The Michigan men’s gymnastics team heads back to
Champaign this weekend for the NCAA championships. Last year, the
Wolverines took home fourth place, as well as a national title in
the vault competition. The Daily Sports Writer Ian Herbert breaks
down the Wolverines’ chances to improve on last year’s
finish, and also scouts the rest of the nation.

 

Floor Exercise:

Michigan: Michigan’s Luke Bottke has the most
potential for a strong finish. At the beginning of the season,
Michigan coach Kurt Golder said that Bottke had the potential to be
a national champion in floor. An injury to his wrist slowed Bottke
this year, but look for him to be a force in the event finals.

Opponents: Illinois sophomore Justin Spring won the Big
Ten floor championship two weeks ago in Champaign. Expect Spring to
ride the home-crowd advantage to his first NCAA title.

 

Vault:

Michigan: When he became the national vault champion last
year, Andrew DiGiore was something of a dark horse. This year he
will be the favorite. Coach Golder said that one of DiGiore’s
vaults might be something that no one else in the nation can
do.

Opponents: Digiore might be the favorite, but if he
stumbles, there will be a handful of gymnasts ready to step up.
Penn State’s Steve Tobin placed second at Big Tens. Also look
for Stanford’s Dan Gill or California’s Graham
Ackerman.

 

Pommel Horse:

Michigan: Golder has described the pommel horse as the
team’s “Achilles heel.” Justin Laury is a
two-time junior national champion on pommel horse, and has the
potential to do the same in college. But, he hasn’t put it
together yet.

Opponents: Illinois is the antithesis of Michigan when it
comes to pommel horse. Ben Newman, Robert Rogers and Ted Brown
— all from Illinois — placed first, second and third at
the Big Ten meet. Ben Newman, who scored a 9.800 at the Big Ten
meet, is the favorite, but any of these three could come home with
the national championship. Expect the winner of pommel horse to be
wearing blue and orange.

 

Parallel Bars:

Michigan: Junior Geoff Corrigan has been the only
consistently strong Wolverine on parallel bars this year. Corrigan
made the event finals at the Big Ten meet and came away with an
eighth-place finish. He’ll probably do the same this
weekend.

Opponents: Penn State’s Kevin Tan won the parallel
bars competition at the Big Ten meet, but he is still not the
favorite coming in to this weekend’s competition.
Illinois’ Justin Spring and Penn State’s Luis Vargas
dominated the Big Ten competition the first day, but both fell in
the finals, opening it up for Tan. Parallel bars is up for grabs,
but one of these three should win.

 

Still Rings:

Michigan: Laury had the best rings performance of his
collegiate career two weeks ago. Eddie Umphrey has been the most
consistent performer on rings for the Wolverines, but a bad
shoulder has given him a lot of trouble in recent weeks. Both of
these guys could make the finals, and either could place as high as
second, but don’t expect it.

Opponents: Tan is the defending national champion and
three-time Big Ten champion on rings. Army’s Brian Lee has a
chance, but Tan probably has it in the bag.

 

High Bar:

Michigan: Laury has been Michigan’s best gymnast on
high bar all year. But in his finals routine two weeks ago, he hit
his face on the bar and had to get a few stitches. The injury
shouldn’t affect his ability to compete, but it remains to be
seen if Laury will be timid in his routine.

Opponents: Iowa’s Linas Gaveika is the reigning
national champion, but Oklahoma’s Quinn Rowell and Ohio
State’s Randy Monahan are right on his heels. Gaveika has
been on fire this year, averaging a 9.735 routine. But he fell
during the finals of Big Ten and placed a disappointing sixth.

 

Team Competition:

Michigan: No. 7 Michigan is in a six-team pool that
includes No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 5 Ohio State and No. 6 Iowa. Three
teams will make it to the team finals on Saturday. Oklahoma is
almost a lock to make it, but it’s going to be a battle for
the second and third spots. Michigan will have to be at its best to
make it, but it has enough talent. Expect the Wolverines to beat
out the Hawkeyes for the last spot in the finals, but don’t
expect them to make much noise once they get there.

Opponents: Illinois is the best team in the nation, but
Oklahoma is the defending national champion. The Sooners’
experience at the Big Show should give them the edge that they need
to pull off the upset and return to Oklahoma City with their
second-straight national championship.

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