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April 14, 2014 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-04-14

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2B - April 14, 2014

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

28 - April 14, 2014 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Friday, the night Superman fell

On the horizontal bar,
the full-twisting double
back release requires the
gymnast to release both hands
and perform two backflips and a
360-degree twist above the bar
before regrasping the bar.
All of this is to say:
Gymnastics is unlike almost any
other sport on campus in that
you or I could never execute any
of the skills
Any of
them. You
can throwa
javelin. Not
far - but
you can
throw a ZACH
javelin. You HELFAND
can catch
a football.
You can
make a jump shot. You can swim
and run and kick and swing.
You cannot do a full-twisting
double back release. I couldn't
even do a swing around the bar.
And that is precisely what
has made Sam Mikulak the best
athlete on campus for the past
four years. He has the individual
titles: seven of them now, tied
for the most in NCAA men's
gymnastics history. He has won
three all-around titles. He has
been a part of two team national
titles. This alone makes him one
of the most successful Michigan
athletes of all time.
But it's the way he has done
all of this - in skills that most
others can't even dream of
performing - that ismost
impressive. And his command
of these skills is unmatched in
college gymnastics.
The full-twisting double back
release isn't Mikulak's alone or
even his trademark skill. There
is now a skill on the pommel
horse officially called the
"Mikulak." This skill isn't like
that. But it's Mikulak's mastery
of it - of all his skills, really -
that sets him apart.

Senior gymnast Sam Mikulak, star of the Michigan men's gymnastics team, fell to the mat Friday, but he recovered and the Wolverines took the title the next night.

Golder called the "domino effect."
"One guy goes up and misses,
and then the next guy misses,"
Golder said. "It's really hard to
get turned around sometimes."
And then Michigan had its
lowest score of the night on the
horizontal bar, and Mikulak
was up to turn it around as
he always does, and then he
dropped his feet down too low
and held onto the bar too long,
and he missed the bar and
disaster struck.
Now, everything was in
"He never misses," Golder
said of Mikulak. But Mikulak
had just missed.
Oklahoma was now within
striking distance of Michigan's
team score. Stanford's excellent
freshman Akash Modi was
now .100 off Mikulak's once
unassailable all-around lead.
The Wolverines watched
Mikulak's routine from yards
away. When he fell, some put
their hands over their heads.
Some turned away.
Remember that depth? Next
up: Hub Humphrey, a junior
from Kalamazoo, Mich. who
only competed on the floor. He
was coming in cold.
The dominoes were falling.
Could Humphrey stop gravity?
He hit his routine. The
dominoes stopped.
Then Tristian Perez-Rivera
hit too, and so did Syque Caesar,
and so did Stacey Ervin, who
was competing with a torn bicep.
All that was left was Mikulak,
and it was all over then for
Oklahoma and for Modi and for
anyone else.
Sam Mikulak had fallen. And
now it was over because he got
back up.
Helfand can be reached
at zhelfand@umich.edu or
on Twitter @zhelfand.

After the national
championship meet on Friday,
a meet that would determine
the team champion and the
all-around champion, Mikulak
estimated that he had gone two
months without missingthat
And that was why it was such
a shock to everyone at a raucous
Crisler Center Friday when Sam
Mikulak - star of collegiate
gymnastics, defier of gravity,
master of the full-twisting
double back - released the bar
and performed two backflips
and a 360-degree twist and
then missed the bar and fell to
the mat.
For Michigan, repeat national
championships are rarer than
positive rushing plays in a
football game.
The men's gymnastics team

entered Friday with a chance to
become the school's first repeat
champion in any sport since the
trampoline team (seriously) in
So how did Michigan reach
this point?
"Our first two years went
horribly," Mikulak said,
referring to the 2011 and 2012
seasons. "We lost too many
In two years, they recognized,
the team would be loaded
with upperclassmen - 19 of
25 gymnasts on the roster this
season are juniors or seniors. So
they regrouped, and they started
a mantra, "MGymDynasty,"
which they plastered all over
social media.
This wasn't just a struggling
team's plan to improve. This
was a strategy for dominance.
Michigan wanted multiple
"We let every single team out

