Home opener will test meddle of men’s team

The Gophers, ranked No. 7 in the country, host top-ranked Illinois on Saturday.

by Andrew Baker

Hosting top-ranked Illinois and No. 11 Nebraska, the Gophers menâÄôs gymnastics team will get the chance to assert that it deserves its No. 7 ranking this Saturday at its home opener at the UniversityâÄôs Sports Pavilion.

Minnesota opened its regular season last weekend at the Windy City Invitational in Chicago, where it took third place out of six teams with a score of 340.7, tying the highest score the team has earned in a decade at the event (which the Illini won).

Think the Gophers are looking forward to a shot at revenge?

âÄúAny time you can take on the No. 1 team in the country,âÄù Gophers head coach Mike Burns said, âÄúabsolutely.âÄù

âÄú[Illinois] looked great last week, but theyâÄôve got to come here this week. ItâÄôs going to be cold. I donâÄôt know if theyâÄôre used to the kind of weather weâÄôre having this week.âÄù

Illinois senior Paul Ruggeri seemed to have ice in his veins at the Windy City event, though, winning the all-around and the high bar, placing second in the floor exercise and tying for fifth in the vault. The performance earned him Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honors.

The Gophers, meanwhile, boast eight gymnasts ranked in the top-25 in individual events this week, including freshmen John Scallon, who is ranked No. 7 on the pommel horse and Matt Frey, who is tied for No. 6 on the vault with teammate D.J. Repp.

The Gophers graduated eight seniors last year, and so will be forced to rely on their younger talent to help fill the void.

Frey and Scallon appeared up to the challenge in Chicago, where Frey placed third on the vault with a score of 15.8 and Scallon took fifth on the pommel horse with a score of 14.3.

âÄúAny time youâÄôre rebuilding a team like we are with this number of freshmen we have âĦ theyâÄôre obviously talented kids, we wouldnâÄôt have brought them in otherwise, but theyâÄôre still untested in the collegiate setting and itâÄôs a little bit different than what theyâÄôre used to,âÄù Burns said, later adding, âÄúThe freshmen really stepped up this past weekend.âÄù

Although Saturday will be a rematch for the Gophers and Illinois, gymnastics points carry more weight in the standings than a teamâÄôs win-loss record.

For that reason, working to correct errors and doing oneâÄôs personal best are the focus, rather than winning.

Burns said his team has room for improvement, but is looking forward to the challenges ahead.

Women compete in East Lansing

Coming off a 195.325-194.825 win in their home opener against Iowa, the Gophers womenâÄôs team will head to East Lansing, Mich. this weekend to take on Michigan State.

The Gophers are currently ranked No. 17 in the country.