A redemption tour.
That’s what junior Adam Wooten called the 2022 Michigan men’s gymnastics season at its outset. But with a loss on Saturday against Ohio State, that claim will surely be tested.
The fourth-ranked Wolverines (8-1 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) faced the fifth-ranked Buckeyes (7-2 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) on Saturday, losing 403.600-398.100.
After a critical victory over No. 3 Nebraska last week, Michigan had plenty of momentum entering this matchup, especially with junior Crew Bold returning from an injury.
Despite having an arguably stronger lineup, the Wolverines fell behind early in the first round, floor exercise, as Ohio State notched each of the top three scores in the event. This would foreshadow the rest of the day, as they were forced to fight from a deficit early and weren’t able to match Ohio State’s tempo the rest of the meet.
“It was our first meet on the road, so the guys put a lot of pressure on themselves,” Michigan coach Yuan Xiao said. “The team needs to learn from this loss and how to compete under this kind of pressure.”
In the second round, pommel, junior Paul Juda broke off an excellent routine with a 14.250, but he was the only Wolverine to make the rounds’s top-5 scores as Ohio State quickly crushed any hopes that Michigan’s day could improve.
And as the meet wore on, it was fighting more than just the Buckeyes.
“We kind of got caught up in the moment a couple of times,” Juda said. “One of the things we struggled on was watching what was going on around us instead of just paying attention to what was going on right in front of us.”
In the vault, it seemed like the Wolverines finally locked into their goals. They found stellar routines from graduate student Nicholas Guy and freshman David Wolma, stopping the bleeding from earlier failures.
But with a deficit of nearly seven points, that rally came far too late. The Wolverines narrowed the gap to below six points in the parallel bars and high bar, but Michigan only won one out of the six rounds in its loss to the Buckeyes.
It was a major wake-up call for the reigning Big Ten Champions, who face several difficult challenges ahead with conference foes No. 6 Illinois and No. 7 Penn State and perennial championship contenders No. 1 Stanford and No. 2 Oklahoma.
The Wolverines haven’t lost confidence in their championship aspirations, though, and remain adamant that this loss will be more of a learning experience for them than a derailment entering the second half of the season.
“There’s a lot to improve on in the gym,” Guy said. “We’re going to take this as a big lesson moving forward so that we’re undeniable for the (Big Ten Championship) and (National Championship).”
Added Juda: “The only failure is if we fail to learn from our mistakes. The number one thing I can tell the entire team is that it’s not even close to the end and that this team is still maturing into its final form.”
With the Wolverines’ postseason ambitions as great as ever, there’s plenty of time for them to refocus and display their championship caliber. As long as they avoid performances like they had against Ohio State, they’ll be able to bring the “redemption tour” full circle.