Michigan hands Illinois first loss
Wolverines post highest scores of season on vault
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- No. 6 Michigan dominated Big Ten rival and No. 3-ranked Illinois 344.050-340.400 in the first home meet of the season on Saturday in Cliff Keen Arena.
Michigan started the competition on the floor exercise, going in Olympic order as the home team. The Wolverines improved their performance on the apparatus, suffering fewer errors compared to the two previous competitions despite scoring lower on the event. The event was led by senior Ian Makowske, who scored a 14.80 with a stuck triple twisting dismount.
After starting strong with the first routine, the Wolverines narrowly avoided disaster in the second rotation on pommel horse. Suffering falls by the second and third athletes, Michigan needed to hit routines from the last three competitors in order to not count a missed routine for the event score.
Under pressure in one of the trickiest events to compete in men's gymnastics, junior Adam Hamers nailed his routine, scoring a 14.55. Riding the momentum from Hamers performance, Michigan's final competitor, freshman Sam Mikulak dominated his set, scoring an all-time high 14.75 to lead the Wolverines on the pommel horse. After two rotations, the Wolverines narrowly led the Illini by three tenths of a point.
Moving to the third rotation on still rings, Michigan continued to look strong with six hit routines. Redshirt junior Andrew Vance competed an upgraded routine with an azarian to maltese strength move rated as an F difficulty and one of the most difficult strength moves on rings. Senior Thomas Kelley anchored the event with the top score for U-M (14.80).
The fourth rotation had Michigan on vault. Again the Wolverines nailed all six routines, putting up their highest event score of the season. Mikulak highlighted the rotation with a nearly flawless two-and-a-half twisting vault, scoring a 15.80. After four rotations, Michigan widened its lead to 2.60 points.
Parallel bars proved to be a rough event for the Wolverines in the fifth rotation. Starting strong first up, freshman Michael Myler hit a routine of 13.70. The next three competitors experienced difficulty, putting up missed routines. With a still narrow lead at stake, the final two Wolverines salvaged the rotation with hit routines. Final competitor, junior Syque Caesar, scored an all-time best 15.10 to lead the Wolverines in the event.
Michigan came to the high bar in the final rotation, never looking back. After four hit routines, the Wolverines were on their feet cheering for the final two competitors. Fifth up, nationally ranked on high bar, Kelley performed an outstanding routine to lead the Wolverines, scoring a 14.90. U-M expanded the lead following the final rotation to pull off the upset.