Week #1: U-M to Open Up 2013 Season at Windy City Invite

Jan. 15, 2013

Syque Caesar on WTKA Insider

Saturday, Jan. 19 -- at Windy City Invite (Chicago, Ill.), 7:30 p.m. CST
Live Results

Participating Teams -- No. 1 Illinois, No. 2 Michigan, No. 7 Minnesota, No. 8 Ohio State, No. 10 Iowa, No. 15 UIC

The No. 2-ranked University of Michigan Wolverine men's gymnastics team (0-0) will open up the 2013 season at the 17th annual Windy City Invite on Saturday (Jan. 19) at the UIC Physical Education Building in Chicago, Ill. The meet is slated for a 7:30 p.m. CST start and will feature No. 1 Illinois, No. 7 Minnesota, No. 8 Ohio State, No. 10 Iowa and the host institution in No. 15 UIC.


Last Time at Windy City
Last season, U-M took third in the event with a 338.700, as Ohio State won the meet with a 344.500, while Illinois notched a 341.900 to take second. U-M was led by individual-event champions Syque Caesar (p-bars) and Sam Mikulak (floor), while Mikulak took second in the all-around competition with an 85.00.

Breaking the Trend
Michigan will enter the meet looking to break the trend of the previous two years, as the squad finished behind Illinois in 2010 and 2011. In 2011, Michigan was defeated, 355.400-346.100. In 2010, the Illini knocked off the Wolverines, 353.750-351.350. The Wolverines won the event in 2009 after earning a team score of 346.100. U-M's only other win in the event came in 2007, when the team finished three points ahead of the runner-up Illini.

Maize Defeats Blue in Annual Intrasquad
The Wolverines men's gymnastics squad began its 2012-13 season with its annual Maize and Blue intrasquad meet, with Maize defeating Blue, 330.20-328.80, on Friday (Dec. 7) at Cliff Keen Arena. Overall, the Maize team claimed a victory on parallel bars (56.50) and high bar (56.50), while Blue countered with wins on floor (57.45), pommel horse (52.50), vault (56.80) and rings (57.65).

Sophomore Stacey Ervin (Troy, Mich./Truman) began the night in midseason form with a 15.75 on floor to highlight the night and earn a career high for the blue squad. The Maize team, which trailed by almost six points heading into the fifth rotation, was led by Syque Caesar, who scored a 15.30 on his signature event, parallel bars. Sophomore Michael Strathern led the way in completing the comeback, scoring a 14.60 on high bar to aid the Maize squad in an event sweep and securing the comeback win in the annual event.

New Team Captains
The 2013 Wolverine squad will be headed up by seniors Rohan Sebastian and Syque Caesar. Caesar served as a co-captain two years ago and a tri-captain last season, while the captaincy honor is the first of Sebastian's career.

Overview of the Wolverines Squad: Sophomore and Junior Heavy
After consecutive years of welcoming double-digit recruiting classes in 2011 and 2012, the Wolverines now have 20 of 24 members of this season's squad being either a sophomore or a junior.

The Wolverines will add four newcomers this season, they include freshmen Konner Ackerman, Adam Dean, Nolan Novak and sophomore Colin Mahar.

U-M Tops Big Ten Preseason Poll; Ervin, de los Angeles Named Gymnasts to Watch
Michigan was picked to finish first in the Big Ten in the preseason coaches' poll. A pair of sophomores in Adrian de los Angeles and Stacey Ervin graced the list as conference Gymnasts to Watch. De los Angeles' freshman season was highlighted by making the United States National team following the 2012 Winter Cup, while Ervin was an NCAA All-American on floor as well as vault in his initial campaign in Ann Arbor.

The last time the Wolverines were selected as the top team in the conference by the coaches was in 2010, when then-sophomore Syque Caesar was on the Preseason Watch List.

