Facing a loaded schedule is a tough way to start off the
season.

Janna Hutz
Freshman Aaron Rakes competes for Michigan. (TONY DING/Daily)

The Michigan men’s gymnastics team has already squared off
against three of the top six teams in the nation, and is preparing
to face No. 1 Penn State this weekend at Cliff Keen Arena. Despite
the tough schedule, Michigan head coach Kurt Golder is not
worried.

“My philosophy is that it doesn’t matter where you
are ranked at the beginning of the season or the middle of the
season,” Golder said. “It’s where you are at the
very end. But I just don’t want to lose to (Penn State at
home). I don’t care where they are ranked, I want to beat
them.”

Michigan has made a handful of changes to its roster. During
last week’s meet against No. 6 Stanford, Michigan lost by
.075 in part because of a weakened lineup. Junior Geoff Corrigan
competed through an illness, while junior Eddie Umphrey and
sophomore Justin Laury were both held out of the rings competition
because of a coach’s decision. Umphrey is returning from
injury and expects to present a ring routine for this weekend.

“Michigan traditionally has the strongest ring team in the
country, but we are ranked No. 11 right now,” Golder said.
“But that’s alright — let them think that we are
real bad. That’s what I have been telling everybody:
‘We’re real bad.’ It’s a little
psychological game I play with the other coaches. But it kind of
backfired because we are the ones that took Stanford too
lightly.

“(Against Penn State we’ll have) our strongest ring
lineup, and it is a very substantial improvement over what
we’ve been putting up,” Golder said. “Any time
you take three of your top four guys out of an event, that’s
going to hurt you, but I felt that was what I needed to
do.”

Those additions should make Michigan a significantly stronger
team, but some of the gymnasts are doing extra work in practice to
improve the team’s performance. Freshman Aaron Rakes is
working on adding a couple of aspects to his high bar routine,
including a twist to his dismount. Rakes is excited to make the
additions, but he admits that it’s a lot of work. Even after
the daily two-and-a-half hour practice and leg circuit training,
Rakes stayed late on Tuesday to work on his new routine.

“After a workout and then leg circuit, I feel pretty
tired,” Rakes said. “A circuit is a lot of quick
rebounding and making sure that we can move around for 10 straight
minutes. If we can move around for that long, then a routine should
be easy.

“It’s a lot of quick jumping and rebounding similar
to floor to make sure that we are still moving quickly. Gymnastics
is a lot of quick reactions and sometimes you have to adjust
quickly. So it’s a lot of the plyometrics. It’s a
pretty long day.”

Rakes admits that, no matter how hard it is, it’s worth
the work if it translates into a win.

“We are really trying to get our hours in this week
because (Penn State) might be the best team in the country,”
Rakes said. “It would be nice to show them up in our
hometown. I’m real excited.”

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