LIVE BLOG: No. 29 Ohio State at No. 5 Michigan

The Buckeyes face off against the Wolverines in the biggest grudge match in the Big Ten. Michigan enters as the strong favorite, but Ohio State is a much better team than it showed against UCLA last weekend and will be looking to show it.

Michigan will be hoping to settle down into the season with a fairly straightforward win. It showed three fairly unnecessary falls last week, though it was able to drop all of them. Eighth-ranked all arounder Olivia Karas is the obvious name to watch – she can be one of the best in the country. Brianna Brown returning to three events in brilliant form is also big news, and freshman Sydney Townsend looked like a future 9.9+ on bars. I’m also interested in Polina Shchennikova, who head coach Bev Plocki has mentioned as a future all around competitor, and Lauren Marinez, who Bev and I agree is perennially underscored on beam.

Ohio State struggled at UCLA last season, with a bars meltdown to open the meet and a beam crisis to close it. However, the Buckeyes looked phenomenal in preseason footage, and absolutely have the ability level to compete with the best in the Big Ten. Four all arounders competed last week; veteran Alexis Mattern was joined by Olivia Aepli, Stefanie Merkle, and freshmen Jenna Swartzentruber. Last week, all four at least had one major miss, but I expect the team to continue investing heavily in these four; they’ll settle in as the season continues.

We’re live from Ann Arbor! And diving right in, not too much warmup time…

It’s Michigan’s autism awareness meet! This is always a great one. They have an adaptive gymnastics group here as guest.


UM – FUNK: FTY, hop back, basically the normal.

OSU – MERKLE: Awkward, close catch on her Jaeger. Full in dismount with a hop to the side.

UM – SHCHENNIKOVA: Good FTY! Not insane height but plenty of distance, prepared well for landing and only slight hop.

OSU – HUANG: I wondered why she didn’t compete bars last week. Turns out her grips broke and she didn’t have an extra pair. Of course. Half turn to beautiful Jaeger, bail straight to handstand, nice toe shoot. A little short on one high bar handstand, full in dismount with a side step. The former elite hasn’t really gotten into her collegiate groove yet, but she can be so beautiful.

UM – ZAZISKI: FTY, big and flared with a hop back. Very dynamic, great direction.

OSU – ADAMSKI: Tkachev and catches her heel on the bar, drops down onto her hand and keeps going. How? Ouch, ouch, ouch. Lovely DLO dismount with a step back.

UM – TOWNSEND: Fell last week on a 1.5. Not today. Near stick, amazing. 9.925.

OSU –  MATTERN: Beautiful and steady. Jaeger to overshoot. Half in half out, stuck with a bit of leg sep.

UM – KARAS: Beautiful on the table, lovely controlled twist, stuck with the normal leg sep. Unbelievably good vault. 9.875 is low.

OSU – AEPLI: New brace on her elbow. Her technique is so lovely. No problem on the shap after peeling last week. Hop to the side on her half in half out. SEC handstand protractor is here and it approves.

UM – MCLEAN: Usual 1.5, fights for the stick and holds it. I thought Karas’ was better but I thought Karas was underscored so hopefully McLean does better. 9.95. I don’t get it, guys.

OSU – SWARTZENTRUBER: Technique is so beautiful. A bit whippy on the DLO dismount. They’ll have to count the 9.625 for Merkle with the weird release catch, but much improved rotation from last week.

MICHIGAN 49.375 v OSU 48.925

Michigan was phenomenal and could have been better. Still so puzzled by Karas’ score, and those FTYs will get better through the season, but this is already one of the best lineups in the country.

OSU improved by almost two points from that awful UCLA rotation, so they should be proud of that. Without the Merkle error they’d be about 49.1-49.2, which is a good place for early season. They’re much closer to where they should be.

Also the commentator is Bridget Sloan. Didn’t even realize.


OSU – MERKLE: Half tucked FTY, but stuck.

UM – TOWNSEND: This routine was so fantastic last week. Fab Maloney to bail, showing off the handstands. Lovely giant full to double back. In March, I’d want a 10 for that routine. So fantastic.

OSU – SWARTZENTRUBER: FTY, good in the air but underrotated. Chest down and kicks her back leg up to hang on.

UM – FARLEY: Debut on bars for the Wogette. Great first handstand, half turn to pike Jaeger. Looked a little close but good catch. Nice bail. Half turn to double tuck, deep but stuck! What a great first routine, she looks super relieved.

OSU – LOWE: Not great height, but spots the landing. Bounce in place.

