CHAMPAIGN — The team competition was already over. The
Michigan men’s gymnastics team had already finished a
disappointing fifth at the Big Ten Championships when sophomore
Andrew DiGiore got himself ready for the vault competition finals.
With no team behind him, Digiore said it was tough competing only
for himself.

Ryan Nowak
A step out of bounds gave Gerry Signorelli a fourth-place finish on the floor exercise at the Big Ten Championships. Michigan took fifth in the event. (TONY DING/Daily)

“It was hard for me to come out here and try to be
excited,” DiGiore said. “We had a team meeting to try
to keep the intensity up and excitement up today throughout finals,
and it helped out a lot. By the time I was ready to go out, I was
pretty focused.”

Digiore had a good vault, but stumbled on the landing. He
over-rotated and had to take two steps to stabilize himself. But
his score of 9.450 was good enough for first place, his
second-consecutive Big Ten vault title.

“Last year, I definitely knew as soon as I landed that I
had it in the bag,” DiGiore said. “But (this year), I
was a little nervous afterwards because I knew I hadn’t done
my best landing. Waiting for those last two guys to go made me a
little bit nervous.”

DiGiore’s Big Ten title was one of the few high points for
the Wolverines this weekend. The team came out flat on Friday and
ended up behind Illinois, Penn State, Ohio State and Iowa. Michigan
had beaten both Penn State and Ohio State earlier this season.

“We’ve struggled all year, and we struggled
again,” assistant coach Mike Burns said. “When we stop
struggling, we’ll move up. Fifth place is what it is.
I’ve been coaching in the Big Ten for 16 years now, and
I’ve never taken fifth. So it’s not where I want to be.
We’ve got some work to do.”

The team started off the weekend slow on high bar. The
Wolverines fell twice — including a spill by Andre Hernandez,
who hadn’t fallen all year — and earned only two scores
over 9.000. Only Justin Laury qualified for the event finals.

After the high bar, Michigan was in fourth place, and it stayed
there until pommel horse, the third rotation.

“We had some falls on pommel horse — that’s
been our Achilles heel all year,” Burns said.
“We’ve been addressing the problem in practice, but it
hasn’t been showing up in competition.”

Michigan had a strong rotation on floor, but it could not move
itself up from fourth place. Gerry Signorelli, the Michigan record
holder on floor, led the team with a score of 9.300 and qualified
for the individual event finals on Saturday. Signorelli said that
it was different competing when the team’s score wasn’t
important, but it wasn’t hard to motivate himself for the
event final.

“It’s more of a showoff time,” Signorelli
said. “We go out one at a time, so it’s your chance to
be an individual. Everyone in the crowd is watching you, and they
stop all of the other events. So that’s enough motivation.
You are either going to crawl up into a little shell or step up to
the challenge and show off a little bit.”

Signorelli had a good routine in the floor finals and stuck the
dismount. But a step out of bounds on his first tumbling pass took
away any hope that he had of moving up to a place higher than
fourth.

“I knew (I stepped out of bounds),” Signorelli said.
“I saw the guy in the corner stick his hand up like,
‘He stepped out of bounds.’ So I knew (for the rest of
the routine) that I had to be better. I lost a tenth there plus
another tenth for the step. And with a start value lower than most
of the other guys in the finals, I knew I had to stick the
dismount.”

Michigan had a scary moment during the event finals of the high
bar. Laury, who had been struggling with his release during
warm-ups, hit his face on the bar while attempting his back flip.
He had to leave the competition to get stitches in his lower lip.
But did not suffer a concussion or damage to his jaw, and he should
be able to compete in two weeks at the NCAA finals.

Laury had “the performance of his life” on still
rings just minutes earlier, scoring a 9.575. He placed second in
that event behind Penn State’s Kevin Tan — a two-time
Big Ten champion and defending national champion in the event.

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