Adding to his 3 NCAA all-around Gymnastics Championships, M grad Sam Mikulak makes it three in a row as US all-around champion. Had a terrible fall off high bar in today's first event, but even after the fall he was a full 4 points ahead of #2, the rest of his routine being so perfect that he actually increased his lead from yesterday.
[EDIT: The photo I posted before disappeared. Let's see how long this one will last.] The Hilton shirt [now jacket] represents where he now trains as part of the US National Team, but there were several other recently graduated, one current and one brand new Wolverine competing in the maize & blue. Recent grad Stacey Ervin doesn't compete in the all-around, but he posted the highest individual event score on the first day of competition in his specialty, floor exercise.
As for the future, incoming freshman Emyre Cole will be competing in tonight's finals of the juniors championships, after scoring the highest in his age group in prelims. Hasn't yet competed for Michigan, but he must be enrolled, already wearing the block M.
And Coach Golder there watching over his troops. (Stacey Ervin next to him. Shirtless status implies senior warm-ups.) Permission to vote on preferred shade of maize.
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.
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.
Sam Mikulak has only competed in three all-around competitions this year and is now three for three: Big Ten, NCAA and now the U.S. Men's Championship.
It was a big Maize & Blue presence on network TV, with two other team members competing and [at least] three coaches. All were getting screen time because Sam was so far ahead after day one of the competition he was the big story. But even the commentators noted loving the Wolverines' team attitude (after Stacey Ervin was seen/heard on camera ethusiastically announcing, "This guy has major skills. This guy has major skills" after one of Sam's events). Their events weren't shown, but Stacey, in his very first all-around competition, came in 11th in the all-around, joining Sam on the national team on the basis of two top 5 finishes in individual events. Adrian de los Angeles, selected for last year's national team, came in 14th in the all-around.
Newest national team member Stacey Ervin in action:
On the same day that the women's tennis team locked up a Big Ten title & softball completed another series sweep, junior gymnast Sam Mikulak added two more titles to his impressive collection, complementing his individual & team all-around championships with event titles in parallel bars and high bar.
For those who may be more informed, I'm wondering if one could start to build a case that Mikulak is the greatest UM gymnast of all time, or at least close to it. He holds two individual all-around titles (and was runner-up the other time), has been on two team title-winning teams, and has (if I count correctly) three individual event titles. This is clearly ridiculous success, does anyone know of someone from Michigan's past who could rival it?
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.