The Michigan men’s gymnastics team stepped up in Champaign against No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 2 Illinois. Finishing third out of three teams was not a complete disappointment for the seventh-ranked Wolverines, who suffered from an incomplete lineup.
The Wolverines lost senior Syque Caesar to a bicep tear during his ring routine, which likely leaves him out for the remainder of the season. With two of the highest scorers out of most of the rotation, the rest of the squad had to perform at their very best.
“Sam (Mikulak) and Syque are definitely our one, two punches,” said Michigan coach Kurt Golder. “The guys went out there and did a really great, decent job without our top guys out there.”
The Wolverines started with Mikulak winning pommel horse with a 15.00. Sophomore Matt Freeman’s 14.00 also contributed to the team reaching its season-high score on the pommel horse.
Golder chose to have Mikulak compete only in the pommel horse, due to his intensive training the for the world-class Winter Cup in Las Vegas this weekend. Freshmen Stacey Ervin and Adrian de los Angeles will also be competing in Las Vegas.
“We put him only in on pommel horse because that is one of the least stressful on your body,” Golder said. “And it is one of the most important skills for making the U.S. team and for selection of the Olympic team and he won that event, so that is exactly what we wanted him to do.”
In the vault competition, Ervin scored his personal best with a 14.70, and junior Rohan Sebastian tallied the same score to lead to a three-way tie for fourth.
Each of Michigan’s athletes performed well during the high bar event, to aid in Michigan scoring a 56.00.
“High bar was the one event where I think we had 6-for-6 hit,” Mikulak said. “(High bar) in the past has been our weakest event by far. We have had too many falls, but people have been knocking sets out left and right, putting them in more pressure situations. So to come out after the poor performances we have had the past few weeks and to really hit on high bar was spectacular.”
De los Angeles answered the call for a team leader, going on to score his career high in the parallel bars and high bars and lead the team with Ervin on the floor event.
“It was one of those moments where everyone decided to take action and step up,” Mikulak said. “We started off the first few events kind of rough, but the last three were done without me and Syque and everybody came together. We all got real into the competition, got real excited, got loud, everybody pulled through and had a spectacular last three events. We were definitely really proud of how we performed then.”
Michigan finished with a final score of 339.100, only 10 points behind the winning Illinois score of 349.800.
“Now is a good time (for the youth of the team),” Golder said. “With the Winter Cup, there is only a few individuals going to that, so for the rest of the team to step up and make up for the loss. I think everybody will rise to the challenge, but that is definitely what has to happen as a team.