April 5, 2013
The University of Minnesota hosts the Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Championships this weekend. We asked head coach Mike Burns to preview the seven teams who will competing for the conference crown.
BURNS ON PENN STATE
Penn State is ranked No. 1. They have been putting up big scores all year long. My guess is that they will be planning on doing that as well at this meet. Eight-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week Trevor Howard will probably be their highlight guy and go-to guy. Felix Aronovich also won the conference's top gymnast of the week many times, so those two are probably their top two producers. They have a strong supporting cast as well. Trevor has been doing a great job all year. He did dislocate his finger a couple of weeks ago, but you don't let an injury like that get in your way during the Big Ten Championships. Randy Jepsen does a great job with his team every year. Will they be the odds of favorites to win? If you look at the statistics for the year, I would say yes. But I also think Michigan is pretty tough and those two teams might be battling it out at the top.
BURNS ON MICHIGAN
Michigan is led by Olympian Sam Mikulak. What more can you say? They have the ability to put some really big scores on the board. Stacey Ervin is only a sophomore, but is really good at floor on vault. They have some guys who have started to score really well on rings and pommel horse. Matt Freeman is doing a great job. Syque Caesar is up for the Nissen-Emery Award as is Felix from Penn State. The Wolverines are always going to be at the top of their game at the Big Ten Championships. They had some injury issues at the beginning of the year, so hopefully they were able to heal those up and come here and have a great meet.
BURNS ON OHIO STATE
BURNS ON ILLINOIS
We only saw Ohio State at the Windy City Invitational and they did well there. They have had some big scores during the course of the year, but they also have had some injuries as well. Their top freshmen Jake Martin got hurt at the Winter Cup. He was training and came back, but then he got hurt again a few weeks ago. That will hurt him if he is out. Kris Done was one of their top guys last year. He was a big point-getter, but got hurt at a meet. So they have been beat up, but they have been filling the holes pretty well. I don't know where they are at this point. They are kind of the wildcard, as I do not know what to expect from them. However, I know how they prepare and they will be ready to go.
We have seen Illinois a few times this year and they beat us twice. Illinois is the defending Big Ten champion and NCAA champion. They have not been able to put the scores up they have hoped for during the last few meets. They lost their top all-arounder C.J. Maestas at the beginning of this season, so they have been without him. But they have a lot of talent and will be dangerous. The last few meets, they have been in the 420s. But they have a lot of talent on that team. If they put it together, they will be dangerous. When we saw them they were beatable in my mind. We beat ourselves in that meet and cannot afford to do that.
BURNS ON IOWA
Iowa just posted their highest score of the year this past weekend with a 428.500. That is about what we scored our last meet against Penn State. They have historically peaked at the right time at the Big Ten and NCAA Championships. I suspect they will be on their best behavior and ready to go and hit a lot of routines. Javier Balboa is probably their best guy. He is ranked in the top six in the country in the All-Around and has been very solid for them. The last meet we went against them he was ill and could not compete. He went last weekend when they had their highest score of the year though. You can see they are zoning in. They struggled early on, but always seem to put it together as the season goes on.
BURNS ON NEBRASKA
Nebraska has been steadily improving. They had a couple season-ending injuries earlier in the season, so they had to manage that. They have done a good job and filled those wholes pretty well. The guy who has been stepping up at the end of the season is Louis Klein. He was a redshirt last year and has been putting up some big scores. He is a really talented kid and when he is on, he is on. The key is him putting his routines together. If he can do that then he can really help his team out a lot. Grant Perdue is another guy who is highly ranked on floor on vault. They have a really good supporting cast. They are a team that you have to be afraid of.
BURNS ON MINNESOTA
If we can put it together the way we know we can put it together then I think we could battle for the title. Our best hit percentage this year has been about 90 percent this year and I think we have done that twice. Our goal is 100 percent, but we need to aim for 90 percent. If there was ever a meet to hit 100 percent then this would be the one. We are at home and facing some tough competition. We need to bring our "A" game for sure, but man-for-man and event-for-event I think we have a chance to battle for the title. Like I said we would have to have the meet of the year, which is what our goal is and what the plan is. The guys have been training hard and everyone can do their routine well. Guys have to dig deep and do the job.