IOWA CITY, Iowa - The No. 10 University of Minnesota men's gymnastics team earned their highest score of the 2015 season and a second place finish against No. 9 Iowa and No. 11 Nebraska on Saturday evening in Iowa City, Iowa.
Minnesota's 433.600 was bested by host Iowa who tallied a strong 435.400 while Nebraska finished behind Minnesota for the second weekend in a row with a final score of 420.250. The Gophers won two team events on the night while Gophers occupied the top spot on five of the six events.
"Tonight's meet was a tough loss for us since we actually had our best performance of the year on the road," said Minnesota head coach Mike Burns. "We we're leading our two opponents for the first four events with some great team and individual performances. We were sitting in good shape with a lead over both Iowa and Nebraska after four events but we ran into a buzz saw at high bar and relinquished the lead to Iowa that they never let go of. I'd say we ran into a little more adversity than we bargained for on high bar and out the nail in our own coffin. Iowa widened their lead in the last rotation and we finished a close second with our highest score of the the season. It was a bitter pill to swallow when our goal was to come down to Iowa and come away with two victories. We did beat Nebraska for the second time in two weeks but Iowa now has beaten us twice this year. We will get one more chance at Iowa at our last home meet in early March and I know it will be a real barn burner."
The Big Ten tri-meet in Iowa City was streamed on BTN2Go and will play on tape delay on Sunday, Feb. 15 at 11 a.m. CT.
Senior All-American and reigning NCAA pommel horse champion, Ellis Mannon, showcased his best routine of the season on pommel horse to earn his first event title of 2015. Mannon, who recorded a 15.200 on the evening, was followed by Iowa's Doug Sullivan (15.150) and Elijah Parsells (14.750). Junior co-captain Paul Montague Jr. punched Minnesota's second highest score with a 14.500, good enough for fourth place on the event.
"Jack Kramer lead us off with a solid routine on pommel horse and finally cracked into the 14's with a 14.050," said Burns. "Ellis Mannon won the event with a great set and a season high score of 15.200. We finally broke the 70 barrier with a team score of 71.200. It was nice to see the guys finally put together a solid performance on horse."
Montague continued to soar as he and freshman Mitchell Soukup each recorded a 15.050 on still rings to earn second place on the event. Seniors Steve Jaciuk and Jack Metcalf both scored 15.000 to round out the Top 5. The team put together the best pommel horse score of the season, 74.350, to win the event.
"We got some great output on still rings and Mitchell Soukup got us out of the gates fast with a career best 15.050 as our first man up." said Burns. "Jack Metcalf, Paul Montague and Steve Jaciuk all followed Mitchell's lead and score 15.000 or higher. We hit a season high team score on rings which is a promising sign."
Bauer earned his second event title on the night when he posted a score of 14.850 on vault. He shared the event title with Nebraska's Kyle King. Metcalf was the only other Gopher to break into the Top 10 scores on the event boasting a 14.300 for tenth place. As a team, the Gophers scored a 71.400.
Jaciuk excelled on parallel bars as he scored a 15.150 to pace the competition. Iowa's Matt Loochtan and Jack Boyle tied for second place on the apparatus, each recording a 14.800. Freshman Tristan Duran broke into the top five as he landed in a tie for fourth after posting a solid 14.700. Minnesota would finish the event with an overall score of 72.400.
Jaciuk would earn the Gophers' fourth individual event title of the meet and his second on the night as he and Cory Paterson of Iowa earned a 14.900 on the high bar. The event marked the Gophers' lowest score of the meet, 70.300. Danny DiBendetto and Joel Gagnon rounded out the top five scoring a 14.450 and 14.400 respectively.
Minnesota shined on floor exercise scoring a season-high 73.950 overall. Sophomore Zach Liebler returned to the lineup for the Maroon and Gold and tied for first place overall on the event with senior Sean Bauer. The duo each scored a 15.000, a season-high mark for each, to pace the competition. Nebraska's Chris Stephenson tallied a 14.950 to round out the top three.
"It was great to see Zach back in the lineup after sitting out the first part of the season with an injury," said Burns.
Minnesota will take a week hiatus as select members of the squad will compete in the Winter Cup Challenge. The event is invitation only and is not sanctioned by the NCAA. The event kicks off in Las Vegas, Nev. On Thursday, Feb. 19. The Winter Cup Challenge finals will be held on Saturday, Feb. 21. More information will be available early next week regarding the event.
The Gophers will resume team competition the following weekend as The Gophers travel to Palo Alto, Calif. to compete against Stanford, Cal and the national teams from both Japan and Canada on Saturday, Feb. 28. The meet is set to begin at 4:00 p.m. CT.
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