The Wolverine

June-July 2012

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS: MEN'S GYMNASTICS Sophomore Sam Mikulak's National Title Caps U-M's Season the seventh gymnast in program his- tory to capture a second career national championship, but the sixth-ranked Michigan men's gymnastics squad could not build off a strong preliminary show- ing and finished sixth with a score of 351.050 at the 2012 NCAA Champion- ships April 21. The defending all-around national Sophomore Sam Mikulak became only champion, Mikulak captured the high bars individual title with a score of 15.45 and had an eighth-place finish on the parallel bars with a score 14.40 to earn All-American honors in both events. The aspiring 2012 U.S. Olympian just barely lost the all-around crown to Oklahoma's Jake Dalton, 91.00-89.70. "Sam is something special. I have been coaching for a long time, and I have coached a lot of really good kids, but he is the top guy I have ever coached, Golder, who is in his 17th year as U-M's head coach. "If I ever get another one like him, I would consider myself very lucky. "He is trying to be his best for Michi- " said Kurt Mikulak earned the high bars title with a score of 15.45 to become only the seventh gym- nast in program history to win a pair of national championships. gan, and at the same time he is preparing to represent his country in international competition. He's got a lot of fish to fry. When most of our team is just having dual meets, he has to focus on meets against other countries. "He is juggling a lot of hats, and to perform the way he did at the NCAA Championships, as well as how he has all year, is exceptional. was more of a mixed bag. Led by strong performances from Mikulak, freshman Stacey Ervin and freshman Adrian de los Angeles, the Wolverines stormed out of the gates, finishing atop a six-team preliminary-qualifying field that included powerhouses Penn State and Stanford. U-M's strong effort earned them one of the top spots in The performance of the Maize and Blue as a collective unit " PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS Golder said. "It may have had something to do with the youth of the team. "Because of their lack of experience, maybe they didn't quite know what they were getting into. To go out there and perform the way they did on day one, they might have started to think too much about the possibilities and put too much pressure on themselves. the final six-team grouping, but the Wolverines lost mo- mentum overnight and faltered against the stiff competition throughout the second day of the NCAA Championships. By their final rotation, the Maize and Blue found themselves looking up from the bottom spot of the leader board, while Illinois came away with the crown with a 358.85 score. "We were pretty disappointed finishing sixth," Golder said. "We were hoping, at the very least, for a top-three finish. Especially, after what we did the first day, I think our team thought to themselves, 'We can make this something spe- cial, around." "It was our night the first night, but not the second time ' but it just wasn't our night. For many on the squad, which is comprised of 18 fresh- men, 13 sophomores, five juniors and no seniors, the NCAA Championships represented the first go-round on the big stage, something that may have affected the psyche of a young group that held their own against the nation's elite throughout the season, including a 340.00-338.45 victory over then-top-ranked Penn State Jan. 21. lights during the team session, placing third in floor exer- cise with a 15.60 score and ninth in the vault with a score of 15.15. Ervin was the only Wolverine other than Mikulak to qualify for the individual event finals, where he earned All- American honors with a third-place finish on floor exercise after posting a 15.45 and fourth-place finish on vault with a score 15.15. By comparison, three U-M gymnasts qualified in 2011. "Stacey made the finals at both the Big Ten and NCAA Ervin thrived in his first appearance under the bright " Championships, and to finish third and fourth in the country in his events as a freshman, that is pretty darn impressive, Golder said. Mikulak led the Maize and Blue during the team finals in parallel bars (15.75), high bars (15.65), still rings (14.45) and all-around (89.70). Ervin paced U-M in floor exercise and vault, and sophomore Dylan James was the squad's top performer on the pommel horse. Michigan won the national championship in 2010, finished " "Sometimes you are on, and sometimes you are not," second in 2009, and took fifth a year ago. The Wolverines last took sixth in 2008. "We were a very young team, and we were without senior leadership all year, but we still came together as a team and performed really well at times, experience that was very important for us, and will help us greatly as we head into next year. " Golder said. "This was an " — Kevin Minor JUNE/JULY 2012 THE WOLVERINE 67

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