“It’s hard to reflect on the entire season at this point,” Michigan men’s gymnastics coach Kurt Golder said. “So much lies ahead in the next three days.”
That’s an understatement.
This weekend, the Wolverines will travel to Philadelphia where they will compete in the NCAA Championships. After a season filled with unexpected and extensive injuries, finishing within the top three teams in the country can compensate for a lost season that never met its true potential.
“I feel real good right now,” Golder said. “(The team’s) practices and spirit have been great.”
The Wolverines have added approximately eight or nine new routines to their lineup, two of which will come from sophomore Jeff Corrigan, who sat out the last two meets for disciplinary purposes.
“His routines will help us tremendously,” Golder said. “I am optimistic on how things will work out.”
For seniors Kris Zimmerman, Conan Parzuchowski, Jamie Hertza, Brian Peterson and Scott Vetere, their last competition wearing maize and blue will be the ultimate test of their leadership and experience.
“We need them to step up and lead by example,” Golder said. “Right now (their determination) seems like business as usual, but it will be an emotional time after the meet.”
Vetere, who is the only remaining member of the 1999 national championship team, is confident about his team’s ability to succeed at the Championships.
“We’re feeling really great,” Vetere said. “(As a leader) I expect to hit all my routines. That’s how you win national championships.”
Golder realizes that replacing the experience and high level of difficulty his graduating seniors are taking with them will not be an easy task.
“When you lose five guys on a team as small as ours, it’s hard to fill those shoes,” Golder said. “We’re going to have to build from the bottom with our incoming freshmen, which will be a big challenge.”
But Michigan’s stock price will not plummet so easily with the promise of the impressive talent that freshmen Andrew DiGiore and Justin Laury can likely contribute in the future. Both Laury and DiGiore were named to the All-Big Ten team at the Big Ten Championships that took place in Columbus two weeks ago.
“DiGiore has a real good chance at being All-American on vault (at the NCAA Championships),” Golder said. “Justin Laury has the potential to be All-American in the all-around (competition) if he competes like he did at the Big Ten (Championship).”
With many emotions circling in their mind, the Wolverines will head to Philadelphia bringing with them a desire to win and confidence in the strongest lineup they have had all season.
“We’ve got a lot of guys back from injuries,” Vetere said. “The team is looking great.”
Yet, winning the championship will entail dethroning the reigning champ Oklahoma, as well as all the teams that are on the path to that same goal.
“There are several teams that are better than us,” Golder said. “But if they open the door even a little, we’ll slip right in (to the top spots).”