The University of Minnesotay men's gymnastics team was victorious over much-improved Iowa and Nebraska teams Saturday night in Iowa City.
"It seems like we brought the best out of our competition tonight with both teams scoring season highs against us," said head coach Mike Burns. "We ran into a much tougher, competitive environment than we expected. But these guys continue to prove to me that they are a team determined to find a way to win these meets."
The Gophers started on pommel horse and put up a solid 5 for 6 effort with Kit Beikmann posting the Gopher's high score of 14.2.
"Kit continues to build off his performance at the Winter Cup last week," Burns said. "Cole Storer did his best horse set of the year and posted a career high of 13.8 which was a great addition to our team score."
Minnesota then moved to the still rings where they posted their highest team score of the year with a 57.25.
"Our rings keep getting better with our execution and performance improving every week," Burns said. "Thomas O'Brien was our top guy tonight with a solid 14.50 score while fresman Russell Dabritz posted a 14.35."
The Gophers moved next to the floor exercise where Aaron Fortunato posted the top score for the Gophers with a 15.00, good for third place overall in the meet.
"Aaron did a great set on floor tonight and is really starting to establish himself as one of our steadier performers on floor exercise," said Burns.
Junior Andre Berry also saw action on floor as he continues to return to form after two off-season shoulder surgeries.
"Andre keeps making great strides in getting back to where he can show his talent level," said Burns. Berry posted a 14.25 which is a season high score.
The fourth rotation had the Gophers on the parallel bars, where they finished second as a team behind Nebraska with a team score of 55.90. Thomas O'Brien again posted the high score for the Gophers with a 14.50.
"Thomas continues to show improvements, not only in his skill level, but also in his ability to transfuse the ice-water into his veins and compete like someone we can all count on for a big score," said Burns.
Going into the last two events (high bar and vault), the Gophers were almost seven points behind Iowa, while staying a little more than points ahead of Nebraska.
"I knew we had a chance to win the meet with high bar and vault still not yet in the books," said Burns. "If we did a good job on high bar we could finish on the vault which is a high scoring event for us."
It played out exactly that way, with the Gophers winning the next two events with scores of 57.05 on high bar and 62.30 on the vault to post their second highest score of the year (345.90). Aaron Fortunato again was the anchor for the Gophers on the bar with a meet-winning score of 14.70. Colin McGuire also stepped up and posted his own season-high score of 14.35 on the high bar for a 3rd place finish on the night.
Going into the last event, Iowa had what seemed like an insurmountable lead of more than five points over the Gophers. However, the five Minnesota vaulters posted the second best team score of the year on vault and catapulted the Gophers to a four-point victory over the Hawkeyes and an almost 2.5-point victory over the Cornhuskers.
"This is the second come-from-behind victory we have had and while I'd prefer to be in the lead the whole meet, I have to commend these guys for never giving up throughout the entire meet, especially at the end when high bar and vault came through to seal the double victory," said Burns. "These will be very valuable lessons that these guys can tap into if the need arises down the road. This is another great example of having a strong finish to every meet,"
On the vault, Ali Aleiou led off with a 15.00, while Andre Berry and Cole Storer posted identical scores of 15.85. McGuire posted a 15.6 that gave the Gophers the meet-winning team total of 62.30.
"I was extremely proud of the fight these guys displayed during the meet," Burns said. "It's always tougher competing on the road, so to come away with two wins is a great tribute to the Gopher Men's Gymnastics team and its toughness."