COLUMBUS — In 2010, Chris Cameron became just the second Michigan gymnast to ever win the NCAA All-Around crown.
One year later, freshman Sam Mikulak became the third Wolverine gymnast and the first freshman to become the All-Around champion in the history of the NCAA.
These accomplishments came just two weeks after he became the first freshman to win the Big Ten All-Around Title since 1994. Mikulak’s score of 90.75 this past weekend was .25 higher than Cameron’s score from the year before.
The former all-around champion recognizes the talent Mikulak has.
“(Mikulak’s) a much better gymnast than this country has really ever seen as far as being the complete and entire package,” Cameron said. “I’m just glad to see somebody that has the ability to reach his potential.”
Along with winning the all-around title in 2010, Cameron was also the NCAA floor exercise champion. But for the majority of this season he was unable to compete — or if he did participate, it was only on one or two events because of injuries and illnesses.
After not competing at the Big Ten Championships, it was an improvement for Cameron to go out and perform this past weekend. Though he competed in the all-around, a fall on pommel horse put him out of contention for the repeat performance.
“I’m not going to lie,” Cameron said. “It was hard to finish (my career) knowing that I was more prepared and mentally ready to go for the past two years. Certain difficulties come your way, and your life kind of jumps past college while you’re still there. That’s what happened in my case.”
But Cameron still plans to continue gymnastics as a member of the U.S. National Team next year.
During the championships, each team is allowed six competitors for each event, and four of those six count towards the team score. Gymnasts who participate in the all-around tend to exhibition one or two events because they aren’t in the top-six on their respective teams.
Since Cameron excelled on events like the pommel horse, floor and rings, he was weaker on the high bar and had to exhibition the vault in 2010. Mikulak excels on certain events also, but his weaknesses are lesser in comparison.
Mikulak’s score was top-three in every event for Michigan on Friday.
“(Mikulak) does one of the most difficult vaults in the world and there’s not too many people that can hang with him on floor, either,” Michigan coach Kurt Golder said. “His weaker events are coming. (Parallel) bars went from an average event to a strong event, and high bar, rings and pommel will get better over the summer. He won’t have a weakness come next year.”
The fact that he had the second-highest score of any Wolverine on the high bar and pommel horse — his weak events — speaks volumes to his talent.
When Mikulak vied for a spot on the national team last fall in the Winter Cup Invitational, he came up just short. Two years ago, Cameron became the first Wolverine to earn a spot on that same national team since 1999. If Mikulak keeps this up after the season, he and Cameron may not have to wait long to be reunited as teammates.
“(Cameron) helped (Mikulak) a lot this year,” Golder said on Saturday. “I’ve seen them talking one-on-one and (Cameron) giving him encouragement, routine ideas and so forth. To have two NCAA All-Around champions on the team at the same time is amazing.”