It has the confidence.

Paul Wong
LAUREN BRAUN/Daily

It has the talent.

But does the Michigan men’s gymnastics team have the leadership and competitive edge to win an NCAA Championship?

After placing second in the Big Ten Championship over a week ago, the Wolverines were one of 12 teams invited to compete for the national championship this weekend in Norman, Okla. The championship will last two days, with the field of 12 being cut in half after the first day of action is completed Thursday. The final six teams will then battle for the crown on Friday.

“We (gained) a lot of confidence from our performance (in the Big Ten’s),” Michigan coach Kurt Golder said. “We need to go out and gain some consistency from match to match, though.”

Michigan is grouped with this year’s Big Ten champion Ohio State, as well as Illinois, Minnesota, Temple and Stanford for the first day’s preliminaries. The Wolverines lost to the Buckeyes by three points in the Big Ten Championship but beat them in the first match of the year. Michigan has faced Illinois and Minnesota two other times this season, defeating Minnesota both times and splitting with Illinois.

The Wolverines’ season has had a lot of ups and downs. Lately there have been a lot of the former, as they have continued to improve and gain confidence. Michigan still hasn’t performed up to expectations, but it surprised some by finishing second in the Big Ten. The Wolverines will need to focus on consistency and leadership to come out on top.

The first place to look for such leadership is with the captains, seniors Justin Toman and Scott Vetere. Vetere has been injured the whole season and will redshirt this year. Toman has had some nagging injuries, but he fought through and performed well at Big Ten’s, placing sixth in the all-around.

After competing as a gymnast for 18 years, Toman has the background to lead this team. He was a member of the U.S. National Team for three years, competed in the 2000 Olympic Trials, won several Big Ten and national titles and is a four-year captain.

“He carries himself as a true Michigan man,” Golder said. “There is never a worry about his responsibility. (He has) great leadership, evident from his four-time captainship. You can’t say he was a coach’s pet to get it for four years, he was nominated and elected by his peers.”

Senior Daniel Diaz-Luong is on the U.S. National Team as well, and he has also been a gymnast for 17 years. He has been a multiple All-American over the last three years, and he also has added several Big Ten titles to his resume.

“He is hitting a peak lately,” Golder said. “He is looking very good in practice, we need him to have a good meet this weekend. We have high expectations for him.”

Fellow senior Brad Kenna has never missed a day of practice in his entire four-year career, which is absolutely amazing for a gymnast. He is an All-America vaulter and is a true team player.

“You can just count on him, he’s the toughest guy out there,” Golder said. “He can work with a tremendous amount of pain and not let it bother him. Right now his wrist and shoulder are killing him. He’s biting the bullet and he’ll get through NCAA’s like that, and probably end up winning a couple All-American honors.”

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