While their teammates enjoy a much-needed weekend off, four members of the Michigan men’s gymnastics team are heading to Las Vegas.
But they won’t get much rest in Sin City.
Juniors Joe Catrambone and Ralph Rosso, sophomore Mel Santander and freshman Thomas Kelley are slated to compete at Winter Cup, the winter counterpart of USA Championships, starting Thursday.
“That’s probably my favorite meet of the year,” Catrambone said. “I like it more than USAs, actually.”
The four Wolverines, along with program alum Eddie Umphrey, will get a chance to compete against the nation’s best male gymnasts in the two-day competition. More than 80 gymnasts will perform in two sessions today, with about half moving on to Saturday night’s finals.
Last season, Catrambone and Rosso made it to the second day with last year’s co-captain Andrew Elkind, who now competes for the U. S. Olympic Training Center. Santander is determined to join them in the finals this year.
“(It’s) extra motivation to see what I can do and prove to myself that I can make it to the second day,” Santander said. “Winter Cup has always been a meet that I don’t really do well on, so I just want to prove myself.”
For Rosso, it’s been a year since he competed at a USA Gymnastics event. An illness derailed his summer plans to compete for a spot in the World University Games and at USA Championships.
But he’s still treating it as just another road meet – except for the pleasant change that he won’t be leading off the meet for Michigan on the troublesome pommel horse.
“It’s just another competition to me,” Rosso said. “I think the only thing that’ll be less pressure is not having to start on pommel horse.”
The three upperclassmen got a rest last weekend while their teammates beat Iowa – a break that may prove especially crucial to Catrambone and Rosso. Catrambone rolled an ankle in the Jan. 26 Oklahoma meet but should be at full health for Winter Cup. Rosso, also nursing a sore ankle from Oklahoma, eased up his workouts last week to be ready for Vegas.
But Kelley, due to the absence of five lineup regulars, was pressed into service in five events in Iowa. Nonetheless, no one istoo worried about the freshman, who finished sixth last year in the all-around as a high school senior.
“I feel like I should have enough break between now and when I compete that it shouldn’t be a big deal,” Kelley said. “Training in practice, doing six events a day, definitely helps, so I feel like I’m in pretty good shape right now. I’m ready to go.”
To make the special weekend even better, the Wolverines will see some familiar faces in Las Vegas. Former Wolverines scheduled to compete include Elkind, Geoff Corrigan (USOTC) and Justin Laury (Houston Gymnastics Academy). David Durante, the 2007 USA All-Around champion and an old teammate of Rosso’s from New Jersey, will also be there.
While the Wolverines aren’t entertaining many notions of grabbing one of the seven open spots on the Senior National team, they’re expecting a successful weekend.
“I just have a feeling we’re going to hit every routine, all us Michigan guys,” Santander said. “Hit six-for-six, or five-for-five. Just hit all the routines.”