THIS WEEK: The eighth-ranked Minnesota men’s gymnastics team hosts its first tri-meet of the season, welcoming No. 9 Temple and No. 10 Nebraska to the Sports Pavilion. Live statistics will be available on www.gophersports.com throughout the competition, which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
A LOOK AT THE GOPHERS: With the Gopher squad idle last weekend, Minnesota should be a well-rested team as the Gophers step back into competition this weekend against Nebraska and Temple. Mitchell Mays, who continues to lead the nation on vault, has also been the Gophers’ top performer on rings and one of Minnesota’s best on parallel bars. Mays holds the top four vault scores for the team this year. The Gophers have also received solid contributions from senior team captains Sergei Dmitriev and Steve Vuong, with Dmitriev posting Minnesota’s top score on parallel bars this season. Vuong, meanwhile, is the only Gopher to break 14.500 this year on rings besides Mays. Kit Beikmann enters the week ranked No. 4 nationally on pommel horse and has been far and away Minnesota’s top performer in that event with four of the team’s top five scores. Cole Storer has also been a consistent performer for the Gophers. The sophomore owns the team’s No. 2 score on floor exercise and has registered Minnesota’s top two performances of the year on high bar. Minnesota’s top all-arounder is Aaron Fortunato. He hit a season-high point total of 85.250 in the Gophers’ most recent competition and also owns the squad’s best score on floor with his 15.150 at Penn State. Michael Hillin competed in the all around in the dual with Illinois-Chicago (2/23), and earned an 81.850 in his first career all around appearance. Andre Berry, one of Minnesota’s top performers on vault, and Colin McGuire, who owns solid scores on floor, vault and high bar this season, have been strong contributors as well.
THE LAST TIME OUT: Sophomore Aaron Fortunato scored a season-high to win the all-around and sophomore Colin McGuire recorded wins on both floor exercise and high bar to lead the No. 8-ranked Minnesota men’s gymnastics team to a 345.000-330.700 victory over No. 13 Illinois-Chicago on Feb. 16. The 345.00 points were a season high for Minnesota, which combined to win five of the six team events, while claiming individual event winners on floor, pommel horse, vault, parallel bars and high bar. “This was definitely our best meet of the year,” head coach Mike Burns said. “I was really pleased with how the guys performed and the confidence they displayed. It really showed up on the pommel horse, where we had a season-high score by a couple of points. We really came out ready to go.”
HUSKERS REPORT: The No. 10-ranked Huskers are 0-6 on the road this season and will be hunting for their first road win against the Gophers and the Owls on this weekend. NU enters Saturday’s competition after posting a team mark of 341.150 in its loss to No. 1 Stanford (357.600) on Feb. 16.
OWLS REPORT: Temple is currently ranked No. 9 in the GymInfo National Rankings. In their last compeition, the Owls (10-1) finished with a score of 338.850, narrowly besting Illinois-Chicago (337.100) and host Army (331.700) on Feb. 23 for their sixth consecutive victory.
POLL POSITION: The Golden Gophers remained at No. 8 in this week’s edition of the GymInfo National Rankings. Five of six Big Ten teams continue to be ranked among the nation’s top 10 this week, with Penn State dropping to the No. 2 spot for the first time this season. Illinois is listed at No. 5, Michigan is No. 6, Ohio State is No. 7, and Iowa is No. 11. In the event rankings, the Gophers’ highest ranking is No. 3 on vault. Minnesota is also ranked in the top 10 on high bar (No. 8), pommel horse (No. 8), parallel bars (No. 8), and floor exercise (No. 9), and sits just outside the top 10 as the nation’s No. 11 team on still rings.
RANKED GOPHERS: Five Minnesota gymnasts are listed in the national rankings this week. Senior Mitchell Mays holds the highest individual ranking among the Gophers. He remains the No. 1-ranked gymnast on vault this week. Junior Kit Beikmann is tied for No. 4 on pommel horse. Senior Sergei Dmitriev is tied for No. 14 on the parallel bars, Cole Storer is ranked No. 19 on high bar, while sophomore Aaron Fortunato is No. 19 in the all-around.
GOPHERS ON THE BIG TEN NETWORK: The Minnesota men’s gymnastics team will be one of the many Olympic sports benefitting from the new Big Ten Network. The Golden Gophers are scheduled to make two appearances on the network during the 2008 season, beginning with Minnesota’s home tri-meet with Illinois and Iowa on March 21. The BTN will also air the league’s conference championship on April 4-5. Minnesota’s meet against Penn State this week was scheduled to be broadcast by the BTN but was later dropped when the meet format was changed to a double-dual with the Nittany Lion women’s gymnastics team.
NEW SCORING SYSTEM ADOPTED: The 2008 men’s gymnastics season will feature a new scoring system. The NCAA has elected to adopt the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) open-ended Code of Points, which has been used internationally since 2005. The new system allows for scoring above the ever-popular 10 points with each score being broken down into two components: exercise composition and exercise presentation. The gymnast’s final score is the sum of the two elements.
HEAD COACH MIKE BURNS: Mike Burns is in his fourth season as head coach of the Minnesota men’s gymnastics team and is in the process of bringing about a complete transformation of the Golden Gopher program. 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, as the claimed All-America citations. These types of results are nothing new for Burns, who was named 2007 Big Ten Coach of the Year and over the summer was 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. Under Burns, Alvarez also was the vault champion at the Big Ten Championships and won the floor exercise at the 2005 U.S. National Championships. 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.
UP NEXT: The Gophers will travel to No. 3 Oklahoma for a meet on Saturday, March 15. It will be Minnesota’s final road meet of the regular season.