The Nebraska men’s gymnastics team has turned parts of practices into mini meets heading into this weekend’s Big Ten championships.
The No. 10 Huskers have been doing a 10-minute warmup, waiting for each of their teammates to compete and even saluting before taking their turn on an apparatus.
Coaches wanted the athletes a little nervous and a little cold from waiting, just like they’ll be at the seven-team Big Ten event in Minneapolis, with competition beginning at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
They’re hoping to ease early nerves and eliminate mistakes like a missed dismount or a hand slip that have been sabotaging NU’s efforts.
“In almost every meet, in the middle, once we get on a roll, we’re on it,” coach Chuck Chmelka said. “It seems to take us a couple of routines to get on that roll.”
Chmelka doesn’t want to lose the momentum the Huskers gained a few weeks ago in a 425.400-424.250 comeback win over No. 6 Illinois, the defending national champion. NU trailed late in the meet, but roared back with a season-high point total.
“They loved the feeling they had and it was awesome,” Chmelka said. “We have had a nice week of practice. I think the guys realize now, on any given day, anybody could be beat or can win. We just have to do a really good job and put pressure on the other teams.”
Top-ranked Penn State and No. 3 Michigan are the favorites this weekend. Ohio State, Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa also are ranked in the top 10. Competition starts Friday with the team and all-around and finishes Saturday with the individual event finals.
The Huskers will begin on the high bar, which Chmelka likes, and then move to the floor exercise, a bye, the pommel horse, the rings, the vault and the parallel bars. They also ended with the bars against Illinois, coming from three points behind.
“That’s another good momentum thing the guys have on their mind,” Chmelka said. “We did it once, we can just rock and do it again.”
The Huskers will be led Wyatt Aycock in the all-around, Grant Perdue, who has a new floor routine, and the now-healthy Louis Klein. Mark Ringle also has rebounded from some midseason struggles.
“We’re clicking pretty good right now,” Chmelka said. “It would be nice to put together a nice, solid competition and see how well we can do and see how high we can finish.”
He doesn’t want it to affect their performance, but Chmelka said the Huskers should advance to the NCAA championships April 19 at Penn State regardless of how they do this weekend.
“We want to come up with a real bang right off the bat to do as good as we can do,” he said.
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