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.