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10E - New Student Edition - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 6, 2000
The Michigan men's
gymnastics team fell
.125 of a point away
from a national
By Rohit have
Daily Sports Wnter
IOWA CITY - It was supposed to be No.1 Michi-
gan's coronation as repeat national champions.
Instead Penn State shocked the gymnastics world,
nudging the Wolverines, who stood at No. I all season
long, by the painfully close margin of 231.975-231.85
to win the 2000 NCAA men's gymnastics champi-
For a team that finished second-to-last at the Big Ten
championships, Penn State's turnaround at NCAAs
was remarkable. The fifth-ranked Nittany Lions barely
squeaked into the final six-team field, but when it
counted the most the Lions delivered, scoring 1.475
above their season high - an astounding 6.125 points
higher than their performance at Big Tens.
Entering the final rotation at the championships,
Michigan, California and Penn State all stood within .2
points of leader Iowa. As the defending national cham-
pion Wolverines gnashed their teeth in anticipation of a
final rally on the vault, the Lions lurked behind patient-
ly, preparing themselves to compete on their best
event, the pommel horse.
While the 2,024 vocal spectators in attendance
watched the apparent showdown between Michigan
(on the vault) and Iowa (on the parallel bars) unfold,
the Lions wrestled away the national championship
with their best pommel horse performance of the year,
recording a 39.075 on the event.
Brandon Stefaniak's heroic 9.95 on Penn State's
final routine of the night destroyed Michigan's back-to-
back championship hopes.
Michigan was clearly not at its best - in their most
important meet of the year, the Wolverines missed 10
of 36 routines. To compound matters, the sixth-ranked
Hawkeyes held a commanding lead for four rotations.
"We were easily the best team in NCAA gymnas-
tics by far, but on that night, Penn State was the
best," co-captain Justin Toman said.
Michigan not only had to fight its own mistakes, it
had to deal with a red-hot contender. Somehow, the
Wolverines mounted a valiant run. Though it lacked in
perfection and sharpness, Michigan nearly won the
meet purely on competitive desire and grit.
"This year had successful parts, (a No. I ranking the
entire season) but the ultimate is winning the National
Championship," Michigan coach Kurt Golder lamented.
Michigan captain Justin Toman expresses his team's emotions after failing to repeat as
national champions. The Wolverines had been ranked No.1 the entire season.