Gophers men’s gymnastics falls short of comeback against Illinois

Sophomore Crew Bold competed in the all-around and earned two individual event titles.

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.

Michael Lyne, Sports Reporter

The No. 10 Gophers men’s gymnastics team fell just short of a second-half comeback against No. 7 Illinois, losing their final meet of the season at home Monday evening by a score of 393.800-392.800 to finish the regular season with a 1-5 record.

“[It was a] great battle right to the very end,” Gophers head coach Mike Burns said. “It looks like Illinois was just one point better than us on the scoresheet, and that was just a little bit of a tough pill to swallow. We dug ourselves into a hole early on, and I was really proud of how the guys just kept fighting throughout the last four events and pulled it back from a pretty big deficit.”

Many Gophers’ athletes, such as senior Henry Meeker and sophomore Crew Bold, are playing through pain or injuries as their final season as a program is coming to a finish.

“We put up a good fight for sure,” Bold said. “A lot of us are in pain, especially this time of the season. We put on a good show. It’s tough that we lost shy of a point. We got Big Tens and NCAA to come back.”

The Gophers struggled on the pommel horse as four out of their five competitors fell. This proved to be the downfall as the team fell short against the Fighting Illini.

“We had a lot of spirit out there,” Burns said. “I was really happy with the way they finished. Nobody packed their bags up; they just fought until the end. That’s the thing that really excites me about this group of guys.”

Burns also implemented new competitors across the events to give his athletes more experience, such as Bold and sophomore Donte McKinney, who competed on the vault to prepare for the Big Ten championships and NCAA championships.

“I don’t want to put them in [the championships] not having competed all year long,” Burns said. “It’s just not a good place to start somebody out like that.”

There was a lot of hesitation from Burns on allowing Bold to compete on the vault because of his back issues. However, Bold wanted to compete, and after much discussion among his coaches, he got his shot on the vault.
“I said, ‘We’ll let you do it, but you got to promise me that you will do it the way you’ve been doing it in practice,’” Burns said. “He did exactly what I asked him to do, and he did a great job as it was a really big step for him personally.”

East coast Kasiski brings the electric spirit

Junior Garrett Kasiski’s season-high score of 14.400 led the vault team to a total of 70.200, the Gophers’ best team score across all events.

After earning his season-high score, the all-electric Kasiski was fired up and ensured everyone in the Maturi Pavilion noticed.

“I love that,” Burns said of Kasiski’s reaction after his vault performance. “He’s so East Coast. I love his work ethic, and he’s super fiery. He’s just a firecracker all the way around.”

Burns believes Kasiski’s vault performance Monday evening was his best since posting his career-high 14.900 his freshman season against the Air Force.

“I think tonight’s vault was probably the second-best vault of his career,” Burns said. “It was awesome; it was really fun to see it. Just to see all his hard work culminate in a successful moment like that was really cool.”

Bold shines through injuries

Bold was a highlight for the Gophers while competing through back problems and just coming off a foot injury as well. He competed in his second-career all-around, scoring a new career high of 77.700.

“It is tough,” Bold said. “It’s definitely a whole new level going from three or four events to six events. You feel that fatigue toward the end. It feels good to know that I can still do it. I’m happy to be back on all six of the events and to compete. My team and my family are just filled with energy, and it’s always fun to compete, win or lose. It’s just a fun time.”

Bold also earned two individual event titles on the parallel bars and the high bar after scoring 13.750 and 13.400.

“It feels great. You can’t describe it,” Bold said. “All the work that I put in the gym … it wasn’t luck. Feels good to bring it out on the competition floor and give a good show.”

An evening of career highs

Junior Mike Moran earned two career highs and scored 78.650 in all-around for the Gophers. His first career high of the night came on the still rings, where he scored 13.500, while the second came on the high bar when he scored 12.700.

Sophomore Victor Perez earned a career high on the parallel bars, scoring 13.650, and tied his high bar career best by scoring 13.300.

While competing on the still rings with a leg injury, Meeker scored a career-high 13.550 after sticking a perfect landing.

Limelight in the struggling pommel horse lineup for the Gophers was freshman Noah Duran. He tied his career-high score of 13.600.

What’s up next

The Gophers have a bye next weekend before they head on the road to Lincoln, Nebraska, to compete in the Big Ten championships on April 3.

“We haven’t had the entire Golden Gopher team on the competition floor at one time. I believe the first time we’re going to have it is at the Big Ten championship,” Burns said. “It’s exciting to realize that we haven’t really scratched the surface of our potential yet. Having that in our back pocket to hopefully count on and rely upon a little more strength in the lineup as we go into the championship portion of our season, it really gives me a good, comforting feeling.”