Living up to the media hype, the No. 1-ranked Michigan men”s gymnastics team turned in yet another dominating performance, easily beating No. 4 Illinois this past Friday at Cliff Keen Arena.
Led by their “Odd couple,” junior Scott Vetere and senior tri-captain Kevin Roulston, the Wolverines compiled a team total of 214 points en route to crushing the Fighting Illini, who only managed to score 208.35.
“This Illinois team is much better than they showed tonight they had a couple freak things occur on high bar that really hurt their team score,” Michigan head coach Kurt Golder said. “To be honest with you, I thought it”d be much much closer than this. I was really quite worried about it and we”ve got to take this team very seriously because at the end of the year, they”re going to be there.”
The gymnasts seemed to have no worries though.
Having steam-rolled through the first third of the season, Michigan boasts a relaxed, more confident attitude.
Combining an element of fun with a dedicated work ethic has not only resulted in its early-season domination, but has also allowed the gymnasts to bond as a team.
“It”s amazing all the confidence we have now,” Vetere said. “Not only do we see it when we compete, but we now see it in the gym. The main thing that is motivating our team now is the feeling of closeness that we didn”t have last year we are more together as a team and it feels good.
“When you are having a good time, things take care of themselves like beating the top teams in the country.”
Sporting a new gelled-up hairstyle on Friday evening, Vetere seized three first-place finishes with scores of 9.400, 9.150 and 9.400 on the pommel horse, parallel bars and high bar, respectively.
“This time last year, I wasn”t even close to where I am now,” Vetere said. “I truly believe that the team and I are doing so well because of the confidence in ourselves and each other.”
At the conclusion of the meet, Vetere was awarded the Newt Loken Award for his excellence on the high bar. The award is presented in honor of Newt Loken a legendary gymnastics coach at Michigan for 36 years.
The award further accentuates Vetere”s efforts in the absence of injured senior tri-captain Justin Toman.
Supplementing Vetere”s strong performance, Roulston had a combined total of 52.15 that included first-place honors in the vault. Roulston”s solid routines in all six events helped earn him the all-around title.
“The all-around title doesn”t affect our team score,” Golder said. “But it”s the most prestigious honor an individual can win.”
Three second-place finishes, one by Roulston on the floor exercise, another by Tim Dehr on pommel horse and the last by Brad Kenna on the vault, aided the Wolverines in widening their margin of victory over the Fighting Illini. In the Windy City invitational on Jan. 13, the Wolverines defeated Illinois by only .3 points.
“Just because we had a blowout today, it doesn”t mean we that we can lose an ounce of respect,” Golder said. “If we do, they”re going to come back and get us.”