When sophomore Stacey Ervin stepped onto the floor to check out the mat before the Michigan men’s gymnastics team’s dual meet against Ohio State, something felt off. The floor did not feel as solid as it should. Ervin was nervous that bad footing could derail his routine and put the Wolverines behind after the team’s shaky start on the pommel horse in the first rotation.
Instead, Ervin pulled off a school-record and nation-best 16.15 on the floor. It was a performance that set the tone early and effectively put the Buckeyes out of the contest.
Despite poor starts by top performers sophomore Adrian de los Angeles and Olympian junior Sam Mikulak, and the absence of senior co-captain Rohan Sebastian, Michigan was able to dominate the meet.
“The depth of our team is unreal,” Mikulak said. “I’ve never seen anything like it in a team. Everyone is working so hard.”
Michigan’s depth is the reason it’s ranked No. 1 in the nation; its roster boasts several of the top gymnasts in the country, competing in multiple events.
“There is certainly a feeling of calmness and confidence when everyone you have in the lineup is good, versus when you have a weak guy somewhere in your lineup you know is coming up,” said Michigan coach Kurt Golder
As the Wolverines pulled away, the body language on the sidelines told the same story as the scoreboard. Ohio State lacked energy, and it was unable to recover from misses on several routines. And an ACL injury to Buckeye captain Kris Done that forced him out of the meet effectively guaranteed a Michigan win.
The feeling on Michigan’s sideline was loose and relaxed, a result of team chemistry that has been built over the last two years.
“We were a young class last year, but we’ve all grown into each other a lot more this year,” Mikulak said. “When we’re out there competing we’re all joking around with each other. It‘s that positive-energy atmosphere.”
Part of Saturday‘s win can be credited to the Wolverines‘ extra focus in practice leading up to the meet in Columbus.
“I think there was a little more intensity during the week,” Golder said. “Before the meet, we talked about beating Ohio State. They gave us about as much as we gave them. We knew they would be ready for us.”
In the end, Michigan’s relentless volume of talent was too much for Ohio State, as Michigan pulled off hit after hit on the final three rotations in the meet.
The key for Michigan going forward will be to get Mikulak going as he returns from a leg injury. Having him at full strength will solidify the lineup and add more potency to the top team in the nation.
“This team is one of the great ones I’ve coached,” Golder said. “I’ve been blessed to have coached two national championship teams. We have yet to do that with this team, but I like our chances this year.”