After losing to Ohio State — the first time in four years — the Windy City Invitational on Jan. 14, the No. 7 Michigan men’s gymnastics team got its revenge.
Fueled by sophomore Sam Mikulak claiming five of the six events, the Wolverines posted a score of 345.700 to the Buckeyes’ 334.200. The Wolverines also handily beat the SUNY Brockport Golden Eagles — a club team — which tallied 275.700.
The Wolverines (6-4 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) entered the matchup with high hopes. They hadn’t competed as a team since January and were riding the success of freshman Adrian de los Angeles, freshman Stacey Ervin and Mikulak at the Winter Cup.
“I expected to win,” said Michigan coach Kevin Golder. “But we knew Ohio State is a pretty good team. We beat them by a pretty good margin, but I was more focused on our team tonight. Any time we can beat Ohio State is great.”
Ohio State (5-2 overall, 4-1 Big Ten) entered the season ranked nationally as the No. 2 team and was undefeated in conference play before the weekend.
Michigan started off strong in the first rotation on floor. Mikulak placed first with a 14.90, and junior Rohan Sebastian placed third with a 14.50. Suffering from a strained tricep, Sebastian was only able to compete in the floor and vault events.
Injuries seem to be plaguing the Wolverines as of late. Senior and two-time captain Syque Cesar has been out with a torn bicep, along with a handful of other injured players. According to Golder, the team’s depth allows it to still be successful, despite having many injured players forced out of the lineup.
In the second rotation, sophomore Michael Myler, who has been continuing to work his way back into the lineup, placed first on the pommel horse with a career-best score of 14.90. Mikulak took third on the pommel horse with a 14.00, the only event he did not place first in.
“After pommel horse — which wasn’t our best event — and then coming back on rings, we stepped it up,” Mikulak said. “(We) got over our issues of falling off pommel horse and really took it to the next level.”
During the third rotation Michigan took all three places on the still rings. Mikulak finished first with a career-high 15.00, followed by de los Angeles in second with a 14.80. Sophomore Jordan Gaarenstroom placed third with a career-best of 14.70. The three combined to give Michigan a season-high 56.50.
While the Wolverines’ great performance on the rings gave them the lead, their sweep on the vault truly secured the win. Mikulak described it as “vaulting the lights out,” and Golder said the team “vaulted up a storm.” Mikulak took home top honors with a 15.30. De los Angeles and freshman Stacey Ervin each tallied 15.10 and Michigan finished with a total of 60.10 — only the second time this season the team has scored in the 60s.
The Wolverines continued to perform strongly, with Mikulak taking the title on the parallel bars with a 15.30 and freshman Mark Panhorst finishing second with a 13.70.
In the final rotation on high bar, Michigan suffered several falls, but still claimed the top two places in the event, as Mikulak placed first (15.40) and de los Angeles placed second (14.50). The last round would mirror the first- and second-placement Mikulak and de los Angeles would receive in the all-around, with Mikulak placing first with a 90.00 and de los Angeles after him with an 85.50.
“Ohio State had beaten us at the Windy City,” Mikulak said. “We definitely drew some fire from that. I think everybody pulled it together. I was ready to go the whole time, and I was fueled the entire night with my team behind me. Coming in, we were confident, and it worked out well for us.”