Gophers Set to Open at Windy City Invite
Jan. 15, 2014
By: Ben Gotz, Athletic Communications Student Assistant
MINNEAPOLIS – The No. 9 Minnesota men’s gymnastics team heads off to Chicago for the Windy City Invitational, marking their official start to the regular season this Saturday. The meet, hosted by the University of Illinois-Chicago, begins at 7:30 p.m. CT.
About the Windy City Invitational
The Windy City Invitational has been running for 44 years, which makes it the nation’s oldest and largest regular season meet. The Gophers will face almost all of the Big Ten Conference teams (all but Penn State and Nebraska), which will serve as an early test to determine how they stack up within the conference. The Gophers had their dress rehearsal for the season in the annual alumni meet, but now the scores really count.
Alumni Meet Recap
The Gophers lost to the alumni team last weekend 423.1 to 422.0, marking the 47th year in a row the alumni gymnasts have defeated the current Gopher squad. Despite the loss, the Gophers had several good performances. Head coach Mike Burns was very pleased with how his team competed.
The Louis J. Cooke Award for the meet’s top performer was shared between freshmen Zach Liebler and junior captain Steve Jaciuk. Liebler contributed in multiple events in his first meet as a Gopher, and Jaciuk posted the second highest score of the day with a 15.0 on high bar. Other notable performances for the Gophers included senior Zach Chase, who posted the highest score of the day with a 15.1 on vault.
Previously in Chicago...
The Gophers finished fourth at the 2013 Windy City Invitational with a score of 425.75. Winning the meet was Michigan, followed by Illinois and Ohio State rounding out the top three. Iowa and host UIC finished behind the Gophers.
Minnesota tied for first place on high bar despite only having five gymnasts compete in the event. At that time, six gymnasts would have competed with the five best scores counting, but being one person short meant the Gophers had to hit all of their routines. The Gophers did not flinch under the added pressure. Another high point of the meet was Sean Bauer’s floor exercise routine, which was the Gophers' highest score of the meet at 15.2.
Only two of the Gophers' opponents this weekend have already begun competition, as Illinois and UIC opened up their seasons facing each other in Chicago last weekend. Illinois won the meet 413.1 to 393.45 on Sunday, behind some remarkable performances by a number of gymnasts. Mike Wilner of Illinois posted a score of 15.4 in the still rings, while teammate Chandler Eggleston earned a 15.25 in the vault.
Gophers in the National Rankings
The Gophers are not ranked in the GymInfo National Rankings since they have yet to compete, but they remained ninth in this week's GymInfo National Coaches Poll, maintaining their ranking from the preseason.
Since Illinois and UIC have already competed, they are both in the current national rankings, with Illinois ranked seventh and UIC ranked 10th. The coaches poll contains several teams the Gophers will compete against this week in No. 3 Michigan, No. 6 Ohio State, No. 7 Illinois, No. 11 Iowa and No. 13 UIC. Also in the coaches poll are fellow Big Ten teams Penn State (No. 4) and Nebraska (No. 8).
After the Gophers compete in the Windy City Invitational, they will return home to the Sports Pavilion to host two straight meets. In its home-opening meet, Minnesota will host No. 13 UIC and No. 1 Oklahoma. The Sooners are currently ranked first in the national rankings and the coaches poll. Oklahoma competed at the Rocky Mountain Open last weekend and will host Air Force this weekend before coming to Minnesota.