Experience guides seasoned sophomore

As a freshman, Sean Bauer competed in the NCAA championships.

Minnesota's Sean Bauer competes on the rings Saturday, March 24, 2012, at the Sports Pavilion. Bauer competed in the NCAA championships as a freshman in the 2012 season.

Mark Vancleave, Daily File Photo

Minnesota’s Sean Bauer competes on the rings Saturday, March 24, 2012, at the Sports Pavilion. Bauer competed in the NCAA championships as a freshman in the 2012 season.

Nickalas Tabbert

Most freshman athletes at the University of Minnesota aren’t expected to play a large role in a team’s success.

The men’s gymnastics team has been an exception in recent years, as many of its freshmen have contributed at early stages in their careers.

Sophomore Sean Bauer knows all about contributing as an underclassman. The St. Louis native competed in three events for most of last season — floor exercise, vault and still rings — and competed in the Big Ten championships and NCAA qualifier meet last spring.

Head coach Mike Burns said Bauer made an impression right away by competing in the top session for rings at the NCAA meet.

“That’s not an easy thing to do for a freshman,” Burns said.

Bauer said he entered the program thinking he could make an obvious contribution right away. But he got a wakeup call when his name wasn’t in the lineup the first weekend.

“I was like, ‘All right, I’m not good enough right now. I’ve got to work my butt off and prove to the coaches that I can help the team get better,’” Bauer said.

When Harris Coleman injured himself on floor exercise last year, Bauer had the opportunity to compete on both floor and vault.

Bauer became a mainstay in the lineup and eventually added rings while improving his consistency.

He was one of three freshmen to compete in both the Big Ten championships and NCAA championships last season.

The biggest difference between last season and the current season for Bauer is experience.

He said going to the season-opening Windy City Invitational last year was eye-opening and that he had trouble focusing.

This year he knows what to expect at every meet.

“I know what my feelings are, I know how to control it,” he said. “I know how to relax and just focus on what I need to do to hit a nice set.”

Bauer said in high school he let his emotions get the best of him. A bad routine would leave him down for the rest of the meet.

At Minnesota, however, he has learned to focus on what lies ahead instead of reflecting on a poor performance.

“It seems like when the heat turns up, he turns it up a notch,” Burns said. “He doesn’t let it bother him.”

A torn labrum in his left shoulder, which he suffered in high school, has slowed Bauer since last semester. He is limiting his routines in practice in hopes of being healthy for the Big Ten championships and NCAA championships later this spring.

“It’s a slow process and a little bit frustrating,” Bauer said. “I might not be able to get as many numbers [of reps] in as I’d like.”

Bauer said his goal is to make the Big Ten finals in two of his three events, preferably on floor and rings.

Bauer said he gauges his improvement each week by thinking about adjustments on his routines, like sticking passes and landings.

“If I’m doing that, then I know at least I’m making small adjustments,” he said. “The scores will be there. They always are.”