For literally no reason they took forever to score tat one.

UM – SHCHENNIKOVA: Maloney to pak, beautiful as usual. Giant full to double back, slight skitter back. She points her toes on the double back, thank you.

OSU – AEPLI: Uncannily good at landing this. FTY bounce on her toes, fights and holds it.

UM – KARAS: Slight arch in her bail. Wait, what just happened? I think she cast for the squat on and her hand slipped, fell down onto the bar and jumped off. Short DLO with a bound forward.

OSU – STONE: Not the block she needed, short on her slightly piked Y1/2 and falls back. The Arabian can be such a temperamental vault…

UM – BROWN: Ray, great as ever. Toe on to Pak. Huge DLO, floaty with the tiniest hop. So great.

Another judging delay on Stone. Cmon vault judges, it’s not that hard.

OSU – MATTERN: Handspring pike 1/2, legs together throughout. One of her best. Tiniest hop back.

UM – ZAZISKI: Good Tkachev, this routine is so routine for her. Double layout, stick up onto her toes. Great one!

SCORES: UM 98.75 vs OSU 97.85

Really good rotations from both teams, despite the one weird flukey fall for each!

Meredith says being a head coach is “like drinking water out of a fire hose.” Oh, bless. She says she’s overwhelmed sometimes but she loves it and she really feels the support of the team.

Polina warming up beam.


UM – KARAS: Gainer LOSO, great. Switch split jump to pike jump – catches me by surprise no matter how many times I watch this routine. BHS-LOSO, off line with a midsize wobble. Punch rudi dismount with a hop back.

OSU – SWARTZENTRUBER: Okay, I’ve been trying to read it and yeah Ohio’s leo has Ohio written around the side in cursive. 2.5 twist punch front, great. Tour jete 1/2 to split 1/1 jump, great split positions. Double wolf turn, could have been more awful. Good double pike, adjustment on landing.

UM – ZAZISKI: Cat leap to switch side, Dancing in the Moonlight beam music <3 BHS-LOSO series, switch to straddle 1/4. Super steady today. Great full turn. Kickover front, aggressive and great.

OSU – MCLELLAND: The kind of tumbler who doesn’t make you nervous about her landings. Double pike, switch side to straddle combo. Great front full punch front combo. Double tuck, easy and clean.

UM – MCLEAN: BHS-LOSO series like it’s nothing. Switch side 1/4 to pike jump, love that combo so much. Beat jump to straddle 3/4, chest forward and that could have gotten bad but she adjusts out of it easily. Front full dismount with a hop forward.

OSU – AEPLI: Double back, hop back. I love her technique. Front full to front layout, could have stuck. Tour jete 1/2 to Popa. Lovely turning ring leak, as a former dancer I am SUCH a sucker for those. Double pike, another near stick… a little low but it was fine.

UM – BROWN: Front aerial to beat, lovely. BHS+LOSO. Switch to split – the usual tiny bit of feet, nothing offensive. Great side somi. 2/1 dismount, stuck!

My favorite kind of stick is the kind with a second knee bend to really drive it in.

OSU – STONE: This routine was super impressive at UCLA, let’s see if she can repeat. Double pike, great landing. 2.5 twist to punch front, hangs on just long enough and dances out so there aren’t really any landing deductions. Awesome straddle leap combo. Another 2.5, controlled step forward. Turns into Lion King at the end,

Meredith thinks that a 197 is possible for this team and Bridget agrees, really impressed by the talent level.

UM – FARLEY: Second chance after a fall in debut last week. Switch to split, solid. GREAT triple series, tiny bit off line at the end but pulls her arms back, little smile because she knows she nailed it. Side aerial, intentionally landed a little far forward to rebound perfectly into a sissone. Hop forward on a gainer pike! She got through!

Bridget says a gainer pike is “very unique.” Bridget, honey.

OSU – MERKLE: Full in, a little low with a step forward. Switch 1/2 to wolf 1/1, massive height. Double twist to floaty LOSO! Everyone loves a LOSO pass. Double back, great.

UM – MARINEZ: The jump to split mount, badass as ever. Front aerial, offline and can’t connect. BHS+LOSO+split – at least she doesn’t have to worry about an acro series. Exquisite full turn. Beat jump to split 1/2 with a leg up wobble. Double twist, a little short. Not her best.

Bridget also thinks Lauren is underscored. Everyone important agrees now.

OSU – MATTERN: DLO, the usual aka fab. Tour jete 1/2 to Popa. Closes with a great double pike, bounce into lunge, one of her best.

