8B - The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - March 19, 2001
The men's and women's gymnastics teams are read,
to defend their Big Ten crowns this weekend
'M Gymnasts to watch
Last year he caught fire in March, domi-
nating the Big Tens, and winning nearly
every individual and all-around title in
sight. Heading into the meet this year, he
is coming off a slight knee injury. Another
concern is that Vetere has only completed
two all-around performances in meets this
year. Despite those worries, he possesses
the special ability to bail out entire events
with one scintillating performance.
The sophomore has international-level
talent as well. Zimmerman has raised his
skills to that of a top-level collegiate gym-
nast. He has some consistency issues,
but at his best, few gymnasts in the Big
Ten rival him. Zimmerman should do most
of his damage on the parallel bars and the
Praised by some as the most fluid gym-
nast on theteam, Diaz-Luong is finally
healthy - he can now show everyone his
array of physical skills. He comes into
State College performing well on the all-
around, having won the meet versus
Michigan State. Diaz-Luong is most valu-
able for his expertise on the high bar, an
improved event for Michigan.
Strong on the floor exercise and vault,
he has the potential to do well on the all-
around if he has a good day on the still
rings. If Kenna nails the floor exercise and
the vault, the rest of his team should fol-
low suit. He is someone whose perfor-
mance could decide Michigan's fate.
The fifth-year senior has come a long
way in his gymnastics skills. Though he is
not known for spectacular routines, he
provides Michigan very dependable scor-
ing. Given his team's inconsistency on
parallel bars, a high score from Dehr
would go a long way. Look for the tri-cap-
tain to save his best for the final two
meets of his collegiate career.
Keener has a reputation for his skills on the
still rings. The senior placed third last year at
the NCAA Championships on the event, earn-
ing All-American honors. He would like to finish
his Michigan career by winning some hard-
Spartans take WM'
down to the wire
With his smooth all-around skills, a healthy Daniel Diaz-Luong heads Michigan's assault on the Big Ten title.
Men beginchampionsh run
at ig n iCollege
By Rohit Bhave
Daily Sports Writer
Michigan heads into the Big Ten Championships at
State College with a lot of uncertainty regarding its+
injury situation. Then again, the Wolverines have been
answering questions about their ability to cope with fall-
en teammates all season long.
"While it is sometimes frustrating
to think of how much better our team Tear Sto
could be ... I think that losing some
guys has shown how important No. 3 Ohio State
every member of the team is," Kris
Zimmerman said. Michigan in expe
The heavy losses of captains the Wolverines, t
Justin Toman and Kevin Roulston are eager for rev
have been buffered by the elevated Tens.
all-around performances of Daniel
Diaz-Luong and Kris Zimmerman. No. 6 Michigan$
From meet to meet, a different gym- peting at Big Ten
nast has contributed strong routines time. The emotic
to provide the winning margin for should battle the
With the championship season No. 8 Minnesot
upon it, Michigan must answer the 216.15 to bea
next question - can its unsung Likened to the
gymnasts perform at championship championship sq
levels? - young, enthus
As their competition improves, the ented.
Wolverines have less and less margin
for error. This means they need sever-
al overachieving contributions under pressure.
While there are at least three teams capable of win-
ning the conference title, the Big Tens are still Michi-
gan's to lose - the Wolverines easily have the highest
score potential of any team in the field.
"There are several teams in the Big Ten that are capa-
ble of scoring very high," Kris Zimmerman said. "I'm
confident, though, that our team has the skills, experi-
ence, and depth to end up on top."
More of an issue is the Wolverines' consistency. Last
year, that problem bit them at NCAAs. To address the
issue, coach Kurt Golder has changed his meet strategy.
Last season, the Wolverines used
difficult routines in meets the entire
WU4CI& season. While they were capable of
high scores, they could just as easily
Can match blow the event. This year, Michigan
Est twice to is emphasizing clean routines. The
he Buckeyes gymnasts do not attempt high diffi-
enge at Big culties until they hit them flawlessly
"We will not add a skill unless we
State: Is com- are confident it will increase our
ns for the last team score," Golder said.
onal Spartans Under pressure at an elite-level
Wolverines. meet, it will be interesting to see if
Michigan can nail the harder skills.
ta: Scored a Unlike last year, the Wolverines
at Michigan. have been building up their difficulty
Wolverines' level meet-by-meet. Golder believes
quad of 1999 the new approach has aided his
siastic and tal- team.
