Dear Friends, Family, and Alumni of Michigan Men’s Gymanstics,
The coaching staff is proud present the final competition re-cap of the 2013 Season, a re-cap covering the claiming of the program’s fifth NCAA Team Title, fourth NCAA All-Around title, and thirty-second and thirty-third individual event NCAA Titles!
Following a great performance in the NCAA Team Qualifier on Friday evening, your Michigan Wolverines qualified with the highest score and thus selected their starting event first. Opting to begin Saturday evening’s competition on pommel horse, your Wolverines got off to just as solid a start as they did in the preliminary competition, hitting five for five routines and showing no nerves, only a calm and determined energy. Nolan Novak led off with a solid 14.05, and Dylan James hit one of his better routines of the season for a 14.7 and the Maize and Blue’s second highest score. Only Mikulak topped James’ score, beginning his all-around campaign with a 14.85. Matt Freeman finished out the rotation with a strong 14.3, and Adrian de los Angeles chipped in a 14.35.
Your Wolverines next went to rings where they posted another solid five-for-five scores. Alex Bubnov led off with a 15.25 and Jordan Gaarenstroom followed with a huge 15.6. Senior co-captain Rohan Sebastian added a 14.7 and Mikulak continued his all-around push with a 15.25. Freeman rounded out the five team competitors with a 15.0, and de los Angeles posted a 14.6 as an extra competitor whose score counted only for all-around.
Freshman Konner Ackerman again came through on vault, starting the rotation off with a 14.4, and then your Wolverines faced their first bit of adversity as Mike Strathern sat down his handspring double-front for a 13.9. The Maize and Blue rebounded immediately as Mikulak and de los Angeles both hit beautiful Kasamatsu one-and-a-halfs, scoring 14.9 and 14.8, respectively. Ervin then capped off the rotation with a 15.05 on his handspring double front.
The judges seemed to tighten scores on parallel bars, for despite another stellar rotation, the overwhelming numbers of the preliminary competition were absent; but being the true competitors that they are, your Wolverines did not let that faze them as they turned out another five-for-five. Ervin led off with a strong 14.7, and Nick Hunter, performing one of his best peach-halves of the year posted a 14.05. Syque Caesar turned in in a 14.9, de los Angeles a 14.8, and Mikulak a 15.35. By this point Michigan had been atop the leader board for several rotations, though only by a small margin, and with the five-up, five-count format, all in the arena knew that it would come down to the final rotation.
Michigan next took on high bar, and again in the face of intensifying pressure, particularly on an event that had given them trouble earlier this year, the Wolverines came through magnificently. Strathern led off with a huge Kovacs and beautiful fullspin-work, posting a 14.1. Nick Hunter earned a 14.25 following perhaps his best routine of the season. Fifth year co-captain Caesar looked completely unfazed by his miss on high bar the previous night, turning in a 14.55 and Adrian de los Angeles scored 14.5. Then Sam Mikulak stepped up and delivered a jaw-dropping routine and was rightly rewarded with a big 15.65, giving your Wolverines the final push into the last event of the evening.
During the three minute touch before floor, there was a tangible increase in energy and excitement throughout the arena as all the maize-clad Michigan supporters knew how much rode on these next five routines. Oklahoma, only five tenths behind Michigan, was on high bar, right next to the floor corral, and they were hitting routines and sticking dismounts left and right. But in a final show of the unshakeable confidence and cool, collected competitive spirit they had exhibited all weekend, your Maize and Blue came through on floor. Sebastian began the rotation sticking his middle three passes and looking solid and steady, his routine attesting to the team leader he has become this year. He posted a 15.2. Next up was Sebastian’s fellow captain who displayed the cool-headed experience of an Olympic veteran; Caesar stuck pass after pass and finished with a 15.25. Adrian de los Angeles kept the momentum rolling with one of his cleanest sets of the year, and finished out his all-around campaign with a 15.3. Mikulak also completed his six-for-six routines for all-around, coming through in a huge way for the team with a 15.15 when it mattered most. And despite two falls, Ervin’s difficulty-packed routine still brought in a 14.35 and was good enough to close out the competition. As Ervin’s score was flashed and the Wolverines checked the final standings, a huge cheer went up through the corral as teammates and coaches embraced and yelled and beamed ear to ear. Hitting 93% again, Michigan had claimed the 2013 NCAA Championship by an astounding three points over second place Oklahoma.
As the team marched onto the podium and received their championship hats and shirts and watches, and finally the team trophy, and the Michigan flag was raised and The Victors sounded throughout the arena and from the mouths of the smiling seventeen atop the award stand, it struck me that this is what Michigan is all about: a group of young men coming together, sacrificing and working through successes and failures for 365 days to complete a reversal from last in the team championship to first. It struck me that the evening’s line-up, which included Olympians and walk-ons, represented the very best of Michigan: a group of young men who made a decision to be the best they could, and who came through in spectacular fashion on the night when it mattered most. This team could not deserve it any more, and the coaching staff could not be any more proud.
As if a team championship wasn’t enough for the evening, The University of Michigan also boasted the evening’s top two all-around scores, as Sam Mikulak claimed his second NCAA All-Around title and Adrian de los Angeles placed second, earning his first ever NCAA All-American citation. Michigan also qualified fifteen routines into event finals the following day.
Following a team title, Event Finals can sometimes be a let down, but in a continued bid to establish the Dynasty they have Tweeted about and worked for, your Wolverines again showed up ready to claim the top spots on Sunday. With four qualifiers on floor, Michigan boasted the third place spot claimed by Mikulak, the fourth place spot as Sebastian and Caesar tied to claim what was both gymnast’s first-ever NCAA All-American citation. De los Angeles tried a slightly different routine construction and finished ninth. On pommel horse both Mikulak and James hit excellent sets, finishing fourth and sixth, respectively. Dylan James, completing his third hit routine of the weekend, and perhaps his best of the season, earned his first All-American citation. On rings Jordan Gaaresntroom appeared in his first rings final and finished just outside of All-American status in ninth place with a 14.65. Ervin also finished outside of the All-American finishers as he sat down his vault, but Mikulak performed yet another beautiful Kas 1.5 and claimed the seventh place spot in one of the better vault finals in recent NCAA history.
Parallel Bars was akin to a clinic put on by Michigan, as both Sam Mikulak and Syque Caesar performed nearly flawless routines and went one-two in the standings. This was Mikulak’s fourth NCAA title, and he wasn’t done yet. On high bar Caesar again performed beautifully, and posted a 14.925 for third place, but Mikulak’s difficulty and near-flawless execution stole the show as he posted a 16.1 and claimed his fifth individual NCAA title and defended his 2012 NCAA High Bar Championship.
With all said and done, Michigan claimed the team, all-around, parallel bars and high bar titles, four of the total eight NCAA Titles that were up for grabs. It may be soon to use “Dynasty,” but one cannot deny that it was a Maize and Blue weekend!
For skill-by-skill analysis of every routine performed this weekend, please see Michigan’s Championship Central blog below.
In closing, the coaching staff would like to thank all family, friends, and alumni for their continued interest in and support of Michigan’s Men’s Gymnastics. Your involvement not only makes Championships possible, but it makes sharing and celebrating them all more enjoyable!
Thank you, and Go Blue!
University of Michigan