The No. 9 Michigan men’s gymnastics team should compete for a Big Ten Championship despite the fact that it is tied for last in the Big Ten rankings.
“Every team this year has a chance to win the Big Ten,” senior Justin Toman said. “The best is yet to come for us.”
While the rankings don’t show it, Michigan has as good a shot as any school to win. It boasts a renewed confidence and a stronger, veteran-laden lineup. The Wolverines came off their best performance of the year last week, scoring 216.8 points against France – a team highly touted throughout the world.
That type of match “helps you from getting nervous,” Toman said. “If you see one of the best in the world go up and nail a set, you have to perform. And that puts you in a different mindset. When we go to Big Tens this weekend, we’re not going to see the level of gymnastics (that we saw against France).”
The Big Ten has six of the top 11 teams in the country, including the top three. No. 1 Minnesota, No. 2 Penn State, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 5 Iowa and No. 9 Illinois will join Michigan in Minneapolis this weekend. Michigan is 1-2 in dual matches against Big Ten opponents and 3-4 overall, including the Windy City Championship.
The Golden Gophers weren’t ranked early in the year and even took an eight-point beating earlier this year at the hands of the Wolverines. This is a sign that everyone in the Big Ten has a chance.
“I think there’s more parody in the Big Ten this year,” Michigan coach Kurt Golder said. “Any one of those teams could finish either first or last.”
The Big Ten will show off some very talented gymnasts who are among the country’s best. Penn State’s Kevin Donohue is one of the best in the parallel bars, floor exercise and high bars. Minnesota’s Clay Strother is an All-American in the pommel horse and vault. Illinois’ Bob Rogers is the best in the high bar in the country. Michigan doesn’t have any gymnasts in the top five of any individual events this year, but it has many talented athletes that have been injured. Daniel Diaz-Luong and Geoff Corrigan, among other veteran gymnasts, will be added to more events to create depth.
“We can still strengthen our lineup with the possibility of strengthening some routines,” Golder said. “We made a few mistakes that we can clean up. If that doesn’t give (the guys) a lot of confidence, I don’t know what will.”
Michigan has a renewed confidence and doesn’t have to look back very far to their last Big Ten Championship. The Wolverines won in 1999 and 2000, while finishing second last year.
“The mindset going into this meet is really just to compete like last week and not to hold back,” Toman said.