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Sophomore Paul Juda took a deep breath and broke into a sprint for the vault. Juda, the fourth in Michigan’s vault rotation, was following three subpar vaults from the Wolverines. With Illinois-Chicago holding a 0.100 point lead in the round, Juda knew his opportunity to shift the round in his team’s favor lay within his grasp.

With all eyes on him, Juda leaped over the vault and stuck the landing, letting out an emphatic roar while his teammates rushed towards him.

Juda earned a 14.650 for the vault, the highest vault and individual score up until that point. Michigan went on to win the round behind subsequent strong finishes from senior Nick Guy and sophomore Adam Wooten, and the Wolverines closed out UIC with resounding victories in the last two rounds. 

No. 3 Michigan men’s gymnastics (1-0) opened its season with a 409.000-328.100 dual meet win against the Flames (0-1) on Sunday, with each team performing at its respective training facilities. Despite the unusual format of virtual judging and the absence of fans, the Wolverines showcased their preparedness from the very beginning. 

“They seemed to keep the energy up,” said Michigan coach Kurt Golder. “They did a great job as the meet went on. Enthusiasm didn’t slow down or dwindle away or anything like that.”

Wooten opened for Michigan in round one, floor exercise, and earned a score of 13.400, immediately setting the tone for the entire meet. The Wolverines went on to win each of their next five matchups and finished with a steep 11.150 lead over UIC. 

Michigan further extended its lead to 31.200 following round two, pommel horse. Senior Anthony Tawfik opened for Michigan, while senior Cameron Bock earned the highest score of the round with a 14.400. It looked as if the Wolverines couldn’t be stopped.

The next round, rings, mirrored rounds one and two, with strong performances overall from Michigan’s rotation. 

Sophomore Casey Cummings opened round four (vault) for Michigan. At this point, with a 48.350 lead and all the momentum in their favor, the Wolverines looked to cap off their outstanding routines from the previous three rounds and push their lead out of reach. Desperate to keep their hopes alive, the Flames strung together an impressive first three vaults and gained a lead over Michigan. But just as UIC began building confidence, Juda stepped up to the challenge. 

“I live for the clutch, I live for the pressure,” Juda said. “A quote that I resonate with is ‘it’s a privilege to have pressure.’ I knew the guys really were counting on me to do a good routine right there, and I had to do it.”

Michigan cruised through parallel bars and high bar, with Juda earning the highest individual score of 14.700 in parallel bars. He had the best overall performance and led the team in four events, with Bock leading the team in the remaining two. 

Michigan’s first competition ended just as it planned, securing a commanding lead from the get-go and winning each round handily. 

The Wolverines face No. 4 Nebraska next week, the first of many tough Big Ten matchups. Michigan’s mentality is to do everything it can to win, and the Wolverines will need to show the same dominance on the road as they did on Sunday.

 

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