- Erin Kirkland/Daily
By Alex Bondy, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 8, 2012
The No. 8 Michigan men’s gymnastics team placed second in the Big Ten Championships, overtaking No. 1 Penn State but falling to No. 4 Illinois. The Wolverines (7-6) finished with a season-high score of 351.850, led by sophomore Sam Mikulak, who placed second overall, and freshman Adrian de los Angeles, who placed fifth.
“We did set a season-high for our team, which was real nice,” Mikulak said. “But we still didn’t get on top, so we were a little disappointed by that, but we really enjoyed the meet.”
With the team looking to top last year’s second-place finish at the Big Ten Championships and Mikulak looking to repeat his all-around win, the Wolverines were coming in as the hopeful underdog. Michigan was facing many of the top-ranked teams in the nation, including No. 1 Penn State, No. 4 Illinois, No. 5 Minnesota and No. 6 Ohio State.
The Wolverines began the tournament on high bar, where Mikulak placed first in the event with a 14.85. De los Angeles tallied a 14.60 to tie for fourth, and freshman Taylor Harrower added his career-best, 14.30.
Michigan scored a second-place 59.450 on the floor event, where the Wolverines ranked third nationally going into the meet. Freshman Stacey Ervin scored a 15.20 to come in third, followed by De los Angeles in fourth (15.10).
On the pommel horse, the Wolverines set a season-high total score with a 56.800, led by De los Angeles and sophomores Dylan James and Michael Myler. Michigan kept up with the competition on still rings and scored a team-high 59.800. The Wolverines were paced by Ervin (15.20) and Mikulak (15.15), who had second and third place finishes, respectively.
Before the final event, parallel bars, Michigan was in a close third behind Penn State and Illinois. The Wolverines dug deep and scored a team-high 59.450 above all the competition, which vaulted them into second-place overall. Mikulak took first with a 15.45, followed by solid performances from freshman Michael Strathern (14.75) and Ervin (14.70).
“We have had quite a bit of trouble on parallel bars and pommel horse this year,” said Michigan coach Kurt Golder. “And I think our best event was the parallel bars. The pressure was really on us, and we just rocked it.”
By the end of Friday's competition, Mikulak finished second in the all-around, with de los Angeles coming in fifth.
Mikulak, De los Angeles, Ervin, James, Myler and Strathern all advanced to the individual-event finals on Saturday.
In that event, Mikulak placed first in parallel bars and high bars, making him the first Wolverine to win two conference titles since 2000. He also tied for third in the floor round.
“(Mikulak) wasn't on top of his game this weekend and didn't repeat as all-around champion,” Golder said. “However, when you can be off and still win two Big Ten titles, it says a lot for his ability. He was a finalist in four events after a rough weekend, and I'm sure he will be on top of his game when it comes to the NCAA Championships.”
Ervin placed in the event finals for all three of the events he participated in on Friday. As he was all season, he continued to be a spark for the team, placing third with a 15.25 on his vault routine. Myler also finished third on the pommel horse.
“(Ervin) is definitely the most energetic on the team,” Mikulak said. “He was the enthusiastic one that was putting forth the effort, so I would definitely say he was the highlight of the weekend.”
Michigan will attend its final competition beginning April 19 in the NCAA Championships at Oklahoma.