Minnesota Hosts Nebraska, UIC

Go Gophers!
Steve Jaciuk.

Go Gophers!
Steve Jaciuk.
Go Gophers!

Jan. 31, 2013

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The Minnesota men’s gymnastics team welcomes Big Ten rival Nebraska and UIC to the Twin Cities this weekend for the John Roethlisberger Iceberg Invitational. The tri-meet begins at 7 p.m. on Saturday in the Sports Pavilion.  

Minnesota, which is ranked No. 6 in the nation, enters the meet following a 430.600 - 404.450 win against Air Force in the annual Hall of Fame Meet last Saturday. This weekend will be the first time that Minnesota will see No. 9 Nebraska and the second time that the Gophers will compete against UIC. The Gophers finished fourth out of sixth at the UIC-hosted Windy City Invitational two weeks ago. Joining Minnesota and UIC in that meet were Big Ten stalwarts Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois and Iowa.

After this weekend, the only Big Ten team that Minnesota will not have seen will be No. 1 Penn State. The Gophers host top-ranked Penn State on March 23.

“Nebraska is going to be a little bit more of a challenge this weekend then what we have had so far,” said head coach Mike Burns. “They have been scoring pretty well and are a capable team. We have a pretty good rivalry with the Cornhuskers that has been going on for a pretty long time, so we are excited to have them in town. UIC is coming in as well, so it should be a good battle between three good teams.”

Burns has been pleased with Minnesota’s performance and progression this year and is looking for the Gophers to take another step forward this weekend.

“I am really looking forward to our guys stepping up and seeing if we can improve upon what we did last week,” said Burns. “We were about 82 hit percentage last week and we did not hit 80 percent until March last year. I am really pleased with where the guys are right now. Last week we were trying to see if we could count no missed routines and we counted three. That is another number we are trying to improve upon. If we can, we will be happy with the outcome regardless of who wins the meet.”

Every coach would like to see a hit rate of 100 percent, but that is not always realistic. Burns said in all his years of coaching he has only had one team accomplish that feat. A goal of 90 percent is still lofty, but one that is more in line with college gymnastics according to Burns.

“We would be really pleased if we could hit 90 percent,” said the coach.  

The Gophers will head into Saturday’s meet with some question marks in their lineup. Spencer Smith, who competed in the high bar last weekend, has a toe injury, while Michael Farquhar, who was second for the Gophers on the rings against Air Force with a 14.900, is sick.

“Michael was a big part of our rings success last week,” said Burns. “If he is not able to go we will put Sean Bauer or Paul Montague in there. Paul has not competed this year, as he is coming off a wrist injury in the fall.”

Outside of dealing with injuries and illness, Burns said the Gophers have been sharp this week in practice after a sluggish Monday workout.

“Monday was a little bit sluggish coming off the meet on Saturday,” said Burns. “Tuesday and Wednesday were really good workouts. The guys looked like they were rested and it looks like our strength training is right on track. They looked very capable yesterday and we are hoping that will translate into a great performance Saturday night.”

In addition to the tri-meet this weekend, a highlight on Saturday will be the John Roethlisberger Iceberg Invitational, which is a premier junior event. Competition takes place all day Friday at the Sport Pavilion and then the event finals are held in conjunction with the collegiate meet on Saturday.

“The juniors will be competing on all six events,” said Burns. “It is like an event finals for them. It is a really neat way for the kids to compete in a college-like setting and a nice way for us to promote college gymnastics and show them how awesome it is.”