Third time's the charm
Golder gets No. 3, Williams runner-up for third year in a row
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Move over, Red Berenson -- there’s a new sheriff in town.
Michigan outlasted Oklahoma in the national championship team finals on Saturday, with the Wolverines tallying 443.200 points to the Sooners’ 440.100. It was head coach Kurt Golder’s third NCAA title for Michigan, breaking him out of a tie with Berenson, the school’s hockey head coach.
The late Newt Loken led Michigan to two men’s gymnastics championships in 1963 and 1970. Between Loken and Golder, the program now has a total of five national crowns to its credit.
“It’s great,” Golder said with a smile. “I’m in a secret competition with Red Berenson at Michigan. Now, getting my third, I’m the winner for the older era.”
Michigan led by just .004 going into the final rotation. It was headed to the floor exercise, Oklahoma to the high bar. Golder grinned at the memory.
“I thought, '...this is going to slip away,’” he said.
For Sam Mikulak, it was time for Michigan to seal the deal. And despite a couple of slips by Stacey Ervin during his floor routine, that’s exactly what the Maize and Blue were able to do.
Mikulak and teammate Adrian de los Angeles also swept the top two spots in the individual all-around competition.
“We knew we were going on floor, and that’s a very strong event for us,” Mikulak said. “High bar, there’s a lot of risk. It’s not generally a very high-scoring event for Oklahoma. We had a team huddle and said, ‘Hey, hit your sets. Do what we do in the gym and we’ll come out on top.’
“[Ervin] has got start value. If anyone can mess up, it’s him. He’s done so much for our team throughout the whole season. We had a good enough margin to slip off with a victory. As much as we would’ve liked to end on a very big exclamation point, sometimes it just happens. We’re still proud of him.”
Michigan started the competition on the pommel horse, standing fourth after that first rotation. The squad came roaring back on still rings in the second round to take a team lead it would not relinquish the rest of the night.
“[Pommel horse] is the most difficult event to compete in, so if you do have trouble, you’ve got five events to dig yourself out of the hole you just dug,” Golder said. “But we didn’t have trouble, so it was clear sailing.”
Golder appeared almost sedate in victory compared to Oklahoma head coach Mark Williams, who seemed truly thrilled to be in the position he was, and it’s one with which he is familiar.
It was the third consecutive runner-up effort for the Sooners in the national championships and fourth in the last seven years.
“I thought this was a fantastic night for us,” Williams said. “We hit 100 percent, stuck a lot of dismounts and exceeded all the expectations I’ve ever had for this team. This is the most excited I’ve ever been to be second.”
Oklahoma lost Alex Naddour and Jake Dalton from last year’s squad to the Olympic national team and that’s exactly why Williams was so incredibly pleased with Saturday’s effort by Oklahoma.
“We were short two guys who were key to the success of the program,” Williams said. “I just felt like we’d try to get as good as we could be in the year, do what we could do and see how far we could go. Really, when we won the conference meet, I was amazed and thrilled.
“We beat Michigan at home earlier in the season. There’s no way I could have projected that this team could end up finishing second. They deserve that because of the performance they put on -- sticking so many routines, having the energy and just having fun.”
Michigan’s Mikulak also competed in four separate events for Team USA at the London Olympic games, finishing fifth on the vault. Now, he has a national championship to add to his already impressive résumé.
“There’s a lot more pride because of this team of brothers that I’ve been working with so hard every day in the gym,” Mikulak said. “As much as going to the Olympics was an amazing experience with the senior national team, this is something I hadn’t accomplished.
“This is the final accolade that I was striving to get for my college career. From here on out, it’s just having fun and making sure everyone can push for next year’s national championship. This is what we’ve worked for, and we’ve accomplished it.”