Some of the greatest names in Gophers men’s gymnastics history will perform on center stage Saturday at the Sports Pavilion at the annual Alumni Meet.
While the alumni get a chance to re-live their glory days at Minnesota, the current Gophers will use the meet as a preparation for the upcoming season.
“It helps us determine a lineup,” Gophers coach Fred Roethlisberger said. “It is kind of a celebration of the team and the alumni. We have such a tremendous support group among our alumni and our boosters.”
With names like Brian Yee (a current member of the U.S. National Team and a Big Ten champion on the vault in 1995), Russ Fystrom (a Big Ten champion on the pommel horse in 1973), Tim LaFleur (a Big Ten all-around champion in 1976-78), and Brian Meeker (a Big Ten all-around champion in 1981-82), the varsity team has never beaten the alumni squad. Although, there is a good reason for that.
“The alumni get to be judged on the rules that they competed under,” Roethlisberger said. “The judging is harder for us. The other thing is that the alumni are the judges.”
The varsity team will be judged under the current rules that recently were adjusted, causing the Gophers to change their routines to a higher skill level. That change will play a role in testing Minnesota throughout the season — along with its Big Ten foes..
With a strong upper class and help from a core of well-trained freshmen, the Gophers will rely on their depth and should give Ohio State a run for the Big Ten title.
“This year we are going to be closer to them. We are a lot more competitive this year with our freshmen.” Roethlisberger said.
Senior co-captains Frank Ticknor and Heath Wall along with two returning juniors Bob Hubbard and George Beatty, should pull most of the weight for the team competing in all six events. The Gophers will also look to freshman Lindsey Fang, who won the Class One Junior Olympic National Championship in 1995, to also compete in all the events.
“Lindsey is awesome, he is really good,” Ticknor said. “They are a good freshman class, better than the last couple of years. They’re going to help out a lot.”
Five freshmen join Fang to be what Roethlisberger calls the best freshman class since 1992. Also competing for the Gophers is senior Michael Mamakos, who transferred from UCLA where the men’s varsity program was dropped.
The Alumni Meet is mostly an entertaining showcase for all those who experienced competing for the Gophers. It is also a chance for the current team to attempt some of their new routines before the season opens at Chicago next weekend.
“It is a lot of fun,” Yee said. “There is a lot of trash talking the whole week or so before. We have a great tradition here, so it will be exciting.”
Note: This year’s alumni meet will be dedicated to former Gophers gymnast Jeff Rock, a native of Anoka, who died Monday at age 45. Rock was a four-time letter winner from 1970-73 and was a team captain in 1972 and 1973.
“Jeff Rock symbolizes the spirit and comoradarie that we have,” Roethlisberger said.