Men’s gymnastics stuns No. 3 Ohio State with win

by Sam Campanaro

Minnesota’s men’s gymnastics team came to its last home meet Sunday with a different kind of energy than previous meets.

The Gophers were focused on hitting their routines, and they competed with high intensity.

The attention to detail paid off as the 12th-ranked Gophers beat third-ranked Ohio State 215.575 to 211.975. Minnesota posted its highest score of the season against the Buckeyes for the third meet in a row.

Seniors Clay Strother and Tim Koehler were honored prior to competing in their last home meet.

“It’s great to close it off like this,” Strother said. “There were some things that I could have done better, but I’m happy with what I did.”

Strother claimed the all-around title as well as the individual titles on the parallel bars, pommel horse and vault.

Koehler took third place on the horizontal bar. He has been fighting with an arm injury throughout the season, but posted his best score of the season Sunday.

The depth the Gophers have needed all season finally emerged with a pair of new names appearing as top-four finishers.

Mitch Griffin took second place on the vault, fourth on the parallel bars and third place on the pommel horse. Joe Alberts took second on the pommel horse and fourth on the still rings. Guillermo Alvarez also finished second in the all-around competition.

“For awhile this year we weren’t even competitive and that was discouraging,” coach Fred Roethlisberger said. “It feels so great to finally be competitive.”

Minnesota will finish its regular season with two road meets and then move on to the Big Ten meet.

The Gophers still have two important road meets left before heading to Big Tens. The meets against Illinois-Chicago and Nebraska will be important for Minnesota’s qualifying scores at the NCAA meet.

Women’s gymnastics

Under the watchful eyes of its alumni, Minnesota’s women’s gymnastics team competed against a tough Penn State team.

The 17th-ranked Gophers turned in an average performance to beat the 20th-ranked Lions 195.775 to 195.475.

The win was the 100th victory for Jim and Meg Stephenson since Meg joined Jim as co-head coach in 1998.

Jim said that this Penn State team is one of the toughest he has seen, but it was the Lions errors that gave Minnesota the win.

The Gophers did not turn in their most graceful performance of the season, but injuries have forced the Gophers to tone down their routines.

“I feel like I’ve done better,” freshman Laura Johnson said. “I feel like I just pulled through.”

Johnson took third in the all-around competition and tied for second place on vault while battling ankle injuries.

Seniors Kelly Watson and Jenny Alf also scored points for the Gophers. Watson placed third on the uneven parallel bars, and Alf claimed the title on the balance beam.

The Gophers also made a slight lineup change by having Nicole Yunker compete on the floor and beam instead of Maria Opsahl.

“She has not competed in three years and this is only her second meet,” Jim Stephenson said. “We want her to feel reasonably seasoned by Big Tens and the regional championships.”

Minnesota is continuing to have Opsahl and other gymnasts perform in exhibition to gain more experience.

With two meets left in the regular season, the Gophers are focusing on the upcoming Big Ten meet.

“Everyone’s really pulling together,” Watson said. “We want so badly to win Big Tens; we’re really pushing our way through to the end.”