At the home-season finale, the Michigan men’s gymnastics team yet again proved it is not a one-man team, trouncing No. 13 University of Illinois-Chicago, 342.800-325.450, without sophomore Sam Mikulak.
“I felt pretty prepared and confident going into today’s meet,” said freshman Stacey Ervin. “We have been putting up a lot of numbers and everyone has been doing great, so I felt really good coming into today and just wanting to really hit my sets cleanly.”
No. 7 Michigan could hardly have asked for a better outcome in the team’s last competition before the Big Ten Championships on April 6-7. The Wolverines won every event, beginning with a strong performance on floor. Ervin placed first on floor, completing a difficult routine containing a backwards pike to score a personal-best of 15.25. Freshman Adrian de los Angeles contributed with a 15.05, giving the Wolverines a 59.300 total and an early lead.
In round two on the pommel horse, sophomores Matt Freeman and Dylan James tied for third with 14.00, Freeman’s career-high.
Michigan (7-6) chose to enter five instead of six competitors in the still rings, adding pressure to the five competitors. And a miss in the first routine only increased the pressure. But the next four Wolverines stepped up, successfully taking the top four spots in the event. Sophomore Alex Bubnov won the event, followed by junior Rohan Sebastian and sophomore Jordan Gaarenstroom in second and third. The win helped Michigan establish a 171.750-165.400 lead.
“Matt Freeman definitely did a really good job hitting his sets,” Ervin said. “He is usually the first one up, because we know he is consistent and (he) hit his sets and got us started off.”
Ervin stole the show in Michigan’s sweep of all five places on the vault, setting another personal-best with a score of 15.20 by sticking his routine to loud applause. The Newt Loken Award, given to the most exciting gymnast, was awarded to Ervin, who has quickly become a crowd favorite.
On parallel bars, freshman Nick Hunter tied for second with de los Angeles. In the final round on high bar, the Wolverines sealed the win. Recently returned from an injury, freshman Michael Strathern placed first in the high bar competition, followed by Sebastian and Freeman. Michigan coach Kurt Golder said he limited Strathern to events that kept him off his feet, allowing him to finish healing an ankle injury, but he is hopeful that he will add him into more events.
The Wolverines will not compete again until the Big Ten Championship in two weeks, where Golder says their biggest competition will be against Penn State, Illinois and Ohio State.
“We might make a couple of changes in routines,” Golder said. “We have been working on various skills with a couple of guys, if they pan out we might do some last minute adds.”
NOTES: Mikulak was awarded National Gymnast of the Week for the second time in his career for his performance last week against No. 1 Oklahoma. At the Kellogg’s Pacific Rim Championships, Mikulak competed for the United States National Team in the international competition, receiving the silver in the all-around, with the gold going to his teammate, Chris Brooks of Houston, Texas. The US team took first in the competition, with Japan taking second and China, taking third.