After the men’s gymnastics team placed third in a six-team field in the Windy City Invitational two weeks ago, Michigan coach Kurt Golder recognized the potential of his young team. But in order to combat their collective lack of experience, Golder increased the difficulty of their routines leading up to the meet on Saturday against No. 1 Oklahoma.
That strategy might have hurt the Wolverines more than it helped them. No. 8 Michigan put up a new team best for total team score, but the experienced talent of the Sooners easily prevailed, 430.050-400.800.
“I guess hindsight being 20/20, I think we lost a little momentum,” Golder said. “We probably would’ve been better off (if we) just had another meet in there instead of a bye week. But you don’t know that until you have it scheduled that way, and then you find out that maybe that wasn’t the best way to approach it.”
From the get-go, Oklahoma was in the driver’s seat, and the Wolverines played catch-up throughout.
Though Michigan set season records in the vault and parallel bar events, scoring 70.950 and 64.900, respectively, Golder was still displeased.
“(Oklahoma is) really good, but I was disappointed with our performance,” Golder said. “I know it can be difficult to go on the road, but that’s part of the game. You’ve got to go on the road for Big Tens and for NCAAs and you’ve got to perform. It is early in the season for us, it’s just our second meet and we are going against the No. 1 team, but I expected us to be a lot closer and have a lot better performances than we did.”
After an impressive outing at the Windy City Invitational, sophomore Emyre Cole led the Wolverines with dominant performances in floor, high bar and vault, where he stuck the landing on his Yurchenko 2.5. His execution earned him a 15.000, a tie for the night’s best score on vault and another event title. Cole also finished second on floor with a 14.750, falling to reigning NCAA champion Yul Mouldauer (14.850).
Despite the close loss, Golder believes Cole and his floor teammates — including senior Anthony Stefanelli and sophomore Anthony McCallum — are primed to be strong contenders in upcoming meets. Notably, Stefanelli was to perform an upgraded routine against Oklahoma, but rolled his ankle in practice last week, forcing him to “lay low” and revert to a previous routine.
Sophomores Samuel Su and Ryan Dunning also contributed with third-place finishes in pommel horse and rings, respectively.
But even after trying to build on the positives — as Golder and his coaching staff try to do after every meet — Michigan will be learning from its losses in preparation for next Saturday’s showdown against No. 6 Ohio State.
“We’re behind where I think we should be,” Golder said. “We have a bit to catch up on now. And it’s going to get a little tougher and little more demanding in practice so we can make up that ground.”