Gophers men’s gymnastics team takes third; three earn medals

Head coach Mike Burns also received Big Ten Coach of the Year honors.

Justin Karstadt competes on the parallel bars against Penn State at the Sports Pavilion on Jan. 23, 2016.

Maddy Fox, Daily File Photo

Justin Karstadt competes on the parallel bars against Penn State at the Sports Pavilion on Jan. 23, 2016.

Jack White

Head coach Mike Burns went to Champaign, Illinois for the Big Ten Championships and left as Big Ten Coach of the Year.

Burns coached his team to a third place finish, as No. 5 Minnesota earned a 413.300 in the meet.

“That was a pretty humbling moment,” Burns said. “I thought there were others that were maybe a little more worthy, but I do appreciate them voting for me.”

Burns earned the Big Ten Coach of the year for the second time; his first honor came in 2007.

Gophers gymnasts had 10 routines in the individual event finals for the conference championships.

Junior Alex Wittenberg finished first place in the floor exercise with a 14.550. Wittenberg said he didn’t know what to expect from the score after completing the routine.

“I knew I hit a pretty clean set,” Wittenberg said. “Scoring has been up and down this season, so when I saw that I was first after my score came, it was just pure disbelief.”

Witttenberg is Minnesota’s seventh Big Ten floor champion in history; its last came in 2003. The Gophers hadn’t had an individual event champion in the Big Ten since 2015.

Sophomore Justin Karstadt was the next-best finisher for the Gophers. Karstadt earned a share of the silver in the pommel horse.

“I knew it was going to be tough going in,” Karstadt said. “I tried to give it all I got; I upgraded my dismount one-tenth, and luckily, it paid off.”

Junior Jalon Stephens placed first among three Gophers finalists in the high bar. Stephens tallied a 14.075 to finish in fifth.

Junior Tristan Duran tied for sixth, earning a 13.725, and junior Joel Gagnon rounded out the Gophers gymnasts in the high bar, finishing ninth with a 13.525.

Junior Yaroslav Pochinka finished first among Minnesota gymnasts in the vault finals and third overall with a 14.750 in the meet.

Senior Zach Liebler finished just behind Pochinka and scored a 14.625 for fourth place.

Senior Mitchell Soukup participated in the rings final and earned ninth place, but he did take home Minnesota’s Big Ten Sportsmanship award.

Minnesota scored a 71.900 on vault in team action on April 7. Pochinka led the team in vault for that day as well, scoring a 14.900. Liebler and sophomore Vitali Kan both tied for third with a 14.700.

Minnesota earned a 69.300 for the parallel bars during the championships. Karstadt scored a 14.850, which was a season-best for him. Duran was second among Gophers gymnasts with a 14.050.

Minnesota heads to the NCAA qualifying rounds on April 21 for its next meet.

“We’ve got to regroup a little bit and analyze the problems we did have,” Burns said. “There are solutions; we’ve just got to implement those solutions.”