I love how every time someone makes a reference to Bridget’s career she redirects them right back to the meet we’re watching. Thanks, Bridget.

SCORES: UM 148.025 – OSU 147.025

This is going overall super well! We didn’t see an exhibition but Bev says there was one, I’m guessing it’s Shchennikova.

Yes I’ve seen the vest, no I don’t have any more information than you do 🙁

If this happens, they would deserve it. If anything, they’ve been a little underscored compared to the other high scores.

Bri Brown’s score on beam bumped up to 9.9. Good.


OSU – SWARTZENTRUBER: BHS-LOSO, big lean back but hangs on. Switch to split 3/4, hands down and she’s off. Gainer full dismount, step back.

UM – ZAZISKI: Double pike, great energy and she’s such a performer. Tour jete 1/2 to Popa, great. Cute little shimmy with the M hands. Front layout front full. Did she just dab and moonwalk in the same routine? Oh Paige. Double back, great!

OSU – MATTERN: Off on her series, counting a fall now. Using noted Michigan alumna Madonna for her beam music 😉 Bounce on the gainer full dismount.

Counting one fall wouldn’t kill them but I hope this doesn’t run away from them now.

UM – FUNK: Front 2/1, great! Big step out but you basically expect that on all forward landing twisting. Awesome straddle leap series. Front full front layout, phenomenal. Double pike, great landing. These routines are fabulous, could build some pretty high scores at the end.

OSU – AEPLI: The sophomore has had such a great day. Cat leap to kickover front. Check on her series but saves it – that’s what they need. Good full turn. Switch leap to straddle. Imperfect but fighting and that’s the best thing to see with two falls off the top. Gainer full, stuck with a lean. Back on track.

UM – MARINEZ: Front layout, front Rudi! A little low but very pretty. 2.5 twist, stunning. Her eyebrow-crinkled concentration tumbling face is my life. Gorgeous leaps, we expect no less. Double pike, the tiniest bit underrotated but with a step forward it’s not a problem. Great set and it’s only up from here for the Wolverines.

OSU – LOWE: Doing beam to Perfect, aw. Leg up on her series but hangs on. Switch to split. Side aerial to split, great. Her potential on this event is immense. Great full turn. 3/2 dismount with a hop forward. Good one!

And fighting through after mistakes on the top is great experience for such a young team.

UM – BROWN:  2.5 twist, lovely. Great double pike in the second. Even as a senior Bri always looks a little shy in her floor but what great technique. Loses control a bit in her leap series but makes it work with a hop out. 3/2 twist to front lay, the tiniest bit crunched but fine.

OSU – STONE: BHS-LOSO, bends at the waist to save it. I’m pretty into all of this fighting to stay on. Great switch side series. 2.5 twist, step forward!

UM – MCLEAN: 9.825 clinches the top score in the country for 2018. Double back, fab with a controlled lunge. Tour jete 1/2 to Popa. Amplitude on everything is so wild. Great front lay front full. Double pike, great. One of her best. 9.975!!!

OSU – MERKLE: After five straight errors on acro series, hers is perfect. Hitch kick to switch side. Gainer pike with step forward.

UM – KARAS: Has to be an opportunity for a 10 here. Madonna, how could you miss this? Double arabian, PERFECT landing. Switch 1/2 to wolf 1/1. Front lay front full, very controlled step forward. This is electric. Double pike, great.

10, please. This is a 10.


Not the first time she’s been lowballed today, I’m not certain what’s going on. Someday…

FINAL: UM 197.55 v OSU 194.95

Michigan beats LSU’s high score from last night by THREE TENTHS, and jumps up into third place in the country over Kentucky and Florida. What a great night. A lot of people have called this a year to get through for Michigan, before its bumper 2019 class arrives and potentially changes the game, but instead they’re performing with the best in the country. There were definitely some weird scoring hiccups but… hey, there are three months left in the season.

OSU looked phenomenal before beam happened, and it should take plenty of positives away. This is close to two points higher than last week! Beam needs work, but it’s such a young team.


AA: Paige Zaziski (39.45)

VT: Emma McLean (9.95)

UB: Sydney Townsend and Paige Zaziski (9.9)

BB: Brianna Brown (9.9)

FX: Emma McLean (9.975)



One comment

  1. Agree happily with your comment about Bridget not talking about herself. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her do that, and sure can’t say that about some other former-gymnast commentators — even ones that haven’t competed in many, many years!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.