The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Monday, December 11, 2006 - 3B
'M' can't get gorilla off
back, suffers tough loss
Senior Lindsey Bruck embraces a teammate following a meet last year. She hopes an infusion of new faces
can help the team tackle its difficult schedule and erase the memories of last season's bitter ending.
New faces, sam-e
goals for Tum-blers
By ANTHONY OLIVEIRA
Daily Sports Writer
For much of Friday night, the Maize
and Blue faithful were quieted by Cen-
tral Michigan. But after a Michigan
comeback from 9-0, a guy in a gorilla suit
waving a Maroon and Gold flag would be
the final sight at Cliff Keen Arena, as the
ninth-ranked Wolverines fell to No. 11
Central Michigan, 21-12.
Despite its early struggles, Michigan
still had the chance to at least pull out
The home-opener came down to the
heavyweights: the Chippewas' seventh-
ranked Bubba Gritter and Michigan's
redshirt junior Omar Maktabi. Given
Central Michigan's three-point lead and
Gritter's ranking, it appeared that most
people were ready to write off the Wol-
But a scoreless first period opened
some eyes. With the Maktabi starting
the second period on top, Gritter escaped
quickly for a point. It seemed it was only
a matter of time until Central Michigan
drove away with a victory.
But inside 30 seconds, Maktabi
wrapped around Gritter's ankles and
pulled him down for two points. Even
after Gritter knotted up the bout with
an escape, the crowd at Cliff Keen Arena
grew loud knowing a Michigan escape
in the third period would pull off the
Maktabi started the third period on
the bottom to chants of "Let's go Omar."
The chants got louder after Gritter foiled
Maktabi's early crawls.
The Wolverine found his chance to
gain a one-point advantage with 1:37
remaining in the bout. All Maktabi
needed to do was stay on his feet. With
the crowd also on its feet, Gritter aimed
aggressively for Maktabi's knees. Mak-
tabi stopped Gritter twice, but couldn't
do it a third time. With the two wres-
tlers locked up with 30 seconds left,
the crowd held its breath, hoping Mak-
tabi could escape the struggle. But they
would exhale disappointedly just 18
seconds later when Gritter pinned Mak-
tabi, giving Central Michigan the 21-12
"Omar put together a nice match,"
Sophomore Steve Luke was taken to two overtimes before defeating Central Michigan's sixth-
ranked Brandon Sinnott. Like the rest of the Wolverines, Luke felt he could have performed better.
By ANTHONY OLIVEIRA
Daily Sports Writer
This is the best way to describe the five
freshmen on the Michigan women's gym-
nastics team. After a frustrating finish last
season, the sixth-ranked Wolverines look
to plant their feet on top of the Big Ten and
fight back into the Super Six of the NCAA
"When we have been as successful as we
have been, to have a year where we fall short
of some of goals is disappointing to the girls,"
Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. "They take
that very seriously. Last year was last year.
And this year is this year. That's all we really
care about right now."
Even though the Wolverines nailed a first-
place performance at the Northeast Regional
earlier this year, they've had their struggles.
A fourth-place finish at the Big Ten Champi-
onships marked the first time any team dur-
ing Plocki's tenure has failed to stand on the
podium, snapping a streak of 15 consecutive
New assistant coach Louis Robinson Jr.
will help Michigan return to glory. Robin-
son replaces Joanne Bowers, who took the
head coaching job at Washington University.
Although Bowers will be missed, Robinson
will bring his experience from Florida and
Ohio State to make sure Michigan isn't left
"It's hard losing Joanne," Plocki said.
"Louis has brought a different bonus pack-
age: his technical mileage and his spotting
ability. It will help us through the season.
He's also just a positive and motivating kind
of a coach. He gets the athletes to want to
Added senior co-captain Lindsay Bruck:
"Louis is a great motivator and adds a lot to
our team. He's a great all-around coach and
willing to take the extra effort."
Bruck, along with junior co-captain Nellie
Kippley, willlead the teamthrough a difficult
schedule, which includes meets against nine
ranked teams, according to the preseason
GymInfo 2007 Coaches Poll. The Wolverines
will have to be near-perfect in away meets at
No.1 Utah and No. 2 Georgia.
Plocki said Michigan's performance is only
as good as the teams it faces. This year will be
atrue test: The teamtakes on more preseason
ranked teams than it has in four years.
But the Wolverines are hungry to face the
"My whole team is probably in the best
physical shape thatthey've been in as a whole
for a number of years," Plocki said.
Bruck pointed out that like any other
sport, Michigan needs to avoid injuries to
succeed. Unfortunately for the Wolverines,
senior Carol McNamara is still recovering
from a fracture of her fourth metatarsal foot
bone. Plocki said the injury is more signifi-
cant than it would be to a football or basket-
ball player because a gymnast's foot isn't
padded with a shoe.
