Going into its first home meet against No. 1 Penn State, the No. 6 Michigan men’s gymnastics team was the underdog. The competition between the two teams is always hard-fought, and they’ve traded victories and losses for the past four seasons.

But the underdog role didn’t faze the Wolverines, who triumphed over the Nittany Lions 340.300-338.450, restoring their top-dog position in the Big Ten.

The 2012 preseason coaches poll ranked Michigan (4-2, 1-0 Big Ten) at No. 2, but after a disappointing Windy City Invitational, the Wolverines fell in the polls.

Michigan went into the weekend’s meet with a serious disadvantage — its top gymnast, sophomore and defending NCAA All-Around Champion Sam Mikulak, was absent from the meet, training in Colorado Springs, Colo. with the United States National Team. Mikulak was the star of the Windy City Invitational, winning the floor exercise and coming in second in the all-around competition.

“I put it to the team: ‘Can we beat Penn State without Sam?’ ” said Michigan coach Kurt Golder. “We’ve never lost to Penn State in our house, and this was a real tall order. When you see the big score that Penn State put up, and (its) No. 1 ranking in the country, I was scared.”

But the athletes weren’t as concerned about the Nittany Lions’ ranking as their coach was.

“You know, I don’t actually think (their No. 1 status) had any affect on us whatsoever,” said senior captain Syque Caesar. “Gymnastics is a sport where everyone’s routines are on the Internet, so we can actually go and see what they’re doing. Comparatively, we knew we should be able to beat them. It was just a matter of whether we hit our routines.”

But with Mikulak gone, Michigan needed others to step up, including Caesar and freshman Adrian de los Angeles.

De los Angeles is one of the top collegiate gymnasts this season, and was put on the Big Ten’s 2012 Gymnasts to Watch List. In 2011, he was a member of the United States National Team and finished in first place in the all-around and parallel bars competition at Junior Nationals.

Mikulak normally leads the team on the floor, vault, and parallel bars, and he won an All-American title in each event in 2011. In this week’s meet, the other Michigan athletes, including de los Angeles and Caesar, had to step up to the high bar that Mikulak has set.

And they did. The Wolverines claimed three event titles, including one on the parallel bars by Caesar and one on the vault by de los Angeles. De los Angeles also won first place in the all-around.

“It’s great to see Adrian come out with the all-around title since he’s a freshman,” Caesar said. “He didn’t have a very good meet today but he still posted a decent all-around score.”

The win over the Nittany Lions proved that Michigan can contend with top competition.

“We didn’t have a very good showing at Windy City, and when we came to the gym (today), we knew we were a very good team,” Caesar said. “We just needed to show it.”

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