Any time there is a competition between Michigan and Ohio State, fans can expect to see a battle between the longtime rivals, and that’s just what the crowd received at the men’s gymnastics meet Saturday.

No. 9 Michigan set a season high on the parallel bars, but were ultimately outshined by the third-ranked Buckeyes, 434.900-424.100.

The Wolverines’ floor exercises began the meet on a promising note, leading Ohio State’s pommel horse total by 2.7 points.

But the second rotation saw an entirely different Michigan team. While the Buckeyes nearly matched the Wolverines’ floor performance, Michigan struggled to translate its success onto the pommel horse.

Sophomore Dmitri Belanovski excelled on the floor, sticking almost every landing and scoring the highest for that event with a total of 15.250. However, the pommel horse proved to be more of a challenge for Belanovski and his teammates, as they lost strength and fell off of the apparatus several times.

This rotation cost them the lead as they trailed behind Ohio State by 2.85 points. In a sport like gymnastics, where something as small as a tenth of a point could be the deciding factor between first and second place, this setback was enough to leave the Wolverines trailing for the remainder of the meet.

“I went out there and focused on one task at a time, one skill at a time.” Belanovski said. “Then it came to horse … horse is always a little nerve-wracking. … After falling, you just have to forget about it. There’s four more events left in the meet.”  

Senior Nolan Novak began his difficult horse routine well, gracefully swinging his lower body around the equipment while balancing with his arms, but just as his exercise was coming to a finish, he lost control and fell over the pommel horse, onto the ground. Despite the devastating mistake, Novak got right back up and finished the routine.

Sophomore Marty Strech fell in a similar fashion as Novak. As for the Wolverines who did not fall off the apparatus, they saw struggles in their dismount and landing, which resulted in an all-around low-scoring event for the team.

“I’m doing a harder (horse) routine than I did last year,” Novak said. “I made it to the dismount, and then I fell, so that was a little heartbreaking … I’m really pushing for that 6-5 routine, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Added Michigan coach Kurt Golder: “If you want to get super charged as a team, do a great job on pommel horse and that will carry you through the rest of the meet … I thought Nolan Novak had the best routine going into the pommel horse, but then he fell. He’s doing such a difficult routine and we’re shooting for a national championship with him. He’s almost there.”

Had the Wolverines performed strongly on the pommel horse, it might have generated the momentum needed to beat the opposing gymnasts. Going forward, the young Michigan team will continue to go back to the drawing board in order to make sure its hard work pays off during a live meet.

Belanovski and his teammates know exactly what it takes to succeed — confidence.

“When I was younger, if I fell sometimes, it took me out of the meet,” Belanovski said. “But you mature and grow up. Keep trusting the process and keep hitting.”

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