While most of the Gophers men's gymnastics team will be taking a much-needed weekend off from competition, two of their top competitors, junior Shane Wiskus and sophomore Mike Moran, are headed west to Las Vegas for the annual Winter Cup.
The event allows gymnasts the opportunity to qualify for the 2020 U.S. Gymnastics Championships. That sets them up to try and qualify for the 2020 Olympic Team Trials. Competition begins Thursday Feb. 20. If they make the cut after the first day, they will compete in the finals on Saturday.
The event is a culmination of hard work that both gymnasts have put in all season and in seasons past. Now, they get another opportunity to compete alongside some of the best gymnasts in the country.
It will be Wiskus' third Winter Cup as a Gopher as he competed in the event in both his freshman and sophomore seasons. It's Moran's first appearance.
For the veteran Wiskus, it's all about consistency and showing the high level of gymnastics that has made him an NCAA national champion and back-to-back Big Ten Gymnast of the Year.
“I want to keep proving consistency, just show that I can go out and hit sets no matter what, no matter what kind of pressure,” Wiskus said. “Keep this upward trend continuing forward."
Moran has a different outlook.
“Go out and learn how I react, how I can perform and, at least this one, I can use as a stepping stone towards summer championships and next seasons afterwards,” Moran said.
Just getting the opportunity for Moran is a huge accomplishment and one he’s had as a goal for a few years.
“Even the opportunity of getting to go, I’m grateful. It’s an honor to compete along with guys like Shane and the rest of the country,” Moran said. “My goals are to go out and make a statement that I belong in that all-around spot and break into a bigger scene in the gymnastics world.”
Wiskus did well his freshman year but struggled at last year's event. However, he knows it's a blank slate each year.
“Anything can happen at the Winter Cup. It’s kinda the first meet of the year for a lot of those older guys. But really it’s anyone's game at Winter Cup. Anyone can mess up, anyone can fall, so it’s a huge opportunity for those guys trying to make it in, and a huge opportunity for guys like me to step up,” Wiskus said.
Gophers head coach Mike Burns expressed his excitement for Moran and Wiskus, who he has seen develop from when they both started as freshman.
“I think it’s a statement of what our program is about and what’s important to our program,” Burns said. “If we wanna attract the top recruits in the country, we have to be playing at that level. I think that’s just a statement of where we’re at, our program, and what it is we’re capable of doing here.”