A crazy six months is what senior Gopher gymnast Frank Ticknor called it. It began with a meet which should have been his last gymnastics competition, and ended with a dream opportunity.
In 1993, Ticknor reached the U.S. Nationals for high school gymnasts. It was his last chance to prove himself to college coaches and land a scholarship for gymnastics. After attempting to market himself to other colleges and coming up empty, Ticknor knew it was then or never.
“My senior year, it was crunch time,” Ticknor said. “I knew it could be the last time I do gymnastics. I wasn’t good enough to be recruited by five or 10 schools. Nobody ever heard of who I was. I needed to have a good meet at nationals, and I had the meet of my life.”
As it turns out, he did well enough to grab the attention of Gophers coach Fred Roethlisberger. Ticknor said he simply landed all of his routines, and that was key because he was holding out for an offer to compete in collegiate gymnastics.
Iowa State and Minnesota were the only two schools to speak to Frank after nationals. Frank said Iowa State wasn’t quite as high caliber as Minnesota’s program was, but there was one other reason he wanted to come to Minneapolis.
“John Roethlisberger was here, my idol. It was like, ‘I get to work out with John Roethlisberger, are you kidding me? Of course I’ll go there.'”
When Frank visited Minnesota after accepting a scholarship, Coach Roethlisberger told him, “You know Frank, this is the lowest I have ever taken anybody out of Nationals.” Ticknor said his 22nd place performance wasn’t great, and he is lucky to be in Minnesota.
Ticknor never competed in gymnastics in high school. He had trained ever since he was five years old in various clubs, following the footsteps of his siblings.
The Milwaukee, Wis., native is the youngest of eight children, three of which received full athletic scholarships to participate in gymnastics. Realizing he was too short to participate in other sports, Ticknor decided to stick with gymnastics.
“I was the shortest person in my class,” Ticknor said. “I was five-foot my freshman and sophomore years. I grew about four inches the summer before my junior year, and then by that time it was too late.”
When he arrived at Minnesota, Frank admits he was a scared freshman with a lot of apprehension.
“He got here as a freshman and couldn’t believe it, saying, ‘Oh my God, I’m on this major college team, and I get to do all this gymnastics under a partial scholarship,'” Coach Roethlisberger said.
Ticknor had a lot of potential which he really hadn’t worked on developing, Roethlisberger said. He had a lot to learn, and a lot of work to do to prepare for Big Ten competition.
In Ticknor’s first year, he said, he shouldn’t have had the opportunity to compete in so many meets, but senior stand-out Kerry Huston broke his neck, moving Frank into his spot.
Progression and vast improvement over the last three years has placed Ticknor among the ranks of some of the best Gopher gymnasts out of Minnesota. He attributes his success to constant training and dedication.
“By getting stronger, I have been able to control my body more, and that has allowed me to learn new tricks,” Ticknor said.
Ticknor has several goals for himself in his final season at Minnesota. Leading his list is to be an All-American. Ticknor thinks he can achieve it by focusing on building his strength, which is what he says has brought him success thus far.
“I really was not a very good gymnast, but I turned out to be a pretty good gymnast,” Ticknor said. “If it worked for me, I don’t know why it can’t work for everyone else, especially people with more talent than me.”
Coach Roethlisberger said Ticknor has probably progressed more at Minnesota than anybody he has ever coached. When he first met Frank, he saw a young athlete with a lot of enthusiasm and potential.
“He is one of the happiest guys on the team and has totally taken advantage of the situation,” Roethlisberger said. “He appreciates the opportunity and just has a lot of fun.”