1. Michigan
2. Illinois
3. Penn State
4. Ohio State
5. Minnesota
6. Nebraska
7. Iowa

Wolverines Ranked Second in GymInfo Poll
Michigan will enter the 2013 season ranked No. 2 in the GymInfo national poll. The Wolverines earned a pair of first-place votes. Illinois tops the poll at with six first-place votes, while perennial powerhouse Oklahoma ranks third with two first-place votes.

Penn State debuts in the poll ranked No. 4 and received a trio of first-place votes to round out the top four spots. The poll sported a strong Big Ten flavor, as conference members Minnesota, Ohio State, Nebraska and Iowa rank No. 7-10, respectively.

2013 GymInfo Preseason Coaches' Poll
1. Illinois (6)
2. Michigan (2)
3. Oklahoma (2)
4. Penn State (3)
5. Stanford (2)
6. California
7. Minnesota
8. Ohio State
9. Nebraska
10. Iowa
11. Air Force
12. Temple
13. Army
14. William & Mary
15. UIC

Big Ten teams in italics
First-place votes in parentheses

Michigan Men's Gymnasts in the 2012 London Olympics
Sam Mikulak represented Team USA at the 2012 London Olympics, where he took part in the Olympic Team finals, competing on four events for the fifth-place Team USA squad, which notched a team total of 269.952.

Mikulak's top event was vault, where he took 10th overall and earned a 15.966. He began Olympic competition on floor exercise, where he collected a 14.600 to take 19th, and then tallied a team-leading 14.500 on pommel horse -- good for 16th. In his final event of the competition, Mikulak scored a 15.266 to take 12th on the event.

Additionally, as member of Team USA, Mikulak advanced to the event finals on vault with a 16.300 to qualify fourth. He added two other top-15 finishes -- on floor (12th, 15.366) and parallel bars (13th, 15.316).

He also added a 20th-place finish on pommel horse with a 14.333 and notched a 14.033 on high bar to take 43rd.

During the individual-event final of vault, Mikulak took fifth place. Mikulak, the lone American in the contest, earned a combined score of 16.050.

His first vault scored a 16.100 after a slight step to his left of his initial landing. On vault number two, he tallied a 16.000, after he stuck his landing cold. Initially, the score was enough to put him in third place, but he was eventually overtaken and finished fifth.

Syque Caesar was selected to represent Bangladesh in artistic gymnastics at the 2012 Olympic Games as he was selected by the Bangladesh Olympic Association. The invitation came after Caesar made history on Dec. 31, 2011, at the fourth Central South Asian Artistic Gymnastic Championships, where he earned the first gold medal in Bangladesh international history.

During that New Year's Eve competition, Caesar won the parallel bars competition with a score of 14.60 and was joined on the podium by Uzbekistan's Ruslan Irgashev, who took the silver medal (13.85), and India's Devesh Kumar, who won bronze (13.725). The Wolverine senior also took silver in the vault competition with a score of 14.25 and earned bronze in the floor exercise with a 13.525. His overall efforts on the meet resulted in a bronze medal in the all-around competition as well.

At the 2012 Olympics, Caesar, representing Bangladesh, scored a 13.70 on parallel bars to take 27th, and he was 29th on floor (14.666) and 50th on high bar (13.70).

Mikulak Has Skill Added to Code of Points
The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) approved naming a pommel horse skill after 2012 United States Olympic team member Sam Mikulak, who became first gymnast to complete the skill at an official FIG competition. He performed what is now known as the "Mikulak" during the men's qualification round at 2012 Olympic Games in London. The skill was included in the FIG's 2013-16 "Code of Points" for Men's Artistic Gymnastics, published on Sept. 14.

The "Mikulak" is a double scissor with a hop from one end of the horse to the other. The skill begins with forward leg swings and half turn of the body but ends with backward leg swings. A typical scissor on the pommel horse is a skill where the gymnast performs a pendulum swing with both legs individually, changing sides of the horse at its peak.

The skill is valued as a D skill on a scale from A to F, with F being the most difficult. The 2013-16 "Code of Points" has three scissor skills for pommel horse bearing individual gymnast's names, all with a D value, and it does not have any other single leg scissor skills that have greater than a D value.

