Michigan men”s gymnastics coach Kurt Golder knows that it”s not always how a team starts the season that really matters.

After posting an impressive 12-1 regular-season record last year, an injury-plagued Michigan team sputtered to the finish line, placing a disappointing fourth at the national championships in Columbus.

But just three short seasons ago, the Wolverines started their year with a mediocre 7-5 record, only to reel off 12 straight victories prior to postseason play. At the end of that year, the Wolverines brought the national championship banner to Ann Arbor.

Expect the Wolverines to keep those experiences in their minds as they prepare to kick off their 2001-2002 campaign at the Windy City Invitational this weekend.

Michigan, ranked second in the GymInfo Coaches Preseason Poll, is concentrating on fielding a healthy squad and providing its younger gymnasts with some on-the-job training.

“We”re going to try to not rush a couple upperclassmen that have various injuries,” Golder said. “With Justin (Toman) having gone through shoulder surgery and Daniel (Diaz-Luong) having competed a lot this fall, I”m going to take a pretty laid back approach. I think they will contribute a lot in the end.”

There is also a strong possibility that senior co-captain and All-American Scott Vetere will need a medical redshirt.

“It”s very likely,” said Golder. It”s going to be a real close call and a tough one.”

But as the saying goes, one”s loss is another”s gain. Michigan”s six freshmen will have a chance to contribute in meaningful competition, as veteran gymnasts continue to nurse their injuries and compete minimally.

“The younger guys will have an opportunity to gain some experience,” said Golder.

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