Gophers win battle of top-10 teams

Minnesota posted their highest score in nearly a month.

Shane Wiskus competes in the pommel horse at the Maturi Pavilion on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019.

Jack Rodgers

Shane Wiskus competes in the pommel horse at the Maturi Pavilion on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019.

Paul Hodowanic

After five rotations on Friday, the outcome looked bleak for the Minnesota men’s gymnastics team. The Gophers trailed No. 7 Ohio State by eight points with one rotation left. 

The Gophers headed to the vault, while the Buckeyes tried their luck on high bars. Minnesota proceeded to have their best showing on vault since Feb. 9 scoring a 71.850. Ohio State struggled on high bar, putting up an event-worst 63.000. The result gave Minnesota the win with a final score of 406.300 beating Ohio State and No. 8 Nebraska in the final away meet of the season. 

“What I’m extremely proud of [is] the team never gave up. They never hung up their grips and started pouting. They had a great attitude,” assistant coach Kostya Kolesnikov told Gopher Sports. “We were trying to do everything we possibly could, and we did. There was a little bit of luck, but now there’s hope. Now I think that the guys will trust more in the competition, have a little more confidence, and it’s going to be big for the team’s spirit, I’m sure of it.”

Head Coach Mike Burns was absent because of an illness, leaving Kolesnikov and the other assistants to help the team along. 

“I hope I never have to miss another meet. That was the most nerve-wracking two hours of my life,” Burns told Gopher Sports. “Luckily I have two awesome assistant coaches who stepped in and got the job done in admirable fashion.”

The team meet was filled with ups and downs for the Gophers, as the team posted season-high scores on floor and rings but posted a season-low on high bar and their second-worst score of the season on pommel horse. 

Sophomore Shane Wiskus led the team in the all-around with a career-high score of 84.350, which is the third-highest score in the country. Wiskus earned titles and career-highs on rings and high bars, scoring a 14.350 on both. Wiskus also earned second-place finishes on the floor and the vault.

Senior Justin Karstadt, who was recently nominated for the Nissen-Emery Award, competed on all-around with a season-best 81.900. Karstadt finished second on pommel horse and rings and third on parallel bars. 

The Gophers had the best finish on parallel bars amongst the three teams with a 68.350. Freshman David Pochinka was the highest finisher for the Gophers, placing in second with a 14.150. Fellow teammates Karstadt and Shaun Herzog weren’t far behind finishing in third and fourth.

Minnesota crushed their previous rings season-high score with a 69.600, more than two points higher than their previous best. Freshman Garrett Kasiski filled in last minute for injured Russell Johnson and scored a career-high 13.300, while Wiskus and Karstadt finished as the top two. 

With the win the Gophers moved to 2-2 in the Big Ten, trailing Illinois and Michigan by 0.5 for top in the Big Ten season. The Gophers will look to pass those teams in the coming weeks to win the first-ever Big Ten regular season title.

Minnesota returns home for the final two weeks of the regular season and will start by taking on No. 13 Air Force on March 17 at 1 p.m.