Moran and Wiskus won’t give up on gymnastics program

The two upperclassmen have struggled with the idea of the program discontinuing but won’t just watch it happen.


Parker Johnson

Junior Shane Wiskus performs on the rings during the meet against against the Fighting Illini at the Maturi Pavilion on Friday, Jan. 24.

AJ Condon

It hasn’t been the easiest time for gymnasts following the decision by athletics director Mark Coyle to discontinue the men’s gymnastics program.

Senior Shane Wiskus and junior Mike Moran have been through a lot since the season’s premature end last season until now.

“I thought right away that was the end of collegiate men’s gymnastics. If we go down the rest of the Big Ten is gonna collapse, and after that it’s gonna spiral out of control,” Wiskus said. “At first I was devastated and just thinking about the worst of the worst that can happen.”

However, Wiskus took a step back and reevaluated the decision and how he would move forward.

“My personality is just wired to make me find the best in every circumstance, so I just tried to think to myself, ‘What is the best outcome that can happen through all of this?’” Wiskus said. “That outcome is gymnastics being reinstated.”

Moran’s initial reaction was similar. However, he said he might have jumped too far too early.

“I got very angry, then five minutes later very upset, then five minutes later just trying to be rational about it. It was just too many thoughts in my head at the same time that it was pretty difficult to process that,” Moran said. “And even now still, I have not accepted that as a legitimate thing that has happened to me.”

Wiskus hasn’t given up hope that there won’t be another season of Gophers’ men’s gymnastics. Like his coach Mike Burns, he has been proactive in communicating with the gymnastics community on social media. He’s connected with alumni and gymnasts across the country to figure out a game plan.

“The thing that’s keeping me going is the possibility of the vote not going through,” Wiskus said, referring to the Board of Regents’ scheduled October vote on whether to cut men’s gymnastics and two other men’s sports. “We’re trying to work out another solution with Mark Coyle and the Board of Regents, and I’m not losing hope till the day you tell me I’m not allowed to go back in.”

Moran struggled with the news, especially as the team was prepping for the upcoming season. But he enjoyed the time off with the “leave of absence this summer,” as he put it.

“Me personally, [I] just tried to enjoy that time off because this is the first time — as much as it was very hard to get over that fact — I have ever gone more than a week without going to the gym,” Moran said.

It wasn’t a normal hiatus, by any means, for these gymnasts. Moran saw his stints in a local gym vary due to COVID-19 outbreaks, while Wiskus was doing just about any workout he could to stay in shape.

“About halfway through the summer I found a club gym nearby, but it just got too hectic. It would be week in, week out, someone would be exposed [to COVID-19], and everyone goes into the whole 14 days [quarantine] and everyone would get tested again,” Moran said. “It was like a never-ending cycle and even when I had a gym, I don’t think I ever was in the gym for more than a week.”

None of the gymnasts could’ve expected they were going to have such a long absence from Cooke Hall, but being back felt just as good.

“You step foot in that gym, it smells bad and it’s super hot and there’s about a million reasons why it sucks. But, when you’re back in there, it is the perfect place to grind,” Wiskus said. “Even though our gym isn’t the prettiest, we definitely put in enough work there to make things work.”

As they’ve returned to Cooke Hall, Moran thinks about the possibility this could be his last season, or even his last career in gymnastics.

“I’m still slightly in denial with the fact that this could be the last season and this could be the last year that I ever do gymnastics in my entire life,” Moran said. “It’s definitely a tough time, and there’s a general consensus that we were all just mourning and in grief.”

Gymnasts saw support from fans, students and other athletes when they gathered at Athletes Village and marched to Morrill Hall to protest the decision.

“It was really cool to see all the support from the community. On social media there have already been close to 10,000 signatures on a petition to help save gymnastics. There has already been a lot of money raised to help fund this year,” Wiskus said. “It’s reassuring to me that I’m in a strong community that will fight to the end to keep [gymnastics] around.”