March 28, 2014
LINCOLN, Neb. – The No. 5 Golden Gophers competed in the team finals and all-around competition at the 2014 Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Championships Friday night. Minnesota finished fifth in the team standings with 429.150 points.
Michigan won the team title with 448.200 points, followed by Ohio State (441.050) and Penn State (438.000) to round out the top three teams. The Wolverines' title marked their second consecutive crown and 17th overall.
Four Gophers advanced to Saturday's individual event finals. Junior Steve Jaciuk (parallel bars and high bar) advanced in two events, while Ellis Mannon will represent Minnesota on pommel horse, Jack Metcalf will compete on still rings and senior Zack Chase will compete on vault.
Mannon placed sixth in the all-around with a 85.700, while Michigan's Sam Mikulak, the B1G all-around defending champion, ran away with the 2014 all-around crown with 93.700 points. Mikulak defeated second-place all-arounder Sean Melton of Ohio State by 3.950 points.
Jaciuk scored Minnesota's highest score of the B1G meet on the final routine of the evening. The Gophers' captain scored a season-best 15.350 on parallel bars for fourth place.
After a rocky start on their first two events on high bar (68.950) and floor exercise (71.500), the Gophers rebounded with stronger performances as the meet continued, including their highest team score of the night, a 73.550 on still rings.
"The best thing about the night was that the guys did not give up," head coach Mike Burns said. "They kept fighting. Nobody threw in the towel when things looked a bit bleak at the beginning of the meet, so that was a really good thing to see. They kept fighting, and they really came through. We saw that every tenth of a point counts, that's for sure."
The Gophers started off the B1G meet on high bar where they were led by Jaciuk (14.700) and senior Sam Wright (14.400). The second rotation saw Minnesota head to floor exercise. Chase led the way with a 14.900 to tie for ninth overall.
"We had a rough start on our first two events tonight," Burns said. "We had one miss on high bar, and our execution was a little bit on the weak side. Floor, which usually is a really good event for us, was not very strong tonight. We were bouncing around a lot, and our landings were not very solid."
The Gophers used their third-rotation bye to regroup and headed to pommel horse for the fourth rotation. Mannon scored a 15.000 to lead the Gophers in a tie for fourth place, and seniors Steffen Beck and John Scallon each earned scores of 14.050. Mannon's 15.000 and Scallon's 14.050 both marked their second-best pommel horse scores of the season.
Still rings was the Gophers' strongest event of the evening as Minnesota posted a team score of 73.550 in the fifth rotation. Metcalf led the way, tying his career best with a 15.200 to tie for sixth place. Paul Montague, Jr. also earned a career-high score at 14.900, and Chase picked up a 14.650.
"Rings was really good for us tonight," Burns said. "We started getting back on track. Jack did a great job and tied his career best with a 15.200 and made the finals. Jack stuck his dismount, but the rest of the guys had some little hops. Again, we just couldn't quite put together the top-notch routines we needed."
Minnesota scored a 73.250 on vault in the sixth rotation. Chase led the Gophers, scoring a 15.250 to tie for third place. Mannon picked up a career-best 14.800 on vault as well.
"After vault, we had one event left and we were watching the scoreboard," Burns said. "We knew we were out of the realm of winning the meet, but at that point we knew we had to keep fighting. It was a battle between us, Iowa and Nebraska.
"The guys did a nice job on the last event, parallel bars. We were happy to see Nate Fortunato hit his routine. He replaced Danny DiBenedetto in the line up and earned his second-highest score of his life with a stuck dismount, so that was a great start. It was great to see Paul come back with good routines on rings and p-bars after he struggled on pommel horse early on, too."
The Gophers wrapped up the meet with a 72.950 on parallel bars. Jaciuk scored the Gophers' highest score of the B1G meet on the final routine of the night with a season-high 15.350. Montague (14.700) and Matt Frey (14.650) also posted solid scores for Minnesota in the final rotation after Fortunato started the rotation with a 13.700.
The B1G championships continue with four Gophers competing in the individual event finals on Saturday. Action gets underway at 4 p.m. CT, and fans can watch live on the Big Ten Network.
All seven Big Ten squads entered the conference championships ranked in the latest GymInfo Top 15 poll. Ohio State leads the way at No. 2, followed by No. 4 Michigan, No. 5 Minnesota, No. 6 Illinois and No. 7 Penn State. Iowa and Nebraska are ranked No. 8 and No. 11, respectively.
Gophers Advancing to Individual Event Finals
Zack Chase, 15.250, tied for third
Ellis Mannon, 15.000, tied for fourth
Jack Metcalf, 15.200, tied for sixth
Steve Jaciuk, 15.350, fourth
Steve Jaciuk, 14.700, tied for 10th
2014 B1G Men's Gymnastics Final Standings
1. Michigan, 448.200
2. Ohio State, 441.050
3. Penn State, 438.000
4. Illinois, 435.350
5. Minnesota, 429.150
6. Nebraska, 428.150
7. Iowa, 425.600
Wittenberg's NCAA Address
Alex Wittenberg was chosen as the student-athlete representative for the 2016 Men's Gymnastics NCAA Championships.
Gophers Finish Sixth at NCAA Championships
Minnesota tallied four All-America finishes and its best team finish in nine years.
Gophers Advance to NCAA Day 2
Minnesota finished second in Session 1 and is guaranteed its highest NCAA finish since 2007.