there know that this is what
we're going for," said Syque
Caesar, a graduate student and
the first Michigan athlete to win
three national championships.
"Sure, other teams might
laugh at it, but it was a tangible
Michigan's secret is its depth,
a product of its experienced
roster. In postseason team
competition, five gymnasts
must compete in each of the six
disciplines. All five scores count.
One low score can tank the meet.
The Wolverines went
30-0 this season because
little separates their best
gymnasts from their worst.
Mark Williams, the coach of
Michigan's top challenger,
Oklahoma, said he knew his
gymnasts would have to hit on
all 30 of their routines Friday to
have a shot at Michigan and the
The Sooners, though, were

less than perfect on the parallel
bars, and Michigan was
nearly flawless on the pommel
horse, the trickiest of the six
disciplines. One rotation in,
Michigan just needed to hold on.
Mikulak went last in all
the rotations. Each time,
his presence either added
an exclamation point to a
successful rotation or stopped
the bad momentum before it
spread. He stuck his pommel
horse landing. He had a
solid routine on rings. When
Michigan showed its first
cracks on the vault, Mikulak
stuck the landing. Michigan
coach Kurt Golder, usually
reserved, gave a big fist pump.
On the parallel bars, no one
had stuck a double pike to that
point. Mikulak did, of course.
He scored a 16.050 - tied (with
himself) for the highest score of
the night.
The only worry was what

Michigan loses to Buckeyes

By MINH DOAN showed exactly why, tallying
DailySports Writer six on the day.
"Our mistakes defensively
Coming out of the locker usually come from
room at halftime of Ohio State's inexperience," Paul said.
annual "Showdown at the Shoe," "Where one guy is out of position
which and we don't communicate with
took place MICHIGAN 6 each other."
before the OHIO STATE 15 While the second half was a
Buckeyes' train wreck for the Wolverines,
spring football game Saturday, the first went much better.
the Michigan men's lacrosse The game started with the
team found itself tied with Ohio teams trading pairs of goals,
State, 6-6. including one from freshman
Butwith 1:40 gone in the attacker Ian King, his team-
second half, Buckeye attacker leading 24th of the year.
Carter Brown rifled a shot into Michigan then raced out
the back of the net. to a 5-2 lead with goals from
And then Ohio State scored sophomore Kyle Jackson,
again. And again. And again. sophomore midfielder Riley
And the Wolverines (1-3 Eastern Kennedy and redshirt freshman
College Athletic Conference, David Joseph. Joseph, especially,
4-9 overall) were unable to showed offhis speed as he carried
answer. the ball down the field, outran his
The Buckeyes (2-0, 5-6) defender and beat the goalie with
scored nine unanswered goals a bounce shot.
in the second half en route to a But Ohio State came back
dominant 15-6 victory. with a three-goal run of its
Ohio State's second-half own, tying the score, before
offensive outpour wiped away freshman midfielder Mikie
what was a good first half for Schlosser rounded out the
Michigan. Wolverine scoring with a rifle
The nine-goal run by the from the point.
Buckeyes was highlighted by "We were just playing pretty
attacker Jesse King's 23rd and good lacrosse in the first half,"
24thgoals of the season, leading Paul said. "We were varying
the team in scoring. King is our shots, and we were clearing
10th in points nationally, and very well."