"For the most part the strategy of
adding difficulty is working out quite
well," Golder said. "We have estab-
lished a pretty consistent base to work from."
If Michigan can win Big Tens and NCAAs, some of
its success should be attributed to Golder's strategic
By Swapnil Patel
Daily Sports Writer
In a tight competition similar to
last season, the No. 2 Michigan
men's gymnastics team narrowly
defeated No. 6 Michigan State in a
match that came down to the final
The Wolverines continued their
winning ways last Friday at Crisler
Arena, as they closed out their regu-
lar season in the same fashion that
they started - with a "W".
Already having defeated defend-
ing national champion Penn State at
State College, current-No. 1 Okla-
homa and the Spanish National
Team, Michigan expected to end its
regular season on a positive note.
But heading into the sixth event of
the night, the Wolverines trailed
Michigan State by a considerable
Thanks to a tie for first place on
the high bar between Michigan
junior Daniel Diaz-Luong and
sophomore Kris Zimmerman, who
both scored a 9.25 for their-final rou-
tines, the Wolverines squeaked out
their 12th victory of the season,
In the NCAA Championships last
year, Penn State overpowered Michi-
gan on the high bar by a 1.45 differ-
But the Wolverines have steadily
improved their performance on this
event. They can now depend on it to
pull out close wins.
Diaz-Luong set the pace for
Michigan, capturing first-place hon-
ors in the all-around competition and
earning second place for his perfor-
mance on the rings.
Zimmerman contributed as well,
bringing home a pair of second-place
finishes on the floor exercise and
vault. Sophomores Conan Parzu-
chowski and Jaime Hertza also
stepped up their routines, garnering a
second-place finish on the rings and
floor exercise, respectively.
For the Wolverines, the competition
served a dual purpose. The likes of
Michigan coach Kurt Golder looks on dur-
ing his final meet against Michigan State.
Diaz-Luong, Kenna and Zimmerman
gained an extra opportunity to polish
their routines for their upcoming run
at the Big Ten Championships.
Gymnasts that are currently nurs-
ing injuries, such as junior Scott Vet-
ere, were basically given the night
off. Vetere placed second on the
rings, the only event he competed in,
with a score 9.525.
Sadly, the Spartans may have com-
peted in their final regular season
meet ever. After this year, Michigan
State will cut its men's gymnastics
program, which has -been in exis-
tence since 1946.
"It is sad to see another Big Ten
team go," Vetere said. "Michigan State
was starting to rebuild their program,
and they had many talented guys that
were starting to make a mark in the
Big Ten and across the nation."
In a more positive version of bid-
ding farewell, Michigan honored its
three seniors - Jesse Coleman, Tim
Dehr and Kenny Kenner prior to the
meet the gymnasts four years of ded-
ication to the program.
Wolverines aim for
nine out of 10
BY CHRIS BURKE DAILY SPORTS WRITER
Most great gymnasts are noticed
because of their superior athletic ability
in comparison to other competitors.
And while freshman Calli Ryals is
more than capable as an athlete, it was
something else that drew Michigan
women's gymnastics coach Bev Plocki to
"What struck me about Calli was the
artistry and beauty in her performances,"
Plocki said. "We had known of her for a
couple of years, and I immediately knew
that we could use her."
Ryals first entered gymnastics, like
many collegiate gymnasts, early in her
childhood. At that point, though, she didn't
get into the sport because of her ability.
"My sister and I were full of energy,
bouncing off the walls all the time," Ryals
said. "So my mom started us in gymnas-
tics when I was about five years old"
Ryals trained around 15 hours a week
prior to coming to Michigan, and despite
having the occasional tough time, has
continued to love the sport.
"Once I took a two-week break (from
gymnastics) and that was it, I couldn't go
any longer without it," Ryals said. "There
are times when you say 'I want to quit, I
can't do this anymore,' but it's just a
phase you go through, and then you real-
ize how much you miss it."
At the age of nine, Ryals enrolled in
classes at Great Lakes Gymnastics and
fell under the tutelage of coach Joe Gura.
It was Gura who helped lead Ryals to
the next level - including a high school
state title her sophomore year and a first
place finish in the Malar Cup in Stock-
holm, Sweden during her junior year.
"We've had about 30 guys and girls go
on to college gymnastics in my time at the
gym," Gura said. "Calli's been the best.
