In their first home meet of the season, the No. 9 Gophers’ men’s gymnastics team pulled out a close win over No. 6 Illinois 402.800-400.900 to secure their first victory of the young season.
Junior Shane Wiskus had another stellar night, finishing first in the floor exercise with a score of 14.650 and in the parallel bars with a career-high score of 15.100. Wiskus set a new NCAA season-high in both the parallel bars and all-around with a score of 84.600. This was the second week in a row Wiskus has finished first in the parallel bars, floor exercise and all-around score.
“It’s just important that every meet you build upon previous performances and I knew going into this meet that I had a goal score of an 84.000,” Wiskus said. “I knew I needed to go about a tenth better on every event, and it ended up averaging out and I went 84.600, so I hit my goal.”
It was the second time in six days the two teams had faced off. Both teams were a part of the annual Windy City Invitational on Jan. 18. The Gophers topped Illinois that night too, finishing second in the tournament with a score of 398.750, beating out Illinois’ score of 394.200.
Fellow teammate senior Timmy Kutyla took home the first-place finish in the high bar with a score of 13.850. This was Kutyla’s first career-event win and capped off a short but memorable night for the senior captain.
“It really means a lot. I’ve gone three years just working so hard and it’s finally just coming together this year,” Kutyla said. “It’s really exciting for me and to have such an electric team behind my back it just motivates me more.”
The Gophers got their night started on the pommel horse where sophomore David Pochinka scored a season high 13.400 to lead the Gophers to a 64.250 team total. Next for the Gophers they headed to the still rings as sophomore Mike Moran set a career high with a score of 13.200, but Wiskus led the Gophers with a 13.950 on the rings.
On the floor exercise, the Gophers, as a team, were able to set a season high with a score of 66.950. Then came time for the parallel bars. Wiskus set his new career high and the Gophers recorded a score of 70.150, their highest score since 2018, behind an electric crowd.
The Gophers ended their night with the vault where they totaled a score of 70.050 to give them a total of 402.800 which surpassed their scores from the previous two weeks.
Head coach Mike Burns knew Illinois was a tough team after seeing them just a week prior and knew they needed a high-level performance like the one they got Saturday.
“It was an electric feeling tonight and the team was just on a roll,” Burns said. “The thing that was even better than the great moments was how they managed the setbacks and how they got back on track and kind of rekindled the momentum they had from the get-go.”
Next week the Gophers will travel to Iowa City, Iowa to face Iowa/UIC. The meet begins at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 1.
“Starting out this season with a Big Ten win is huge for us,” Wiskus said. “Last year we started the Big Ten regular season with two losses, and we still won, so being ahead of that and giving us more cushion is incredible, and I can’t think of a better way to start the season.”