6A - Thursday, January 16, 2014
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
6A - Thursday, January16, 2014 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom
With talent and veteran leaders,
Wolverines poised for title run
Grajales finds roll
By ALEX TAYLOR
Daily Sports Writer
As defending NCAA champi-
ons, the unanimous preseason
No.1 and hosts of the 2014 NCAA
Championship, much is expect-
ed of this year's Michigan men's
The Wolverines return 26
of 30 routines from last year -
most belongingto gymnasts that
are All-Americans, individual
National Champions or Olym-
pians. Armed with talent across
the board, Michigan head coach
Kurt Golder has his choice of
lineups he can employ any time.
"This year is a little bit differ-
ent because no matter what our
lineup is, we are capable of win-
ning every single meet," Golder
said. "So I've put a little more
emphasis on winning the Windy
City (invitational) and winning
every single meet between now
and the NCAA finals."
If Michigan is able to win in
Chicago and repeat as National
Champions, it will be the first
time a team has accomplished
this feat since Oklahoma
repeated in 2005, and the first
time since 1959 that a Michigan
team has won back-to-back
The chance at making history,
though, isn't weighing heavily on
the Wolverines. This team views
its season as an opportunity to
cement its own legacy and not
just live off last season's success.
By BEN FIDELMAN
Daily Sports Writer
Junior Stacy Ervin is one of several uperclassmen expected to lead Michigan back to the NCAA Tournament this year.
"We talked quite a bit when
the new year came around,
'OK we're no longer NCAA
champions, we're nothing,"'
Golder said. "Everything we
want to accomplish lies in front
of us. We have to earn it."
Perhaps winning this season
will meanevenmore asMichigan
hosts the NCAA Championships
at Crisler Center for the first
time since 1971.
"I think (hosting the NCAA
Championship) adds motivation,
and I also think it adds pres-
sure," Golder said. "And we have
to be able to deal with that pres-
One person who is used to
that pressure is graduate stu-
dent Syque Caesar. A fifth-year
senior last year, Caesar was able
to get a sixth year of eligibil-
ity because he had two previous
seasons lost to injuries and he is
still taking classes.
"Coming back off a
championship last year and
retaining something like 90
percent of the team and all of our
routines, and the fact that we are
hostingNCAA's this year, it willbe
like a fairy-tale story if we execute
and win the championship at
home," Caesar said.
Caesar, who represented
Bangladesh in the 2012 summer
Olympics, earned three All-
American honors last year in
floor exercise, parallel bars and
high bar. He will also serve as
captain again this year, along
with senior Matt Freeman.
The other Olympian on the
team, senior Sam Mikulak,
will also be depended on
to contribute heavily to the
Wolverines success. After
last year's performance at the
NCAA championships - which
included NCAA individual
Championships in all-around,
high bar and parallel bar and six
All-American honors - Mikulak
has a chance to become the most
decorated NCAA gymnast ever.
With 13 All-American
citations and five NCAA
Mikulak needs only three more
individual championships and
four All-American citations to
become the record holder in
But for Mikulak, one of his
biggest obstacles might be fellow
teammate, junior Adrian de los
Angeles. De los Angeles finished
second to Mikulak's first in the
all-around competition at both
the Big Ten Championships
and the NCAA Championships.
Number of years since Michigan won
back-to-back National Championships
Number of Al-America citations issued
to senior Sam Mikulak.
Number of returning routines from last
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38 Booted, say
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Additionally, de los Angeles
earned All-American honors on
the parallel bars last year.
Yet, Michigan will need other
contributors besides these three
as it heads into its first meet of
the season, the Windy City Invi-
tational. Waiting for the Wolver-
ines in Chicago will be a stacked
lineup that includes Big Ten foes
No. 4 Ohio State, No. 5 Illinois,
No. 8 Iowa and No. 9 Minnesota.
Though the favorites to win
the invitational, Michigan
could be without two of its top
gymnasts, Mikulak, who is in
China for a Team USA training
camp, and junior Stacey Ervin,
who has had recent back
problems and will be a day-time
decision to compete.
But, not even these potential
setbacks have dampened the
Wolverines' expectations head-
ing into the meet.
"We set our goals at wanting
to win Windy City," Caesar said.
"We want to win that title right
away because it really sets the
tone for the rest of the season."
Whether or not the Wolver-
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. In a sport where the goal is to
break your opponent, a Michigan
wrestler is finding success
using happiness and pride for
"I'm not usually the kind
of person that wants to get all
angry or too hyped up," said
fifth-year senior Eric Grajales.
"I like to be happy and smile
before my matches."
After a 15-1 campaign in his
redshirt junior year, Grajales has
had a successful first half of this
2013 season, climbing to 12th
in the InterMat rankings of the
149-pound weight class. And all
of this success is coming under a
He believes that a wrestler has
to have an attitude to succeed, and
that being angry isn't the answer
for everyone. During duels, the
only people that aren't sitting
on the bench, outside of the next
wrestler waiting to compete,
are usually the coaches - and
Grajales. He takes an involved
role in the motivation of other
Wolverine wrestlers by standing
on the sideline and encouraging
them through the matches.
