Men finish third at Big Ten meet

The Gophers finished on the podium for the first time since 2007, when they also finished third as the meet’s host.

Minnesota Ellis Mannon competes on the pommel horse on Friday, April 5, 2013, at the Sports Pavilion.

Bridget Bennett

Minnesota Ellis Mannon competes on the pommel horse on Friday, April 5, 2013, at the Sports Pavilion.

by Nickalas Tabbert

The goal is the same every week for the Gophers men’s gymnastics team: hit all 30 routines.

Minnesota accomplished its goal for the first time this season Friday night in front of an energetic crowd at the Sports Pavilion.

The Gophers rallied late to finish third out of seven teams at the Big Ten championships.

Coach Mike Burns said it’s only the second time in his coaching career he’s been a part of perfection.

“This should give our guys [an] amazing confidence boost going into the NCAA championships,” he said.

Minnesota finished on the podium for the first time since 2007, when it also finished third as the meet’s host.

Michigan scored 438.9 to win the title, and Penn State finished second.

Ellis Mannon, who competed on four events for Minnesota on Friday night, said the team picked a good time to have its best meet of the year.

“It’s such a hard sport to achieve perfection like that,” the sophomore said. “I think that was a big step for us to go 30-for-30 at Big Tens when it mattered the most.”

Fans from every school were on their feet for most of the night, shouting cheers when their team did well.

The intensity climaxed during the final rotation, when athletes and fans alike divided their attention between the gymnasts competing and the scoreboard above the bleachers, waiting to see the outcome.

“It was definitely the most fun I’ve ever had in a meet,” junior Matt Frey said. “It was a blast.”

Frey said the team was dancing in the locker room after the meet.

“It was getting crazy,” he said.

Minnesota moved up and down the scoreboard the second half of the meet. It led after the fourth rotation but slid back to fifth entering its final event, the still rings.

Burns told the gymnasts they had a chance to climb back up the standings if they hit their routines.

They did, using three stuck landings and no falls to score a season-high 74.15.

“The ring team just put the nail in the coffin,” Burns said.

Mannon said the team knew it was going to hit all five routines on rings.

Minnesota also performed well on high bar and pommel horse. The team won the former event with a score of 71.1, and sophomore Steve Jaciuk had the best individual score, a 15.15. Freshman Daniel DiBenedetto finished fourth with a score of 14.7.

Mannon said Minnesota surprised teams on the pommel horse, the team’s worst event this season.

Scores on the event reflected the team standings, as Penn State, Michigan and Minnesota had the best results.

Mannon said pommel horse usually decides the winner of the meet.

“I think it’s a pivotal event at any big meet,” he said.

Burns didn’t appear surprised his team performed so well Friday.

“There’s not a whole lot of magic to it,” he said. “They decided it was time to have a good meet.”

Six gymnasts place at individual meet

Six Gophers gymnasts competed on four different events Saturday night at the Big Ten individual championships.

Gymnasts qualified by finishing in the top 10 of each event during Friday’s team competition.

Mannon finished second on pommel horse with a score of 14.9. He said afterward he was happy with how his routine went and is looking forward to the chance to face event winner Craig Hernandez.

Junior Harris Coleman finished seventh on pommel horse with a 14.375.

Freshman Jack Metcalf finished seventh on still rings with a 14.825, and Jaciuk was ninth with a 14.35.

Frey finished sixth on the parallel bars with a 14.45.

Jaciuk finished third in the high bar competition with a 15.0. DiBenedetto finished sixth with a 14.375.

The mood Saturday was almost the exact opposite of Friday night. Competitors from different schools offered words of encouragement and jokes between routines. Minnesota gymnasts not competing wore sombreros and other hats as they sat along the vault runway and watched their teammates.