Feb. 2, 2014
By Ben Gotz, Athletic Communications Student Assistant
MINNEAPOLIS – The No. 7 Gophers grabbed their first win of the season Saturday night, as they defeated Big Ten Conference rivals No. 8 Illinois and No. 9 Nebraska in dramatic fashion. The Gophers improved their score from last week by over seven points, finishing with a team score of 435.000 ahead of Illinois (432.700) and Nebraska (420.700).
"When you beat teams as good as Illinois and Nebraska, it's a really satisfying feeling," head coach Mike Burns said.
Illinois and Nebraska both entered the meet in the top ten of the national rankings, and Illinois was ranked fourth in the latest coaches poll.
"It was kind of a signature win, I think," Burns said.
The meet was capped off by an enthralling finish, as the Gophers and the Illini were tied at 364.000 points apiece after five rotations. The meet came down to the Gophers on high bar against the Illini on the parallel bars.
In their moment of truth, an unexpected hero spurned the team to victory. Senior Sam Wright, an Iowa transfer who had not yet competed for the Gophers this season, set the Gophers' season high score on the high bar with a 14.600. The Gophers finished the event with a season high 71.000 points, more than enough to secure their victory over Illinois.
"It was awesome," Burns said of Wright's performance. "For him to get up there after two hours, warm up and nail a set, it was great."
Another huge individual performance came from senior Zack Chase, the meet’s Louis J. Cooke Award winner for outstanding performance, who posted a score above 15 in three different events, including a 15.100 in his first still rings performance of the season.
"He looked great tonight," Burns said on Chase. "It was kind of his coming out party tonight."
The Gophers' scores continued to climb as they have all year, with the team this time breaking the 430.000 mark for the first time in 2014. Burns certainly hopes that big score sent out a message.
"When you start making statements like this about who you are, word gets around that Minnesota is a team to be reckoned with," Burns said.
Even though there were only three teams officially competing Saturday night, activity was constant on all six events. The Gophers invited several prominent young gymnastics clubs to the Sports Pavilion so they could get a taste of the college gymnastics atmosphere.
"The future of all of our programs are based on these kids," Burns said. "For them to get a chance to be in this environment is really special."
The announced attendance at the Sports Pavilion was 618, nearly double that of the Gophers' last home meet against No. 1 Oklahoma.
Next week, the Gophers will travel to Colorado to take on the squad from the Air Force Academy. The meet will begin at 5 p.m. CT Saturday evening.
Meet Individual Event Champions:
Chandler Eggleston, Illinois – 15.450
Matt Foster, Illinois – 14.550
Mike Wilner, Illinois – 15.450
Chandler Eggleston, Illinois – 15.200
Steve Jaciuk, Minnesota – 14.950
Eric Scryver, Nebraska – 14.900
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