For the No. 6 Michigan men’s gymnastics team, Friday’s meet against No. 2 Oklahoma was like a spring training game. The team took a beating, but key players experimenting with their routines may have finally found the form that will carry them to a championship.
“I wasn’t (satisfied with the performance), but there were a lot of things that I was real pleased with,” Michigan coach Kurt Golder said. “We did a lot of work on individual goal-setting this week. A lot of those were accomplished, a lot of little details important to the athlete.”
Oklahoma beat Michigan (2-3 Big Ten, 3-4 overall) convincingly, 216.2-203.9. The Sooners never trailed in the meet, and the Wolverines came close to matching Oklahoma’s score in only the vault (36.55-36.4). Michigan’s percentage of clean routines, already low after the tense Penn State meet, dropped further.
But many Wolverines accomplished individual goals. Sophomore Paul Woodward won the pommel horse competition with one of Michigan’s four clean routines, scoring 8.45.
“It was nice to go against the defending national champions on their ground and have us win (the pommel horse),” Golder said. “For the last four years or so, that’s been kind of a weakness.”
Senior Andrew DiGiore won Golder’s unofficial Newt Loken award – given for the best individual performance on a single event – for his showing on vault.
“The highlight of the meet for us was Drew DiGiore winning the vault,” Golder said. “He blew the field away (with a 9.55 score).”
Freshman Joe Catrambone gave Michigan yet another solid performance, even though he competed in just three events because of the meet’s non-target status. Catrambone notched the highest Michigan score on the high bar and still rings, and the second highest on the parallel bars.
Though disappointed with his team’s overall performance, Golder found many positive points. Despite the low number of clean routines, he felt that his gymnasts were in a much better frame of mind than in the previous meet against Penn State.
“I think their focus was a lot better, and they were all very sincere about the goals we had set and wanted to reach,” Golder said. “A lot of times, we met a specific goal on the routine, but then we made a mistake somewhere else. So there’s something to be pleased about, and at the same time something to be displeased about.”
Although many of the Wolverine regulars competed in fewer events than usual, others participated for the first time this season. On the parallel bars, redshirt sophomore Arren Yoshimura led all the Wolverines with an 8.4 score.
Next week’s meet – the Winter Cup in Las Vegas – will also be a non-target meet, and Michigan will again emphasize individual improvement and goals rather than all-out attempting to win. After that meet, the Wolverines should be ready for target matchup at home against No. 8 Minnesota.