"She's a great role model for the kids
with Ryals during the Junior Olympics,
giving her a taste of the personality that has
become so beneficial for Michigan.
"She's such a great person to compete
with," said Vituj of Ryals. "She has a fun
personality and keeps the competition
light. I expect her to do well in college -
she's a great gymnast."
Ryals' exceptional talent led not only to
success at the junior level, but also spurred
a wave of recruiting from many schools
across the country. Ryals, however, had lit-
tle difficulty deciding where to attend.
"My sophomore year I started to get
recruited," Ryals said. "Michigan was
always my number one choice, even
before all the recruiting started.
"I'm from Ohio, so I didn't want to go
far away from home."
The recruiting class that included
Ryals was arguably the most highly-tout-
ed in the history of the Michigan pro-
gram. However, it's often been a situation
where Ryals and her fellow freshmen
have been overshadowed by the coverage
of Olympian Elise Ray.
That's not a problem, according to Ryals.
"I don't think Elise joining the team
was a big issue at all;" Ryals said. "We
were so excited to have her on our team
because our team got more coverage, and
that's what we want."
However, the best way to get noticed is
to be successful. That's something Ryals
has done time and time again for the
Wolverines this season.
"She loves to perform," Gura said.
"She enjoys being in front of an audi-
ence, and the more important the meets
are, the better she does"
Ryals won her first individual event
title when she took honors on the floor
exercise against Minnesota and Iowa. She
added another title on the floor against
By Naweed Sikora
Daily Sports Writer
It was an emotional night at Crisler
Arena Saturday for the Michigan
women's gymnastics team as its three
seniors - Karina Senior, Christine
Michaud and Bridget Knaeble -
competed in their final regular season
meet as Wolverines. The three fin-
ished in style as Michaud placed first
on the vault, Knaeble placed first on
the bars, and Senior and Knaeble tied
for first on the floor.
Although it seemed like the end of
an era, the season is far from over.
With all the momentum in their
Calli Ryals has developed into a fine floor exercise performer this year.
'M' Gymnasts to watch
corner, the Wolver-
ines will embark
on yet another
for a national title,
beginning this Sat-
urday night at
home with the Big
In order to win,
must keep their
going. In the past
four meets, Michi-
No. 11 Penn Sts
nation's No.1 g
Rowland, the Nil
No. 13 Minnes
other than Mic
Big Ten title s
coming off bac
over Auburn and
need to find a way to respond in high-
pressure situations. But, recent history
has shown that the Wolverines should
not be faced with any sort of pressure
Since 1992, Michigan has won all
but one Big Ten Championship. In
1998, the team finished runner-up to
Minnesota. With their 3-0 Big Ten
record this season, the Wolverines
extended their conference winning
streak to 21 consecutive meets. The
last time Michigan lost to a Big Ten
opponent was January of 1999, when
it dropped a meet to Minnesota at
Along with this impressive record,
o watch will also be host-
ing this year's
ate: Led by the championships,
ymnast, Katie which should pros
ttany Lions are vide them with an
hest opponent. even larger edge
over their oppo-
ota: Only team nents. Michigan
higan to win a was 5-1 at home
ince 1992 - this season, losing
k-to-back wins only to UCLA.
Arizona. "I think it is
going to be awe-
some;' Plocki said.
"We are expecting
large crowds for both Big Tens and
regional championships. I think the
excitement level will be high, and this
team loves to perform in front of great
Michigan crowds. It will hopefully be
a definite advantage for us, and I hope
that we come out and compete very
Only a few teams have the chance
to C~ mnt. 1 wth the Wolrinesr pthkS
Ray has been Michigan's best gymnast thus far this season
with four all-around titles. The uneven bars has been her best
event as she has racked up three individual titles. Ray is
ranked seventh nationally in the all-around competition.
Senior has been Michigan's model for consistency. Compet-
ing in every event, she has won the all-around title twice.
Senior's leadership and success have been a key for the
Wolverines all season long. In her final regular season meet,
Senior placed first on the floor exercise.
It- - ' f+I ~nro+un~r ~htatn nal
gan has broken the 197-point mark
three times. Since January 19th, it has
only scored below 196 points one
"I think we just need to keep doing
what we have been doing," Michigan
coach Bev Plocki said. "Our hard
work in the gym and some of our
strategies on the beam have really
nail~. MT T thinlytha ...+ hrP