Brandon's Blog: Crisler Center to Showcase Top Collegiate Gymnasts
MGOBLUE Sam Mikulak
MGOBLUE
Sam Mikulak
MGOBLUE

April 9, 2014

University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon will regularly offer his view on a variety of topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. All his posts, along with links to related content, will be available on his page, mgoblue.com/brandon, and he is also on Twitter at @DaveBrandonAD.

Sam Mikulak is arguably the most successful gymnast in the history of the University of Michigan men's gymnastics program and one of top collegiate gymnast in recent memory. He is the foundation of yet another Wolverine team built to battle for the program's sixth NCAA championship.

So if you haven't watched Mikulak compete for the Maize and Blue, this week is your last chance.

The nation's top collegiate gymnasts will be in Ann Arbor to compete for individual and team glory Thursday through Saturday (April 10-12) at Crisler Center for the 2014 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships.

As a collegiate competitor, Mikulak owns 13 NCAA All-America citations and has won five NCAA titles -- the most in Michigan history and only two away from equaling the NCAA record. He is a three-time Big Ten Gymnast of the Year, a three-time Big Ten all-around champion, and the NCAA all-around winner two of the last three years.

In 2012 in London, he became the first rostered Michigan gymnast ever to compete for the United States in the Olympics.

Not only that, he pushed his skills to the limit and made the pommel horse "a bit more interesting" when he performed what is now known as the "Mikulak" during the men's qualification round at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The skill was included in the code of points for men's artistic gymnastics.

Now, he is getting even better.

On March 1 in Greensboro, N.C., the reigning U.S. all-around champion performed flawlessly and won the American Cup all-around title, edging Japanese competitor Shogo Nonomura. His win was impressive, but winning this title while still competing for the Wolverines during the collegiate season is an amazing testament to his talent and dedication to the sport and U-M.

Mikulak isn't the only star on this team. Michigan returns all but one regular from the 2013 NCAA championship team. United States National Team member Stacey Ervin as well as 2013 All-Americans Syque Caesar, Dylan James and Adrian de los Angeles will provide head coach Kurt Golder with a solid chance to repeat as champion -- if Ervin and de los Angeles can overcome current injuries.

Ervin ruptured his biceps tendon on the parallel bars during the Big Ten Championships two weeks ago. Even with the injury, he completed his routine and scored for the Wolverines, helping U-M capture its second consecutive Big Ten title. A few weeks prior to the Big Ten Championships, de los Angeles ruptured his ACL. Even with the injury, he is planning to compete this weekend.

Bringing the NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships back to Ann Arbor for only the third time in Michigan history and for the first time since 1971 is a benefit to everyone who loves gymnastics in Ann Arbor. It underscores Michigan's commitment to the sport and places the attention of the public on a Michigan varsity sport that has had great success.

To help showcase Michigan's commitment, the U-M Athletic Department has brought in special podiums that raise the competition floor. The arena setting makes for better fan viewing while offering more give and bounce to the athletes as they dismount from the apparatus during their rotations. These podiums are used for the top national and international competitions.

This is only the third time in men's gymnastics history that the podiums have been used for the NCAA Championships. It is also the same podium and apparatus Mikulak competed on when he won the 2014 American Cup in Greensboro on March 1.

While Mikulak is the U-M leader on the floor, former U-M men's gymnast and its current graduate assistant Ian Makowske is leading another effort -- the zero-waste effort.

This is a chance for the athletic department to develop new partnerships within the University of Michigan community and showcase event opportunities beyond athletics. This will also be the first-ever zero-waste NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships.

Volunteers from the School of Natural Resources & Environment, as well as the Michigan Student-Athletes for Sustainability and Student Sustainability Initiative, will work the event to help fans sort compostable and non-compostable materials.

Media, coaches and officials will also notice a change as results will be available on computer screens as we work toward paperless communication.

Makowske is a dual-degree master's student pursuing his MBA/MS through U-M's School of Natural Resources & Environment and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the Erb Institute for Sustainable Global Enterprise. The zero-waste effort is a perfect fit for athletics and academics and the role of the student-athlete, merging academic pursuits with sports.

Crisler Center will create a home floor advantage for the University of Michigan. A supportive crowd and the friendly confines of Crisler also give the Wolverines team a boost. But the U-M Athletic Department believes the real winners will be the fans, the teams and the officials who will leave Ann Arbor next week knowing that the University of Michigan was relentlessly striving to make this NCAA Championship the best competition in every way.

Join us this weekend as we enjoy having the best collegiate gymnasts on the University of Michigan campus for the 2014 NCAA Championships. This is going to be a memorable event.

Go Blue!

2014 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships Central
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