Over the summer, sophomore gymnast Ralph Rosso lost part of his bicep. But he got back his swagger.
Meet New Ralph.
“I guess Old Ralph is the bad one,” Rosso said. “I think the old Ralph was just doing it to do it. After I had my surgery and had some time off and went back home, I saw the kids at my gym back home and sort of got a new outlook on gymnastics. Now I’m just having fun doing it.
After a middling freshman season, sophomore Rosso has emerged as one of Michigan’s most reliable competitors. Most nights he contributes a counting score on four events – sometimes even five. With the exception of high bar, Rosso has set a new career high on every apparatus this season.
Rosso’s specialty is rings, where he can use his powerful physique to its full advantage. At Winter Cup, a competition for the best gymnasts in the United States, the Morganville, N. J., native cemented his elite status on the event, finishing fifth. And his teammates often refer to him as a “beast” – one of the highest possible compliments for a ring man.
Though Rosso, ranked No. 3 nationally on the apparatus, jokes that rings doesn’t really require gymnastics, just strength, he brings far more than power alone to his routines.
“He’s not just strong – you can be strong and have bad positions,” senior co-captain Andrew Elkind said. “He’s got close to perfect positions, as seen by Winter Cup. . It’s pretty impressive stuff, and he’s cleaning up the swing. He has a shot at winning rings (at the championship meets), I think.”
Rosso chose to come to Michigan with fellow sophomore and New Jersey native Joe Catrambone. The two went on recruiting trips to several of the same schools, comparing experiences. Michigan was the only trip they went on together – and the only school where they found no negatives.
“We knew we wanted to end up at the same school together, which was kind of easy because we are the same year, from the same place,” Catrambone said. “We love the (Michigan) campus – the campus is awesome. (The gymnasts) made us feel like we were already a part of the team when we got here, as opposed to the other schools.”
But despite being with his good friend, as well as Cherry Hill, N. J., native Elkind, Rosso still had a difficult transition to make in his freshman year. Like most collegiate gymnasts, he was the unquestioned top dog at his home gym, the one guy everyone else wanted to be. In college, with so few men’s gymnastics programs, each team is packed with such top-caliber competitors.
Now in his second year, Rosso has it all figured out. The team is everything, with any individual accolades coming in a distant second. His quiet confidence is apparent with every set, and outside the gym he provides a calm, supportive presence for his teammates.
“He used to just float by on his clean routines (as a junior gymnast),” Elkind said. “Now he’s got some big skills and big strength skills in each set, and he does them real well. He’s still kind of quiet, and then he’s got his moments where he bursts out and you have to kind of bottle him back up again.”
Like his teammates, Rosso has also bottled up the terrible feeling of missing NCAA team finals last year, dedicating himself to making this season different.
“Finishing eighth at NCAAs was pretty motivating because you get this feeling in your stomach, where you’re like, ‘I never want this to happen again,’ ” Rosso said. “It makes you work that much harder to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”