Tristian Perez-Rivera fought hard to stay on the pommel horse, but the sixth-year senior couldn’t hang on.
Freshman Cameron Bock followed Perez-Rivera and hit a clean routine with a score of 13.300, good for third place on the event.
Sophomore Mack Lasker had a good rhythm going before he, too, fell from the pommel horse.
The up-and-down performances in the first event of the day foreshadowed a difficult competition for the Michigan men’s gymnastics team. The eighth-ranked Wolverines traveled to take on No. 3 Illinois, but the team couldn’t get into a rhythm and lost, 394.900-405.200.
“Our training has been good, our spirit has been good, everything was in place to have a great meet,” Michigan coach Kurt Golder said. “You know, just some guys had trouble, and it was very costly.”
After two falls on pommel horse, Michigan hoped to gain ground on the Illini on floor exercise, a historically strong event for the Wolverines. Sophomore Parker Chiapuzio led off with a routine that included three stuck tumbling passes and scored 13.200.
But trouble came for Michigan, as both freshman Nick Guy and redshirt junior Alec Krystek fell during their routines. The tumultuous day for the Wolverines continued when junior Emyre Cole stepped up and executed a high-flying routine that scored 14.550 and won the event title.
Despite the challenges for Michigan during the first two events, Illinois held just a 0.65-point lead over the Wolverines after trouble of its own to begin the day.
Guy started the vault rotation with a double-twisting Yurchenko that scored 14.350 and placed second on the event. Krystek and redshirt junior Marty Strech both scored in the 14s on their vaults, and the comeback was on for Michigan.
Then Cole, the anchor on vault in place of injured junior Anthony McCallum, sat down on the landing of his two-and-a-half twist Yurchenko and scored 13.650.
“Our biggest vaulter, Emyre Cole, encountered difficulty today,” said Golder. “Counted on that for the biggest score, and it ends up being the lowest score between the two teams, so that didn’t help our case at all.”
The Wolverines performed clean routines at each spot in the lineup on rings — the only rotation of the day without a fall for Michigan. Strech capped his routine with a stuck double twisting double back dismount and scored 14.150 to tie for first on the event.
Despite the clean routines on rings, the scores were lower than Golder expected from how his gymnasts had performed. Though the Wolverines led after vault, the Illini regained the lead after the fourth rotation and didn’t relinquish it.
High bar continued the day’s theme of highs and lows for Michigan, with Krystek scoring a career-high 13.700 in the leadoff position. Bock then hit a routine packed with difficult releases and ended with a nearly-stuck, full-twisting double layout dismount to score 14.200, a season-high and good for second place on the event.
Just when it looked like the Wolverines were finding a rhythm, Strech fell attempting a Kollman release in his high bar routine and peeled off the bar, falling on his dismount. Senior Dmitri Belanovski also fell attempting a Kollman, though he performed cleanly after remounting the bar and stuck his dismount.
Going into the final rotation, Illinois had a four-point lead, so Michigan’s chances of winning were slim, but a strong parallel bars rotation would have served the team well mentally going into the rest of the season.
Junior Mitchell Gornto fell twice during his routine, though, and scored just 9.450. Junior Uche Eke had difficulty with a simple skill in his routine, causing his score to fall to 12.500. Eke’s troubles showcased the mental mistakes that plagued the Wolverines throughout the competition.
“The safest skill in his routine, he had trouble with,” said Golder. “He probably just had a mental lapse and went, ‘Okay, I got it made now. Whoops, I’m in trouble.’ That happens sometimes, too.”
Bock continued his strong day with a score of 13.800 on the parallel bars for another season-high score and another second-place finish. He had difficulty in the season’s first meet against Oklahoma and has improved steadily since then.
“I’ve had confidence in Cameron all along, even when the ball wasn’t bouncing his way,” Golder said. “We’re looking for real big things from him the remainder of this year and throughout his career.”
The ball certainly didn’t bounce the Michigan’s way on Saturday as the Wolverines swung high and low throughout the competition, never quite finding a successful rhythm.