The No. 4 Michigan men”s gymnastics team will meet Minnesota tomorrow at Cliff Keen Arena, marking the second time in eight days the two teams have met.

They matched up last Saturday in the Windy City Invitational, where the Wolverines placed third with a total score of 206.85. The Golden Gophers posted a 199.25, finishing fifth in the six-team tournament.

“We beat them by seven points, that”s a lot, that”s a real lot. To put that in perspective, seven points is like seven touchdowns,” Michigan coach Kurt Golder said.

The substantial victory margin does not mean that Minnesota will be overlooked by the Wolverines. The Gophers were the only team to beat Michigan last year during the regular season.

“Anytime anyone”s within striking distance, (we) don”t take them too lightly and open the door,” Golder said.

Minnesota performed poorly at the Windy City Invitational, particularly on the horizontal bars, where the Golden Gophers finished nearly four points lower than Michigan.

“I”m sure they”re going to be paying attention to their (horizontal) bars this week, and they”ll probably score three or four points higher (than last weekend),” Golder said. “That brings them within three or four points. We don”t plan on making any mistakes, but if we make mistakes, (things) can get close, real fast.”

Michigan has its share of problems as well, including injuries that will keep some of its top gymnasts on the bench. Injuries, combined with typical early-season inconsistency, have caused Golder to take a different approach so far this season.

“We want the focus to increase as the season goes on, not come out like gangbusters and fizzle a little as the season goes on,” Golder said. “We”re really trying to pace ourselves that way, partially because I think that”s the way you should do it, and partially because some of our more experienced guys are dealing with some injuries.”

Juniors Kris Zimmerman and Conan Parzuchowski led the Wolverines to a third-place finish last weekend with strong performances. Zimmerman was the all-around winner, with impressive scores throughout, while Parzuchowski placed first in the still rings competition with a score of 9.2.

Edward Umphrey also stepped up nicely in his first event as a Wolverine, placing first in the floor exercise.

Similar results will be needed from those three again this weekend.

But several of Michigan”s other gymnasts who are shaking off early goosebumps, inexperience and nagging injuries must improve as well.

Minnesota boasts last year”s Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Eric Steele, who won the vault title at the 2001 Big Ten Championships. Junior All-America Clay Strother is the Golden Gophers” leader after winning two NCAA individual event titles last year in the floor exercise and the pommel horse.

Meets like this one against Minnesota serve a purpose for the Wolverines they are trying to improve as the year goes on so they can finish the season at their peak.

“We”re bringing in a team from France, the French National Team, the last week before Big Tens,” Golder said. “We”re trying to pace ourselves and reach a peak for the last three meets of the year: The France meet, the Big Tens and the NCAA”s.”

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