Cameron Bock balanced in a handstand on the parallel bars — the last event of the day — chalk flying from his hands as he leapt confidently between them. As he hung from the thin wooden structure, the fate of his team rested in the grip of his hands.
With a deep breath, he stuck the dismount and his teammates rushed to join him on the mat. The momentum was on their side.
In a statement victory, the No. 2 Wolverines (5-0 overall, 4-0 Big Ten) beat Iowa (4-1 overall, 3-1 Big Ten), 402.650-398.650.
The home opener for the Wolverines’ men’s gymnastics team in Cliff Keen Arena featured key performances from upperclassmen, highlighted by that of Bock, who earned the Newt Loken Award for his showing.
Bock finished the meet with three crucial victories in pommel horse, parallel bars and still rings. Seniors Jacob Moore and Nick Guy expanded Michigan’s lead with strong performances on high bar and floor, respectively, with Guy scoring 14.450 on floor and Moore tallying 13.600 on high bar, earning him the win.
Even with their strong performances, Michigan didn’t live up to the strong start seen in other meets. Iowa was still within striking distance halfway through the meet.
“It’s great having that experience,” Michigan coach Kurt Golder said. “They could stop what could be the domino effect — one person misses, the next guy goes, misses and so forth. The upperclassmen came through really well after a missed routine, the next guy up hit his routine, and you’re back on track again.”
The Hawkeyes laid claim to their reputation as a top-10 team in the country, staying within a single point through the first rotation. Senior Bennet Huang led Iowa in the early competition with a victory on floor and a score of 14.250 on pommel horse, which earned him second on the day, trailing only Bock.
Opening the home season with such a tough matchup was a daunting task. Golder knew the Wolverines would need to come out strong.
“It’s challenging, especially when you get off to a rough start,” Golder said. “But we always talk about things like, if you have a problem you have to put it behind you, look at what’s in front of you, and so forth. The guys did a really good job today of doing that. We got off to a rough start and they didn’t let it get to them.”
This eyes-forward mentality has been key for the Wolverines as their season has progressed, and the team’s upperclassman leaders have been key in setting that example.
“What we’ve been trying to do the last couple of meets, keeping our heads down, keeping in our bubble and just worrying about ourselves and trying to get better,” Bock said. “Good gymnastics is all around us. Just focusing on what we’re doing and I think that’s been working.”
The Wolverines were able to hold onto their lead, but were closely trailed by the Hawkeyes through four events. Bock and fellow senior James Read led the Wolverines on still rings with the two of the strongest performances of the night, but Iowa answered with a victory on vault from junior Stewart Brown, who carried a score of 14.650.
Going into the final rotation, Michigan needed an impressive showing to seal the victory against the Hawkeyes. Bock gave it to them, continuing his dominance with a score of 14.400, the highest on the day, and solid outings from the rest of the team brought the Wolverines enough to secure the victory, with a final score of 402.650, the Wolverine’s lowest on the year. Even with a below-average score for Michigan’s standard, though, the hopes are still high for this team.
“We’re trying to get two rings, big tens and NCAAs, and I think this team has the drive and talent to do so,” Bock said.
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