Heading into the fifth rotation, the No. 4 Michigan men’s gymnastics team led comfortably over second-place No. 7 Illinois and looking to close out the meet.
The Wolverines needed one strong performance on the high bar to repeat as champions of the Windy City Invitational over the weekend. After landing an almost perfect routine, junior Paul Juda scored a 14.20 for an event win, pushing Michigan to secure a first-place finish.
The Wolverines dominated fierce competition in No. 6 Ohio State and the Fighting Illini, scoring 398.600 as a team. Michigan won five of the six-team event titles, and six individual events, including the all-around event won by junior David Willett with a score of 77.350.
“I started on this all-around track over the summer,” Willett said. “The old coach said he wanted to see more representation for Michigan, USA championships, and at these national-level events, and this was a qualifier for it. I knew I had a pretty decent chance of being able to make that so my mindset was just do what I do with practice and that should be enough.”
The goal this season for the Wolverines is to build a championship-caliber team, so the game plan was built around execution.
“We don’t really have a target score right now,” Michigan coach Yuan Xiao said. “We target hit percentage and execution. But I was really impressed with more than 10 scores over 14. That is our target too.”
Added Willett: “We’re coming in with such confidence. Every routine I just feel extremely comfortable that they’re going to hit. I notice that some teams look like they’re nervous. This said, I can close my eyes and I’m super confident that the next guy is going to hit the routine. And that’s a feeling you get of a championship team, right?”
The season is young, but the Wolverines have high expectations. Currently, they are ranked second in the country and are not letting up steam. Their combination of trust, execution and desire to win bode well for their rest of the season.
“We have a lot of work to do to compare to the national championship teams last year (Stanford and Oklahoma),” Xiao said. “Also, we have a lot of tasks for developing. I think we definitely have the caliber to try to catch them to beat them. That’s our goal for the season.”