Feb. 6, 2013
The Minnesota men’s gymnastics team is splitting up this week.
Three members – Ellis Mannon, Zack Chase and Daniel DiBenedetto – are competing at the Winter Cup in Las Vegas, while the rest of the team heads south to Iowa for a meet against the Hawkeyes.
With three key Gophers in Las Vegas, head coach Mike Burns must fill 10 spots in the lineup against the Hawkeyes. Mannon typically competes in five events, while DiBenedetto participates in three and Chase two. Iowa will have two gymnasts at the Winter Cup.
“This meet is all about testing the water with some new guys in some new spots and getting experience,” said Burns. “It is kind of a challenge. We are going on the road with a little bit of a depleted lineup. If we can go down there and beat Iowa in their hometown, then that would be a real feather in our cap and would give our guys a lot of confidence.
“We are an interesting team because we do not have a superstar that everyone rallies around. Our identity is not based on one guy, so we still have some tough lineup decisions to make after losing these three guys.”
One Gopher that fans can expect to see in Iowa this weekend is Paul Montague, Jr., who is set to make his collegiate debut. The freshman injured his wrist in the fall and has quickly recovered and is poised to compete at Iowa
“We did not think he would be back this soon, but he is ready to go,” said Burns. “He is going to do rings and pommel horse and might do parallel bars. It will be good to see him compete because he has talent.”
In addition to getting some new faces into the lineup, this weekend will also allow the Gophers to get back on the road. When Minnesota next competes at the Sports Pavilion in March, the new rule of using only five gymnasts for each event will be in effect.
“It is always a challenge to go on the road, but will be a big challenge to go down there without three guys that we count on heavily to score some points,” said Burns. “It will be step-up time for the rest of the team. We need to get some experience on the road, as we are on the road the next three weeks.”
Burns, who will be Iowa this weekend and not Sin City, said the goals for his Vegas trio are simple in name only.
“Their main goal is to hit their routines and to try and make it to day two of the competition,” said Burns. “The second goal for them is to try to score enough points for them to try and make the national team.
Burns thinks all three have a chance to make it the second day of competition and said Mannon has the best chance to make the national team on pommel horse.
“He made second day as a freshman on the pommel horse after a career high score on the first day,” said Burns. “If Zack has a good vault and a good rings routine then he can make the second day. Danny as a freshman, he can hang in there in high bar. He just needs to go out and perform well and not worry about where he ends up.”