The University of Minnesota men's gymnastics team finishes out its home schedule on Saturday as it hosts Penn State and Iowa at the Sports Pavilion at 7 p.m.
The meet will be a pivotal one for the No. 8 Gophers, who have steadily improved over the last couple weeks, and will be looking to continue that trend against two ranked opponents in the No. 5 Nittany Lions and the No. 10 Hawkeyes.
"In the last few weeks, we've started to gel as a team," Minnesota head coach Mike Burns said. "Iowa is coming in showing that they've improved since our competition down there. Penn State has just been solid all year, so it's going to be a challenge, and it's going to be a good, strong competition."
With it being the last home meet of the season, that also means that it will be the last time the four Minnesota seniors, Ali Aleiou, Travis Heaver, Michael Hillin and Michael Paulus will suit up and compete in front of a home crowd.
"It's weird, that's probably the best word to describe it," Paulus said. "I'm trying not to think about it at all, and stay focused on the task at hand in beating Penn State and Iowa. I'll try to take it all in stride and think about it when the season is over."
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A Fond Farewell:
The meet against Penn State/Iowa will be final time the four Gophers seniors will have a home meet. Taking center stage for the final time at the Sports Pavilion will be Ali Aleiou, Travis Heaver, Michael Hillin and Michael Paulus.
The four seniors competing for the final time have a combined seven varsity letters. Beyond just experience, all four seniors have provided vast amounts of leadership over last few seasons, especially as shown by the two senior captains, Heaver and Paulus, both of whom joined Gophers men's gymnastics as walk-ons.
This will be the third of four times the Gophers will compete in a meet against Iowa this season. Minnesota has beaten or finished ahead of Iowa in the previous two meetings this season, and have topped them four consecutive times dating back to last season.
The No. 8 Gophers have faced at least one nationally ranked opponent in each meet they have competed against this season. That trend continues this week as Penn State enters the meet ranked No. 5 and Iowa comes in ranked No. 10
A Team Effort:
Minnesota comes into the meet ranked in top 11 of each event. The Gophers are ranked No. 3 on the vault, No. 6 on the floor exercise and the parallel bars, No. 9 on the still rings and No. 11 on the pommel horse and the high bar.
The Gophers also have several individuals in the rational rankings. Freshman Zack Chase is ranked No. 3 on the vault and No. 20 on the floor exercise. Junior DJ Repp is ranked No. 5 on the vault, and freshman John Scallon is No. 11 in the nation on the pommel horse.
This meet is the final home date for the Gophers. They head back on road to Brockport N.Y. where they will face off against Brockport and Air Force. Minnesota then finishes out the regular season by traveling to Nebraska where they will match up against the Cornhuskers and the Hawkeyes.