capable. If I do well on rings and p-bars, I think I can score a lot of points. I just have to make sure I'm getting solid scores in the other events."
After the VISA Championships, Wynn plans to take a short rest before hitting the preseason at Ohio State He says he may head back to New Jersey for a week.
"I'll probably do some stretching, but I won't do anything too hard so my body can recuperate," he says. "The wear and tear in this sport really breaks you down."
But it's a sport the 5-foot-6 Wynn doesn't plan on leaving anytime soon.
"It's always so exciting because there is always something new you can do," he says. "There's always something harder you can try, which keeps me interested.
"I also like the aspect that it is physically challenging. It takes a certain kind of strength, not just brute mass. I really like the balance between flexibility and strength. It makes you a well-rounded athlete."