The No. 3 Michigan men’s gymnastics team held its annual intrasquad meet at Cliff Keen Arena on Saturday, with the Maize team defeating the Blue team, 315.800-312.150.
The annual matchup between the Maize and Blue teams serves as the Wolverines’ starting point prior to the regular season and a way to build camaraderie, especially for the incoming freshman and Michigan’s two transfers: sophomore Crew Bold and sophomore Kyle Shuttle.
“It’s nice to be back, it’s even better to be back with this group of guys,” junior Adam Wooten said. “We have a lot of returners that we didn’t know would be back, so it feels like a redemption tour from last year.
“I’m excited for the new people, I think they’re filling key roles on the team. We were a really good team last year but we had some definite weaknesses and we have guys filling those gaps.”
The meet came at an inflection point for the reigning Big Ten Champions, with decorated Michigan coach Kurt Golder announcing his retirement and interim coach Yuan Xiao leading the team for the season.
“Both teams did an awesome job,” Xiao said. “We are the best team in the nation, the goal for us is never below a Big Ten Championship and a National Championship.”
Both teams opened with strong performances in round one, floor exercise, with strong routines from sophomore Edward Yao, junior Paul Juda and Wooten.
The Wolverines showed glimpses of their championship form during round four on the vault, with Wooten and junior Casey Cummings scoring 14.550 each for the Blue team, while senior Miles Miller and Juda scored 14.150 and 14.450 for the Maize team, respectively.
“It’s just about building confidence,” Wooten said. “With every competition, there’s a huge opportunity for fun and we capitalized on that today. We want to win so bad, we want to win this meet, the next meet, and (National Championships).”
Both teams remained neck-and-neck from start to finish until the Maize team edged out the win in the final round, high bar, behind a closeout performance from Juda with a score of 14.850, the highest individual score of the meet.
“I love being the anchor routine,” Juda said. “I love closing out the show and being the guy with the spotlight on him. (In that moment) everything’s going crazy and the crowd is wild but over the years I’ve developed an ability to drown that noise out and focus on the task at hand.”
Regardless of whether they were wearing Maize or Blue, the team celebrated every routine because they were invested in each other’s success.
“This team is special, this group of guys are electric,” Juda said. “It’s always good to be back in Cliff Keen and we’re on a good way to start defending this house this season. At the end of the day, we’re one team, one dream. In our gym there’s no real division, we cheer each other on and make sure everyone’s succeeding.”
Michigan will face difficult matchups this season, with several top-10 opponents in No. 4 Nebraska, No. 6 Illinois, No. 7 Penn State and No. 9 Ohio State. The Wolverines will open the regular season on Jan. 8 against Northern Illinois, and the performances on Saturday show Michigan is taking the challenges ahead seriously.
“Win everything,” Juda said. “(We have to) realize that there are no losses, there are only opportunities to learn. We’re going to keep supporting and loving each other.
“The next couple of weeks we have off from (gymnastics). I think it’s going to be really critical that a lot of the guys take it upon themselves to be accountable to their training. In order to continue doing well inside of the gym, they need to continue to do well outside of the gym.”