He is the second U-M gymnast in program history to have a skill with their namesake, as Wayne Miller (1966-68) had a skill named after him on trampoline, which is a double back somersault with one and a half twists in the first and one and a half twists in the second.

Michigan to Host 2014 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced Thursday, Nov. 1, that the University of Michigan's Crisler Center has been selected as the site of the 2014 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships. The three-day competition will be held at the newly renovated Crisler Center in April 2014.

This will be the third time the University of Michigan will play host to an NCAA men's gymnastics national championship. Michigan hosted the event in 1951 and 1971, with the latter being held at Crisler Arena.
Michigan has finished in the top six at the national meet in 13 of the past 14 seasons under Kurt Golder, including national championships in 1999 and 2010 and runner-up finishes in 2000 and 2009.

Ways to Follow U-M Gymnastics
For fans not able to attend meets this season, there are several ways to follow the Wolverines action this year. Your primary source for all things Michigan is MGoBlue.com, where recaps, features, schedules, and statistics can be found. Live stats will be provided for all home meets, as well as select away meets. Additionally, follow @umichgym for live updates at meets, and 'like' Michigan men's gymnastics on Facebook, where special content can be found throughout the season.


Kurt Golder
Head Coach

Q: What's the biggest challenge for the team this season?

A: There are two big challenges, and they're the same every year. One is keeping the team healthy, having everybody healthy at the right time. Two is getting them in the right frame of mind and getting them to have their peak performance when it counts the most, that is, at the NCAA Championships, in particular the Super Six, the finals.

Q: Who are you counting on for leadership and why?

A: Leadership comes in a lot of different forms. In one form, Sam Mikulak's not a real vocal leader, but he's so good in the gym and on the competitive floor, which is one form of leadership. Syque Caesar, when we line up every day, never misses a day where he doesn't make some comment, and it's always motivational, so it's more verbal. Mike Strathern is a very quiet, talented guy, and he is setting an example in the gym knocking out super skills and not saying a word or anything, just getting the job done. Rohan Sebastian is a good verbal leader too, but I think we have about eight to 10 good contributing leaders.

Q: What is the strength of your team?

A: It's going to be parallel bars. You have Syque Caesar with a really strong p-bars and returning Big Ten champion from 2010. Sam Mikulak, who was less than a tenth of a point from making the Olympic finals on that event, and a supporting cast like Douglass Johnson, Michael Strathern, Stacey Ervin coming back. Adrian de los Angeles has a world-class routine, and he's improved his difficulty a lot, so we have a lot of quality options on the event.

Q: What does the Big Ten landscape look like this season?

A: I can tell you a lot more after the Windy City Invite. I think it's going to be a dog fight with Illinois, even though they did lose their top all-arounder in CJ Maestas. They've got good freshman recruits and class, so even though they lost one of their top guys, they still have a lot of depth. Penn State is trying to catch us and at the NCAA Championships last season, Penn State did beat us. They beat us the most important time, and they're hosting the NCAAs this year and usually when you host, it brings out the best in your team. So I think that it's very possible that Penn State will be our strongest contender when it comes right down to the NCAA Championships.

Q: What are our must see home events?

Stanford is also going to be a real strong contender, and we host them in our first home meet on January 26. At the NCAAs, Cal did beat us last year. They lost a lot from graduation, but I think they have 12 freshmen, so if only half of those guys are contributors, a freshman class of six contributors, don't underestimate them. The last time I had 12 freshmen on a team at one time was in '99 and we won the NCAA championship. We started the preseason ranked number 10 and finished ranked one. So they very well could pull off something like that.

Q: What kind of team style can fans expect to see?

A: On each event we're going to have some real high-level difficulty routines, but I really think the strength of our team is how clean we are in our execution. We're not the team that has sloppy form or sloppy execution. I think we're going to have a nice body line, nice toe point, you won't see frequent knee bends and so forth. You'll see perfect positions, and that's really what I think the strength of our team is.

»  Beginning with the 2017 season, entry to regular-season home events will be free of charge.