One standout example of this
was a moment shared between
the veteran and freshman
heavyweight Adam Coon. In a
meet last week against Purdue,
Coon was preparing to take the
mat and continue his undefeated
season. Seeing Coon looking
tense, Grajales stood up and made
his way to the anxious freshman.
"I wanted to give Coon a high-
five and congratulate him on how
well he's about to do," Grajales
said. "I know he's about to go out
there and do well, so I wanted to
make sure he's happy and knows
Coon took the win by more
than 10 points.
There are other leaders on the
team, but none have a greater
opportunity to affect the overall
outcome than Grajales does. As
a squad, one of the mosh crippling
problemsNo. 19 Michigan has had
this year is getting out to a solid
start early in meets, which puts
Grajales, who wrestles in the 149-
pound weight class, in a perfect
position to restore the calm for the
Wolverines. Time and time again
he has given the team the jump-
start that they need to come out
on top in matches.
Grajales, one of only two
seniors with a starting role, is ina
position that he didn't necessarily
anticipate coming into the season.
In early December, redshirt junior
and team captain Max Huntley
went down for the year with a torn
pectoral tendon. With only four
seniors on the team, somebody
needed to step up, and Grajales
was the answer.
it was going to be important for
Grajales to continue to lead the
way and spread his leadership
style to the young team.
The Wolverines are ranked
19th in the latest poll, but face
an immediate opportunity to
climb the ladder with four ranked
opponents on the schedule
over the next three weekends,
including No. 11 Illinois and No.
2 Minnesota this weekend. In a
month's time it should be fairly
clear just how well Grajales'
innovative leadership style is
leading the Wolverine charge.
With such a daunting confer-
ence schedule in the team's future,
the Wolverines can use a smile
wherever they can get it. Grajales
will be sure to provide just that.
from across pond
By REBECCA DZOMBAK well-groomed, smooth golf
Daily Sports Writer courses," Mannett said. "In
Europe, it's much rougher terrain.
Having helped the Michigan There are a lot more obstacles to
women's cross country team get around that can trip up your
to a fourth-place finish at the pace, and it's much hillier."
NCAA National Championships on top of that, the U.S. rac-
in November, sophomore Taylor ers had to run on a 4,000-meter
Mannett took her talents across course, as opposed to the stan-
the pond to compete in Scotland's dard 6,000-meter distance for
Bupa Great Edinburgh Challenge women's collegiate races. It may
on Jan. 11. not seem like much of a differ-
The Challenge is an annual ence, but for top-tier collegiate
international race which hosts a racers used to a 6K, 2,000 meters
number of countries. This year, make a huge difference, and dras-
Team USA competed against tically changes thier training.
Great Britain and the general After taking a week off after
category for Europe. the cross country season ended,
Mannett, who competed in Mannett and her Wolverine
the same race last year, was teammates began training for
pleasantly surprised when she the 5,000-meter and mile races
found out that she was one of - which incorporated a lot more
six women selected to represent speedwork than cross country
the United States for the junior training, and that speedwork is
field. The USA Track and Field essential when you only have
junior eligibility includes runners 4,000 meters to prove your mettle
ages 16 to 20, and runners are on foreign turf.
selected based on their season Despite these challenges, the
performance and standing. U.S. team did well. The terrain
"I wasn't sure if I was going to challenged the women to push
be picked again this year, since and help each other through
there are a lot of fast new people," the rough spots, and the faster
Mannett said. "But when they pace led them to think and react
told meI got itI was really happy quickly to the course and their
to be able to race internationally competition. Mannett and three
and represent the U.S. again." of her teammates finished within
Despite her 14th-place finish six seconds of each other.
in a time of 14:37, good for fifth "I definitely didn't do as well
on her team, the United States as I wanted to, but we had a nice
finished second of the three pack of three or four girls at the
international teams competing. finish, so that was good," Mannett
Mannett and her five team- said. "But for us in a race like this,
mates arrived in Scotland on Jan. it's kind of hard to place high up
9, allowing just two days for them because (European runners) are
to get acquainted - both person- in the middle of their season, so
ally and as runners. Because it they're at peak fitness right now,
takes years of training together to whereas we're taking time off or
truly develop close group dynam- building up for track."
ics, trying to build that same Though she did not rank as
dynamic in three days and two highly as she aimed to, Mannett
training runs is no small feat. returned to the States with a posi-
Apart from establishing good tive attitude, thankful to have had
group dynamics, the runners an opportunity not afforded to
had to contend with the terrain many athletes.
and style of the course, which "It's always an honor to be
followed traditional European chosen for something like this,"
standards for cross country. she said. "And it was great to get
"Almost all cross country another cross country race in and
courses (in the U.S.) are really to compete internationally."
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By Robin Stears
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