i like 'em both
For those who don't want to read the whole post, it's good news, starting with the spoiler that Sam Mikulak, who successfully defended his NCAA Championship in Ann Arbor this spring, defended his U.S. Men's Championship. But this time it was with more drama. (Good news about the new kids is below. Spoiler: One is a former junior champ, the other just became one.*)
At one point Sam was in 24th place on the first night of competition after a couple of slip-ups on two of his best events. The Twitterverse is now calling him the Comeback Kid. With his usual aw-shucks smile (even when he surprised himself by ending up on his tusch in the middle of an otherwise-excellent floor routine), he pulled himself back to third by the end of the first night, and it wasn't until the last event in the finals that his 1st place was assured. He had a huge gap to close in this field of Oympians and national team members. Fellow Olympians John Orozco, the 2012 US Champion from the Bronx, and Jake Dalton, former NCAA champ who used to compete for Oklahoma, came in 2nd & 3rd in the tight final. They'll all be competing for the U.S. Team in China this October at Worlds.
You'll notice Sam's not wearing his M gear this time, having used up his eligibility, but he's sticking around Ann Arbor as an assistant coach so he can continue training while finishing his degree. But there was plenty of maize & blue with Coach Kurt Golder and his gang always on camera, and senior Nick Hunter, competing in only three events in what I think is his first national meet, always by Sam's side on the bench. There's something to be said for highlighter yellow when you want it to be seen in the shadows.
As for Michigan's continued success, the future was also on display in the Junior Men's competition with two of M's incoming freshmen: Dmitri Belanovski, a former junior champion, finished 8th in the 17-18 year-old junior division. Marty Strech finished first in the 15-16 year-old category with a final score higher than any in the older junior division. [*In what I think is a new quirk, the top two of each junior category after Day 1 had to compete with the senior men in the finals. The idea is to give the top juniors experience competing against the best, to better prepare them for future international competition. The commentators for the stream said their scores would still be used for their final placing in juniors, but as of now, Strech is not listed as champion except for being on top of the final scoring sheet,including all the juniors, and the current photos have the guys who were top three in each of tonight's junior competition categories on their respective podium. Seems unfair to move them off the podium because they're too good or because they already went home. If I learn more I'll edit.]
Speaking of the incoming class, the third announced all-star commit is apparently no longer part of the class. He was not mentioned in the M press release about the competition, and he's not listed on the new roster. No point speculating, but I'm hoping it's only that having already made the national team earlier this year he decided to forego the college route and train full-time at the U.S. training center. And no point worrying that we only have one former and one current junior champion joining the gang.
Michigan does it again. This Michigan team started as the favorite when the season began with Olympian Sam Mikulak and an incredible supporting cast of Syque Caesar, Stacey Ervin and Konner Ackerman.
Michigan finishes the season 30-0--perfect record for the first time in 40 years and wins their SECOND STRAIGHT NCAA National Championship.
Watch the celebration on BTN right now.
While most of us were otherwise occupied, the Men's Gymnastics Team won their second straight Big Ten Championship, generally considered the strongest conference for gymnastics. Sam Mikulak, defending B1G, NCAA and U.S. champion, successfully defended his title by a generous margin, winning 4 out of 6 events outright, scoring above 15 on all events and an almost unheard of score of 16 or over on two (high bar and parallel bars). (The scoring is unlike the traditional limit of a perfect 10, which the women still use. Enough to know that on the elite level a score in the 14.00's is good and above 15.00 is championship material.)
The bad news is that Stacey Ervin, who can actually beat the Mighty Mikulak on floor, tore his biceps on parallel bars, but, as seems to be traditional with these guys,* finished the event without those of us watching even aware of his injury until he was seen with a huge pack of ice around his arm. He obviously couldn't compete in any other events, but, as the Mitch McGary of the mat men, It didn't stop him from jumping around and cheering on his teammates. Adrian de los Angeles, Sam's runner-up in the NCAA all-around last year, was unfortunately injured early this year, and yet the team had the depth to win without their expected high scores.
*Sam Mikulak fractured both ankles in a meet in Puerto Rico after his freshman championship season and didn't know until later. He got taped up and kept going. But that's the reason he's only won three championships.
The individual event championships will be on BTN tomorrow afternoon, in case anyone else wants to multitask.
What a day January 18, 2014 was for Michigan athletics.
Let's recap the day:
- Men's Basketball wins a road game against a top-5 for the first time in 50 years. Oh yeah, it is also the highest ranked team Michigan has beaten on the road EVER.
- Women's Basketball wins again, staying in 2nd place in the B1G by pounding illinois at Crisler earlier at Noon, 69-60. Score did not reflect the game at all.
- Men's Tennis opened the season with two strong victories over WMU and Toledo by scores of 5-2 and 6-1 respectively.
- Water Polo opened their season at 1-1 today, winning their opener over Iona 15-6 at Canham.
- The top-ranked, defending NCAA Champion Men's Gymnastics had a HUGE come-from-behind performance, leapfrogging the buckeyes and illinois for the Windy City Invitational Championship.
- The top-ranked, defending NCAA Champion Men's Swimming & Diving team won the SMU Classic in Dallas. This was the only event they didn't win last year-
- And last but not least, the Michigan Dance team (now sponsored by the athletic department apparently per WTKA podcast), has made the UDA National Championship tomorrow afternoon.
Michigan wins their 5th National Championship in Men's Gymnastics. Hail to the Victors.
Michigan went 1-2 in the Individual All-Around. Sam Mikulak wins his second Individual All-Around Title and Adrian de los Angeles finished 2nd.
Men's Gymnastics defeated #1 Penn State (among others) to win their 16th Big Ten Championship, with junior Sam Mikulak and sophomore Adrian de los Angeles going 1 and 2 in the all-around competition. This is Sam's second all-around win, having won in his freshman year in both the Big Ten and the NCAA. He'd been battling injuries (again), and last night was his first all-around competition this year. He also broke an NCAA record score in parallel bars, a record set earlier this season (twice) by teammate Syque Caesar. But, as usual, the victory was a team effort. Based on last night's performances, eight members of the team qualified for 18 spots in tonight's individual event finals. Not that there's anything else going on...