BY COLT ROSENSWEIG
Daily Sports Writer
Published April 5, 2009
No one could blame sophomore gymnast Thomas Kelley for being a little surprised.
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At Friday night’s Big Ten men's gymnastics championships, his teammate, sophomore Chris Cameron, was whisked away for a TV interview as the all-around champion before the six teams marched out on the floor for awards. But when the results for the all-around were announced, Cameron was called second.
Kelley won the all-around title by just a quarter of a point.
“I was not expecting it at all,” Kelley said. “My goal was to get in the top six, and I had the meet of my life tonight. I’ve never been more on in my life. I stuck floor, six dismounts — I don’t do that."
Kelley posted scores of 15 or above on four of his six events, including an astronomical 15.65 on high bar and a season-high 14.70 on his last event, parallel bars.
But the sophomore was so immersed in the team competition that his individual performance took a back seat.
“The meet was over, I thought we’d lost, so I don’t even remember anything that happened in my p-bars routine,” Kelley said.
The Libertyville, Ill., native’s success carried into Saturday night’s event finals. Kelley finished third on the parallel bars with a new season-best 14.75 score and second on the high bar (14.975). To cap his weekend, Kelley, who was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2008, was named Big Ten Gymnast of the Year.
He is the first Wolverine to win the award since Justin Laury in 2005 — the last year Michigan hosted the Big Ten Championships.
Flyin' Ryan soars: Senior Ryan McCarthy spent the weeks between Michigan’s final regular-season meet and the Big Ten Championships unsure whether he’d even make the lineup.
His presence, especially on the parallel bars in team finals, turned out to be crucial.
Michigan needed a boost after two missed sets to open the rotation Friday night. After McCarthy's clutch routine, the Wolverines roared back to life, setting the meet up for its dramatic conclusion.
And though Kelley and Cameron finished first and second in the all-around, Michigan coach Kurt Golder chose McCarthy as his unofficial Newt Loken award winner for best performance of the night.
“It was questionable whether we were going to use him or not, and there was a lot of pressure the last week,” Golder said. “He came through like a trooper the last week and he came through real well.”
McCarthy made the event finals in both parallel bars and high bar, and on Saturday, he felt no pressure. He swept easily through his high bar routine, finishing in a third-place tie with Illinois sophomore Paul Ruggeri.
The gymnast who was earlier on the bubble for making the lineup found himself standing on the podium by the end of the night with two of his teammates — event champion senior Joe Catrambone and Kelley. On an event that was supposed to be a weakness this season, the Wolverines took the top three awards.
“That was a great feeling,” McCarthy said. “Having two other guys from your team up there to sweep the high bar, one-two-three, it shows you’re powerful as a team. You’ve got to bring the love to Michigan.”
Seniors savor long-awaited honors: For seniors Phil Goldberg and Joe Catrambone, their stuck landings on Saturday night meant just a little more.
Neither gymnast had won a Big Ten individual title before, and Catrambone had never before participated in an event final. On Saturday, Goldberg won the rings title (15.325) and Catrambone became the high bar champion (15.075)
To Goldberg, who came to Michigan as an unrecruited walk-on, winning rings meant even more than last year’s All-America honor.
“I knew I was going to win,” Goldberg said. “(Standing on the podium) was just exciting. Being taller than everybody is something I don’t get to experience that much.”
Catrambone’s championship was the last of the night. After he stuck his triple backflip dismount, the Wolverines enveloped him in hugs.
The senior was one of the last people to leave Crisler Arena after the final night of competition, soaking in one of the most memorable weekends of his career.
“The smile that went ear-to-ear was priceless,” Kelley said. “I’m so proud of him. … He’s waited four years for this moment, and it’s finally come for him. I’m really happy for him.”