March 14, 2013
The University of Minnesota men’s gymnastics team faces Big Ten rivals Nebraska and Iowa this weekend in Lincoln, Neb. The Gophers are ranked No. 7 in the nation, while Iowa is No. 9 and Nebraska is No. 10.
The Gophers beat Nebraska at home this year and have split home meets with the Hawkeyes. Head coach Mike Burns said it is a critical weekend for the Gophers.
“We expect a good battle this weekend,” said Burns. “I am really looking forward to this competition. The rivalry with both Iowa and Nebraska is always strong. All three teams will be going after one another. The season is winding down, and it is a little disconcerting that we are having issues with being about to hit. If you look around the country a lot of teams are improving on their scores.”
The Gophers enter this meet coming off a setback at Illinois where they totaled 420.650 points. The output was Minnesota’s third lowest team score this season and has Burns concerned about his team’s ability to perform at a high level on the road. Minnesota recorded its highest score (434.450) of the season at Oklahoma this year, but its other four road meets have resulted in the Gophers lowest four scores on the year.
“When you start evaluation things you can find a whole bunch of excuses if you want to look for them,” said Burns, as the Gophers average a 430.183 at home and a 423.900 on the road. “But that is not what we need to do. We need to step up. With the exception of Oklahoma, we have not had a good meet on the road.”
It was a message that Burns and his staff delivered at practice earlier this week.
“We told the team that if we perform like we did at Illinois last weekend, then Nebraska and Iowa will beat us,” said Burns. “Our guys need to figure out what they want. Do they want to have that long bus ride home from Lincoln on Sunday? That can be a miserable bus ride and they need to think about that. These two teams are going to be bucking up to beat us. Nebraska has performed well the last couple of meets. Iowa did not perform great the last time we saw them, but I am sure they are addressing those problems and will perform well on the road.
“Our guys are totally capable, they just need to have a little more resolve and a little more burning desire to do the job. I am sure these guys are feeling pretty bad about how they performed and will take it upon themselves to step up and take care of business this weekend.”
The Gophers competed in a head-to-head match play event at Illinois last weekend, which lasted nearly three hours. Burns said his team became somewhat dispirited prior to high bar, as the Illini had already won the meet with the new, exploratory scoring format that will be used once this year.
Burns and the Maroon and Gold are looking forward to returning a more traditional meet this weekend.
“As much as I liked the match play event, it was an experiment,” said Burns. “I think there are some tweaks that can be made, and it can be a good format. I think going back to the regular format will be a positive for us.”
Two Minnesota gymnasts will bring top five national ranking into the meet this weekend. Ellis Mannon is tied for fourth in the country on pommel horse with a 15.150 average, while Steve Jaciuk is third on the high bar with a 15.167 average.
Mannon won the pommel horse at Illinois, while Jaciuk uncharacteristically fell twice against the Illini on the high bar. Burns was pleased with Mannon’s routine and shrugged off Jaciuk’s unusual struggle.
“Ellis had a great routine to win the competition,” said Burns. “It was really good to see him get justly rewarded last weekend. He is setting himself up to be a player in the postseason and a potential Big Ten finalist, NCAA finalist and All-American. He definitely has the talent to do that.
“Steve fell twice at Illinois. It happens. You move on and don’t do it again. Knowing Steve and how he handles himself, he is probably his worst critic. He is pretty mature when it comes to handling these situations. I don’t expect it to happen again.”