THIS WEEK: The sixth-ranked University of Minnesota men’s gymnastics team will travel to Iowa City, Iowa this weekend. The Gophers will take part in a tri-meet with Iowa and Nebraska Saturday. The meet will begin at 7 p.m. at the University of Iowa Field House.
THE OPPONENTS: The host Iowa Hawkeyes enter this weekend’s meet ranked No. 14 in the nation. Iowa is averaging 325.667 for the season, which is almost a full 20 points fewer than Minnesota’s current average. Nebraska enters this weekend with a No. 9 national ranking and an average score of 334.900. That average is more than 10 full points fewer than the Gophers’ average.
GOPHER POLL: Minnesota has moved to No. 6 in the NCAA/GymInfo rankings. The Gophers were No. 7 prior to their last team competition, a victory over Penn State, which is currently ranked No. 4. The Gophers were ranked No. 8 in the preseason coaches’ poll and have been ranked as high as No. 5 this season.
BAR NONE: So far in the 2009 season, the Golden Gophers have proven to be one of the best teams in the nation on the high bar. Minnesota is averaging a 56.683 score on the apparatus, which currently ranks them No. 3 in the nation. The Gophers are pretty good when two bars are involved, as well. They rank No. 5 on the parallel bars with an average score of 57.133.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS: The 2009 NCAA Championships will be held on campus at the University of Minnesota. The 2009 national title will be decided at the Sports Pavilion April 16-18. Tickets are available at www.GopherSports.com or by calling 1.800.UGOPHER.
IT’S A RING THING: Minnesota is in the top five in the nation as a team on five of the six events that comprise a men’s gymnastics meet. The Gophers even rank in the top three on the high bar. The one apparatus where Minnesota is struggling is the still rings. The Gophers rank ninth in the nation in the latest rankings for still rings. The Gophers don’t have a single gymnast ranked among the top 20 in the nation on the rings, while they have at least one ranked on every other apparatus.
STORER STRONG: Junior Cole Storer (Plano, Texas) ranks in the top 10 nationally in two different events and is the only Gopher who can lay claim to that accomplishment at this point in the season. Storer ranks No. 5 on the vault and No. 8 on the high bar. In addition, junior Aaron Fortunato (Bedford, Ohio) and Adam Reichow (Jr., Eden Prairie, Minn.) are both in the top 20 in the nation in two different events. Fortunato ranks No. 9 on the parallel bars and No. 13 on the high bar. Reichow is No. 9 on the floor exercise and No. 20 on the vault.
HORSING AROUND: The Gophers enjoyed their best pommel horse in the tenure of head coach Mike Burns during the quad meet with Arizona State, Washington and Calgary on Jan. 24. Minnesota put together a 57.450 score, which was a full point better than the school record in the open-ended scoring record books. Junior Thomas O’Brien (Westfield, N.J.) led the charge on the horse, tallying a career-best 14.850 score. Senior Kit Beikmann (Brighton, Colo.) was also knocking on the door of a 15.000 last week, scoring 14.800.
BURNS BITES: Quotes from Gopher head coach Mike Burns:
On the victory over Penn State back on Jan. 31:
“It wasn’t the prettiest win, but it was a win. Any time you get a win, you’ve got to be happy. Penn State is a very solid, highly-ranked team. We just told our guys they’re going to come in here and try to steal something from you and you better not let them take it home. Our kids did the job. They were good enough to take the win and that’s good enough for us.”
On the Winter Cup:
“Kit (Beikmann) and Guillermo (Alvarez) competed extremely well at the Winter Cup. It’s a real pleasure to have guys compete the way they did. The final rankings for Kit on pommel horse and Guillermo in the all-around are a tribute to the hard work and dedication these guys put in daily.”
On the Iowa/Nebraska Meet This Weekend:
“After a week off from team competition the guys are really hungry to get back into a meet with the entire team. It will be a challenge for us on the road. I feel like we are the better team though and we plan on continuing our strong performances that we have had thus far this season. Iowa and Nebraska are two teams that we meet every year and the rivalry between our programs goes back a long way. Tom Dunn and Francis Allen are two of the most highly-respected coaches in collegiate gymnastics.”
COACH BURNS: Mike Burns is in his fifth season as head coach of the Minnesota men’s gymnastics team. In 2007 the Gophers began to make the kind of moves Burns envisioned when he arrived in the Twin Cities. Competing in the toughest gymnastics conference in the nation, the Gophers posted an impressive third-place finish at the Big Ten Championships. Two weeks later the squad advanced to the team finals at the NCAA Championships, where it recorded a sixth-place finish. It was the first time Minnesota had advanced to the team finals at the NCAA meet since 1990. The Gophers narrowly missed the team finals last season, but have their designs set on a team finals appearance in their home gym in 2009. Burns was named 2007 Big Ten Coach of the Year and was also selected as the 2007 USA Gymnastics Men’s Coach of the Year. In 2005, his first year as the Gopher’s head coach, Burns coached Guillermo Alvarez to the Nissen-Emery Award, which is given to the nation’s top senior gymnast. It was only the third time a Gopher gymnast had earned the prestigious award and the first time it had happened since 1993. Burns is currently serving as the President of the Collegiate Gymnastics Association. A native of Norwood, Mass., Burns came to Minnesota from Michigan, where he served as an assistant men’s coach from 1997-2004. Burns received the National Assistant Coach of the Year award in 1999, while helping lead Michigan to the 1999 NCAA Championship. He earned the same honor in 2000, after leading the Wolverines to the second of two-consecutive Big Ten team titles. During his tenure at Michigan, he coached five national champions, 37 All-Americans, and 14 Big Ten champions. Burns is a 1981 graduate of Penn State.