And just a week ago, sophomore Tatjana
Thuener-Rego suffered an ankle sprain.
McNamara and Thuener-Rego missed this
weekend's intrasquad meet, but look to get
back in action as the season begins.
Last weekend's Maize and Blue Intra-
squad meet at Crisler Arena was the first
action the freshmen saw as Wolverines.
Despite an all-around victory by Blue's
Bruck, the Maize overcame the deficit in
the final rotation to take the win, 115.725-
115.125. Freshman Sarah Curtis of the
Maize finished third in the all-around, but
performances by Kippley and freshman
Jordan Sexton put the Maize on top. With
a strong start on Friday, the freshmen have
started the tall task of replacing seniors,
like three-time NCAA All-American Lau-
ren Mirkovich and 10-time All-American
But Plocki believes they won't have trou-
ble filling the gap.
"I don't think we're going to have diffi-
culties," Plocki said. "We really out-gained
what we lost. Yes, you're replacing experi-
enced seniors for freshmen, so that's a roll of
a dice there. But as we go through this year,
we potentially won't have lost much from a
There may be new faces in the crowd, but
the mentality still remains the same.
"Our goals are pretty much the same,"
Plocki said. "We wantto win the Big Ten and
qualify for Regionals. But our ultimate goal
is to win a national championship."
Michigan coach Joe McFarland said.
"Unfortunately, it didn't end the way
we wanted it to end. But I thought up
until then, he competed well and it was a
great effort. It's just unfortunate he got
in a scramble situation and got caught. It
ended a little sudden."
The Chippewas (4-1) struck early,
taking the first three bouts at the 125-,
133- and 141-pound weight classes. But
Michigan (1-1) crept back into match and
tied the score at 12. Central Michigan
regained a three-point lead, when No. 8
Wynn Michalak took down Michigan's
12th-ranked Nick Roy in the final 20
The Wolverines realized they weren't
aggressive enough, and the Chippewas
took full advantage.
"We just didn't compete well," McFar-
land said. "The guys were hesitant, we
weren't going out and setting the pace
and we 'weren't taking advantage of
scoring opportunities. We made plenty
of mistakes tonight. But Central (Michi-
gan) did a good job of feeding off that.
I've got to give those guys a lot of credit,
even some of the guys who didn't win.
They set the pace. They controlled ties.
They were nice tonight."
The longest match of the night
belonged to No. 7 Steve Luke. Despite
winning his bout in double overtime
against Central Michigan's sixth-ranked
Brandon Sinnott, the redshirt sopho-
more knew he could have finished busi-
ness much earlier.
"I felt fine conditioning-wise," Luke
said. "I felt like I could go 15 more match-
es. I needed to get more aggressive. I
wasn't taking shots. I knew I could take
that kid down."
The nine-point loss was, Michigan's
largest dual match defeat since Jan.
22, 2005 when the Wolverines fell to
Oklahoma, 24-13. Last year, Michigan
dropped its home-opener to Nebraska,
From page 1B
port for a 16-team playoff system - which
University President Mary Sue Coleman
expressed strong opposition to last year.
Carr predicted the eventual implementa-
tion of some form of playoff was "inevi-
"We're in a phase of discontent by some
people," Carr said. "There are still alot of
people who do not want a playoff. But I
think it's growing, the number of people
who do want one. And I think it will hap-
The BCS wasn't Carr's only target.
He called CBS announcer Gary Dan-
ielson's side-by-side analysis of Michigan
and Florida's schedules "disingenuous."
He joked about Ohio State coach Jim
Tressel's notable abstention in the ESPN/
USA Today Coaches' Poll, saying that
coaches "obviously don't have to vote for
He expressed confusion about the
inconsistent implementation of the hel-
met-to-helmet hit rule against quar-
terbacks, after a Southern Cal defender
wasn't whistled for a hit nearly identical
to Michigan linebacker Shawn Crable's
critical personal-foul penalty against
But Carr declined to elaborate on his
decision not to campaign publicly for a
National Championship berth.
"I don't really want to get into that,"
Carr said. "I did what I thought was right
for our team, for this program and for the
University of Michigan."
NOTES: Junior running back Mike
Hart didn't make the trip to New York
for Dec. 9's Heisman Trophy presenta-
tion. But Heisman voters still noticed his
1,515-yard, 14-touchdown regular-season
performance. The Wolverines' star rusher
finished fifth with 214 votes, including
five first-place votes. Hart finished behind
Ohio State quarterback and Heismanwin-
ner Troy Smith (2,540 votes), Arkansas's
Darren McFadden (878), Notre Dame's
Brady Quinn (782) and West Virginia's
Steve Slaton (218).
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