It’s the feeling that defines any season opener, and the Michigan men’s gymnastics team was full of it Saturday afternoon.
The No. 2 Wolverines (1-0 overall) ran all over Northern Illinois (0-1) 385.95-252.1 to kick off their 2022 season.
“I’m super excited with how we did today,” freshman Rithik Puri said. “I’m super proud of my team. I’m feeling really energized and really positive heading into our season.”
Puri competed in all six events in his first ever collegiate meet. He earned an overall score of 74.7, his highest individual event being a score of 13.7 in the vault. Puri and junior David Willett, who scored 75.0 overall and matched Puri’s highest score on the vault, were the only two Wolverines to compete in the all around on Saturday.
Michigan dominated the entire day, securing the top three finishes in every event.
The floor event started the day off, and was headlined by mainstay Wolverine graduate student Nicholas Guy. Guy proved powerful and precise as he edged out Michigan junior Casey Cummings’ impressive opening performance to earn the Wolverines their first top finish of the afternoon.
While the upperclassmen were able to display their skills, the underclassmen also put up some solid efforts. Freshman Lais Najjar won the pommel event, with fellow freshman Logan McKeown and sophomore Steven Lukasik tying for second.
In the next event, sophomore Colin Stenger graced the audience with a stunning rings performance. The home crowd whooped as he hoisted himself up and spun through the air, then erupted with cheers as he stuck the landing, firing up the Michigan bench.
Additional impressive efforts came from the Wolverine’s contingent of freshmen, as freshman David Wolma tied with Guy for first place in the vault, the pair earning the highest individual scores of the day at 14.45.
“I feel I did my job, did the best that I could and learned from today,” Wolma said. “It feels really awesome (to be competing again).”
Junior Crew Bold ruled the parallel bars, with McKeown and Puri placing a distant second and third respectively.
Bold followed up that performance on the high bar, where the Wolverines looked impressive routine after routine. They electrified the crowd, which exploded on every Michigan landing.
“I feel I owned my position on (the) high bar well,” Lukasik said after a strong leading performance. “I did my job, hit, stuck, and got the guys pumped up for the rest of the event.”
Bold would win the bar event. However, the Wolverines did not fully complete their strong opening to the season until Willett released from the bar and flew through the air to stick the meet’s final landing. And with that, the crowd burst into cheers one final time for the afternoon.
“I feel it’s really confidence (building) for the team,” Michigan coach Yuan Xiao said. “We had a lot of freshmen, sophomores, and juniors compete… and they showed us that we are capable and can move forward as a strong team, of champion caliber.”