COLUMBUS — Freshman Sam Mikulak stood on top of the podium and looked out into the crowd.

He just won the All-Around Title on Friday night after he defeated some of the best gymnasts in the nation — becoming the first freshman in NCAA history to achieve the honor.

“It is definitely a feeling I’ve never experienced before,” Mikulak said. “This is as good as it gets. This is the NCAA championship.”

After placing third in the qualifier on Thursday with a season-best score, the No. 6 NCAA defending champion Michigan men’s gymnastics team came into the team finals at St. John Arena with high hopes.

But after multiple mistakes and too many falls, Michigan settled for a disappointing fifth-place finish. The last time the Wolverines earned fifth-place or worse at an NCAA Final was in 2008 when they finished sixth.

“We knew it was going to come down to who hit,” senior Ian Makowske said. “We didn’t hit and that was the difference maker.”

There were also some surprising miscues from senior Thomas Kelley on the high bar and junior Syque Caesar on the parallel bars.

Kelley’s score of 15.55 from the qualifier on Thursday would have been enough for the first place seed, but he slipped and fell on one of his exchanges, earning a mere 13.75. Similarly, Caesar came into the competition ranked second in the nation on the parallel bars, but after a near perfect routine he also slipped and fell with only a couple of moves left.

“If you have a miss and it’s one of your fifth or sixth scores, it doesn’t really hurt you,” Michigan coach Kurt Golder said. “But if it’s one of the top guys in the country then it really hurts you. It’s just unfortunate. (Kelley) has done great things for Michigan and I’m certainly not going to fault him because things didn’t go his way.”

Gymnasts who placed in the top 10 of their respective events on Friday advanced to the event finals held Saturday night. Mikulak earned a spot on the vault, floor exercise and parallel bar finals, redshirt junior Adam Hamers placed third on the pommel horse and Makowske tied for first on the high bar.

In the event finals on Saturday night Mikulak took third, fourth and seventh on the floor, parallel bars and vault, respectively. Makowske settled for second place.

As the runner-up to Michigan last year, Stanford became the 2011 national champions. Oklahoma went on to finish second, followed by Illinois and California. Penn State came in with a sixth-place finish, .5 points behind Michigan.

After the 2010 National Championship season, Michigan lost about half of its team to graduation. Because of that loss, the Wolverines sported 11 freshmen on a team of 23 gymnasts this season.

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