While there weren't many
Wolverines who could say they
had a good game, freshman
goaltender Robbie Zonino was
phenomenal in the cage.
Zonino had 15 saves, many
of them acrobatic, even though
Ohio State dominated most of
the offensive posessions.
"Robbie played great," Paul
said. "He had a couple clearing
mistakes, but he saved us a lot
of times, which is what a good
goalie should do."
One of the biggest themes
of Michigan's season has been
inconsistency. After playing
one good half and one bad half
last week against Fairfield, the
Wolverines repeated that same
performance this week.With the
four-team ECAC Tournament
looming, Michigan will have
to curb the inconsistency if
it wants a chance to win the
conference title.
"Last year, at this time,
we lose a game and we had
nothing to play for other than
pride," Paul said. "This year
is different, and anything can
happen in the ECAC.
Exlusive coverage of all 27
varsity sports
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throughout the week

From Page 1B
Though st
competition on
hardest events
horse - the We
the early lead anc
back. Mikulak pa
with a score of
event - good eno
first. Michigan a
of 14.950s from
junior Nick
Hunter and
senior Matt
Freeman on its
way to a total
score of 75.100.
horse is the
most difficult
event to perforn
said. "But I h
confidence in thi
actually our me
event, and that's
you go out and st,
horse and hit i
takes the pressur
Added Mikula
very confidentr
team, and we wan

one out of the way, and we did
it with a bang. And that's just
the way you want to start the
National Championship."
arting the On its third rotation of the
one of the night, vault, Michigan made
- pommel uncharacteristic errors that
olverines took seemingly opened the door for
d never looked competitors to get back into
aced Michigan contention. But the Wolverines
15.600 in the slammed that door shut on the
tugh to tie for next rotation, parallel bars.
ilso got a pair Mikulak once again led
with ascore of
"Once Stacey .050 - only
.050 less than
hit, we knew we the NC
record, set
had it." by Mikulak
*himself two
weeks ago
at the Big
o on," Golder Ten Championships. Graduate
ave a lot of student Syque Caesar and
s team. That's Hunter, with scores of 15.200
ost consistent and 15.050, respectively, also
very rare. So if contributed to the overall score
art on pommel of 75.95 - the highest of any
ke we did, it team competing.
e off." "You know you're going to
k: "We have a have adversity, and we talked
pommel horse about this quite a bit, and you
nted to get that just have to handle everything,"

Golder said. "We had that fall
onrvault'and the rest of the guys
stepped up and we moved to the
next event (parallel bars), and
we hita grand slam and a home-
The Wolverines sealed the
championship with perhaps
their best performance of the
night in the sixth and final
rotation on floor exercise. Junior
Hub Humphrey, participating
in his first event of the night,
set the tone for Michigan with a
score of15.15.
Junior Stacey Ervin,
competing despite a torn bicep,
topped Humphrey's routine
with a score of 15.30. But Ervin,
too, was upstaged, as Mikulak's
16.05 was the highest on the
night on floor exercise by .50
"We are very consistent on
floor and once we got three hits
out of the way, our two big guys,
Stacey and Sam, finishing off
the meet, we knew it," Caesar
said. "Once Stacey hit, we knew
we had it.
"It just made it all that
much better when Sam stuck
the dismount, and we all went

From Page 1B

stuck dismount and a National
Championship, it's like you
couldn't have written the script
any better."

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Crisler filled with deafening But across the gym, a whole
sound. He had other plotline
done it. He had played out
gone down in " o c ,n for graduate
history. You couldn't student
"It was really have written the Syque Caesar.
special for Sam The walk-
to finish last script any better." on-turned-
night with a captain went
stuck dismount into his two
for the team events -
and to win high bar and
the NCAA Championship," said parallel bars - just hoping to hit
Michigan gymnastics coach Kurt his routines.
Golder. "And then he finished on the parallel bars, Caesar
the individual final with a stuck his dismount and earned a

15.385 He finished third in the
He was then rushedtothe high
bar, where he had no time to put
on his protective grips. It didn't
seem to faze him. He received a
14.975 for his strong routine and
an almost-stuck dismount, good
enough for fifth place.
Michigan's four gymnasts,
who competed on Saturday had
endured three tough days of
competition, a repeated title,
little to no sleep and still managed
to take home more hardware and
seven All-American certificates.
The night ended with the
two standing together on the
podium: the David and Goliath of
collegiate gymnastics.


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