By Alex Bondy, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 23, 2012
The No. 6 Michigan men’s gymnastics team excelled on day one of the NCAA tournament, but came up short in the finals, finishing sixth. Sophomore Sam Mikulak and Freshman Stacey Ervin competed in the individual qualifiers, with Mikulak winning the high bar championship.
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On Thursday, the Wolverines placed first out of the six teams in their flight, beating the season high they set at the Big Ten meet (351.850) with a 353.450. Mikulak led the team, winning the all-around, floor and parallel bars, and placed second on the vault.
A rough start on pommel horse in round one did not limit Michigan’s overall performance, as junior Rohan Sebastian and sophomore Jordan Gaarenstroom both scored 14.45 points to lead the team on still rings. The vault round was exactly what the Wolverines needed to take the lead, scoring a season-high 60.85. Freshman Michael Strathern led the team with a career best 15.85, and freshman Adrian de los Angeles (15.30) and Mikulak (15.25) both broke the 15-point mark.
Michigan continued to dominate, scoring another season-best 59.85 points on the parallel bars, led by Mikulak (15.45), de los Angeles (15.15) and Strathern (14.85). After a 15.80 on high bar, Mikulak continued the streak, scoring a 15.80 on the floor, followed by freshman Stacey Ervin’s 15.30 and sophomore Kevin Frasier’s 14.90.
Mikulak won the all-around with 89.30 points, while de los Angeles took third (86.30) and Sebastian took fourth (84.95). Michigan, Penn State and Stanford advanced to Friday’s Super Six to compete in the finals.
On Friday, Michigan came in sixth out of the six teams that advanced to the finals, tallying a total score of 351.05 points, but with first-place Illinois scoring a 358.85, the teams were closely matched.
The competition was stiff, as the Wolverines scored 59.10 points on the parallel bars, thanks to a 15.75 from Mikulak to start the day in fourth place. On the high bar, Mikulak added another 15.75, followed by de los Angeles with a 14.60. Freshman Taylor Harrower added a career-best 14.35 to compile a 58.50-point total for that event.
Michigan scored a 59.80 on floor, led by Ervin’s career-high 15.60 and Mikulak’s 15.05. On pommel horse, freshman Nick Hunter was added into the lineup, scoring a career-best 14.15, along with sophomore Dylan James’ career best 14.90.
Mikulak fell behind Oklahoma’s Jake Dalton, his biggest competition in the all-around, when Dalton scored a 15.50 on parallel bars to put him ahead of Mikulak, 75.60-74.90, going into the final round.
Then came the vault.
“We decided to do his big vault,” said Michigan coach Kurt Golder. “He decided to go for it because he was down by about six-tenths (of a point) going into the last event. Unfortunately, he had difficulty with the landing. He did his vault that only a few people in the world can do and he had trouble with the landing.”
Mikulak came in second in the all-around to Dalton.
“It wasn’t my best day,” Mikulak said. “I started off hot, but fell on pommel. I tried to throw my big vault out there, but it didn’t really work in my favor. I’m happy with my effort and I’m happy that Jake (Dalton) won. He is a great competitor and I will see him in the future.”
In the individual event finals on Saturday, Mikulak won the high bars championship with a 15.45, making him the 30th NCAA champion in the history of the Michigan men’s gymnastics program. He won by the largest margin of any event, outscoring Glen Ishino of Cal by .40 points and Dalton by .55 points. Mikulak also competed in the parallel bars, placing eighth.
Ervin also participated in the finals on Saturday, earning third place on vault with a 15.45, just below the 15.60 points he scored on Thursday’s qualifiers, along with a fourth place on floor with a 15.15.
“Overall, it went well,” Ervin said. “I felt very relaxed out there and confident with the routines. It was fun getting out there with everyone watching, and getting third place on floor was amazing. That was my best set of the year on the event, and the fourth place on vault was right where I feel I should have been, as the competition was at a very high level
De los Angeles, Mikulak, Strathern, Gaarenstroom and sophomore Alex Bubnov will compete in a national qualifier in a few weeks. If they qualify, they will advance to the U.S. Championship to qualify for a spot in the Olympic trials.
NOTE: Senior Syque Caesar, who has been out for a majority of the season due to a torn bicep, will be competing in the Olympics for his home country, Bangladesh.