Freshmen have been making a big impact on Michigan sports this winter. And much like the men’s basketball team, a trio of freshmen on the men’s gymnastics team have stepped up. Andrew DiGiore, Justin Laury and Derek Croad have been providing quality routines for the seventh-ranked Wolverines.
“We’ve got some freshmen that are doing really good,” Michigan coach Kurt Golder said. “DiGiore, Laury and Croad have done some pretty darn good things in competition.”
Michigan (2-3 Big Ten, 3-4 overall) is coming off two tough losses to No. 1-ranked teams (Penn State and Oklahoma), and is looking to rebound in its next competition this Sunday versus ninth-ranked Illinois-Chicago at Cliff Keen Arena.
“I expect us to win, however they’ve improved a lot,” said Golder in reference to Michigan’s earlier encounter with the Flames.
During the Windy City Invitational, in which six teams competed, Michigan placed a respective third (207.150), while Illinois-Chicago finished dead last (199.450). Michigan’s 7.5-plus point victory was like “winning by two touchdowns,” Golder said.
While Illinois-Chicago may have improved, it isn’t the only one. Despite a sub-.500 record and a number of injuries to its upperclassmen, Michigan is set to prove practice makes perfect.
“The season is still young,” Golder said. “We’re making adjustments to our routines and getting more confident.
“With two real good back-to-back practices this week, our spirit is also better.”
After losing two competitions in a row, it would be easy for the Wolverines to lose focus and lack motivation. But Golder thinks his team is too resilient for that.
Since those losses “the guys’ motivation is the best it’s been all year. We were down this road in the Big Ten last season and put everything together when it counted to place second in the conference.”
But if the Wolverines are going to compete against the best teams in the country, including three of the top five which represent the Big Ten (Penn State, Ohio State and Iowa), the Wolverines must receive consistent leadership from their experienced gymnasts.
“We need our upperclassmen to step up like the freshmen have,” Golder said.
The focus going into Sunday is to keep improving its “hit” percentage, like sticking dismounts, as well as its hit-to-miss ratio. Illinois-Chicago should be a good competition for the freshmen to build on their early success, upperclassmen to step up and, most importantly, for the team to even its record.
“This is a team we should beat,” Golder admitted.