LIVE BLOG: Ohio State at Michigan

We got a fun unexpected little rivalry meet this weekend when Rutgers withdrew from what used to be a tri meet in Ann Arbor due to too much COVID. Ohio State and Michigan might not be particularly closely matched in gymnastics, but they do NOT like each other, and the intensity of the rivalry between these two schools adds extra spice to every meeting between them.

Michigan had a streamed intrasquad early in December and looked absurdly prepared for season, with almost double lineups doing full routines onto competition landings. In a year when many teams are behind schedule due to practice cancellations, this could prove to be a huge advantage or an injury liability. What seems sure is that the Michigan freshmen will add more routines than the graduating seniors took away, with Naomi Morrison looking like a particularly huge factor.

Ohio State might not have a realistic route to winning this meet, but it’s a very compelling team in its own right. There’s a lot of gorgeous gymnastics on this team, with just one major flaw, which is Falling Off Beam. We’ll be tracking the Falling Off Beam situation closely in the last rotation, but until then, things should be very pleasant.

Looks like five 10.0 starts for the Wolverines, as expected.

Rotation 1: Michigan vault, Ohio State bars

Heiskell (UM): Pretty FTY, arms a bit wide on the table but flares to land. Hop back. 9.825

Pritchard (OSU): Short on the first cast handstand, toe on to Gienger with a bit of knee and foot form in the air to overshoot. Blind full double back with pointed toes and a stick-ish. 9.775

Brenner (UM): One and a half, I agree with the lineup order that this is the worst of Michigan’s five but it’s still very solid. Slightly wonky on the table and soft knees in the air but good dynamics and just a small hop forward. 9.875

Malas (OSU): Nice open hips in all her work, blind to Jaeger with a slightly messy catch, good overshoot. Nice feet. Doesn’t make it over the bar on her blind full, collapses onto the bar and jumps off. They didn’t show her finishing the routine on-stream but based on the score I assume she must have done. 9.15

Wojcik (UM): Vaulting before Malas finishes. Little leg separation on the table into her usual great vault, medium step forward. 9.85

Abbie Gaies is the mask manager. She’s storing them in a paper Gatorade cup so she doesn’t touch them and running them back to each gymnast as they finish vaulting.

Edwards (OSU): She’ll always be a sentimental favorite after coming back from a truly atrocious injury in JO. Nice Maloney to Pak, looks slightly overpowered but keeps it under control, toe full to double back with a medium step back. Good recovery for the Bucks. 9.75

Wilson (UM): One and a half looks absolutely gigantic, big step forward and to one side. 9.8

Hankins (OSU): First cast is short, blind to Jaeger very pretty, Pak with leg separation. Double layout a bit shapey but just a small landing hop. 9.75

Morrison (UM): Glad to see the freshman so deep in this lineup. There’s every reason to believe she’ll be excellent from preseason footage, but we have very little video of her JO career. One and a half gorgeous in the air with a medium step forward. 9.825

Miller (OSU): Toe on to Maloney to bail, great, very minor leg flicker on the bail is all I saw there. Nice double layout, holds the landing for a second before stepping to salute. Good one! 9.8

Brooks (UM): Just a baby hop forward on her one and a half. 9.925!

Swartzentruber (OSU): Maloney to Pak, van Leeuwen, her usual, short on a high bar cast and then naiiiiiils the double lay. Clutch. 9.875

Near-stick on a FTY in the first exhibition spot from Nicoletta Koulos. Bouncy landing on the second ex from Reyna Guggino but I enjoyed it anyway because of how aggressively she wraps in with her arms. Zoe Schweitzer put up a solid routine for Ohio State with a bit of leg separation in handstands.

After 1: Michigan 49.300, Ohio State 48.950

The score ordering here is… pretty questionable. I don’t buy for a second that Brenner was the second-best vault or that Miller’s bars routine was substantially worse than Schwartzentruber’s.

That’s still the third-best vault lineup of the season, and it could easily have scored higher. This vault team is already exceptional and a few weeks of landing practice will bring it into imperious territory. There’s not really much to say about it. The best thing about Michigan is that when things are good, they’re also very simple. I could see Koulos subbing into that lead off spot over Heiskell, and there’s still Maxim’s theoretical Tsuk to consider.

Ohio State looked really good on bars! I’ve seen a number of Buckeye bars meltdowns in January and I’m impressed with how a fairly young squad bounced back from the Malas miss. Lots of pretty work there too. Excited to watch this squad develop.

Rotation 2: Ohio State vault, Michigan bars

Gagliardi (OSU): Yurchenko half on, tuck off. Just a 9.9 start from the junior but it’s a solid, reliable vault to get the team started. Small step. 9.75

Heiskell (UM): Blind to Jaeger, BEAUTIFUL but a bit too far from the bar and she can’t catch it. Beautiful Pak, tons of airtime, the Southeastern creds really show in this routine. Blind full double back. Bummer but she’s technically just spectacular.

Riccardi (OSU): Bit pikey in the air on her FTY with a hop in place. Lots of height, she can probably extend that more. 9.8

Mariani (UM): Clear hip to Tkachev, great, little piked in the bail. Patient with her casts, double layout stuck. Wasn’t worried for a second about her ability to follow a fall. She’s incredibly resilient. 9.825

Lowe (OSU): Solid FTY, feet separate at the end but a good landing, just a minor hop. 9.8

Wilson (UM): Didn’t pick her for this lineup. Blind to pike Jaeger, pretty clean, there are little bits of feet in the air which is typical for her. Good bail, missing cast handstands but probably not by enough to be deductible, near-stuck double lay. Okay, I get why you’re in this lineup. 9.825

Miller (OSU): Highest FTY of the Buckeyes’ lineup so far with a cross step back. 9.775

Brenner (UM): Blind to Jaeger, not the prettiest but she’s cleaned it up over her career. Missing some handstands marginally like Wilson. Dead stick on her double lay. 9.9

Edwards (OSU): Huge FTY, very small hop back. Remember that time last year she got a 9.925 and didn’t stick? She deserved it and she still does. 9.85

Brooks (UM): Almost goes over on her first handstand, sticks her head out to save it. Pike Jaeger is great, overshoot, another ridiculous stick on her FTDLO. These landings are unbelievably sharp. 9.925

Jennings (OSU): FTY comes in a touch short and takes a sizeable hop forward, but her chest wasn’t too low. 9.75

Wojcik (UM): Toe on to Deltchev, spectacular, good bail. Nailing the handstands, double lay with a tiny scoot back. Super aggressive back half of the lineup. 9.925

Swartzentruber in the vault ex for the Buckeyes, piked down on her FTY but solid. Koulos up for the Wolverines. Best bail of the day, a lot of them were sort of tenuous on the handstand position, another ridiculous double lay stick. Maxim arched a handstand but saved it, another great bail, ANOTHER stick.

After 2: Michigan 98.700, Ohio State 97.925

Michigan is stone cold. I count 6/8 sticks from that bars lineup (you can debate Wilson’s but I’m gonna give it to her). This is once again the third-best bars lineup of the season. I’d like to see Koulos in this lineup, maybe over Wilson. Heiskell should get a second chance due to being gorgeous.

I refuse to get excited until after beam, but this is also a great number for the Buckeyes through two. Knock on wood.

Rotation 3: Michigan beam, Ohio State floor

Farley (UM): Triple series with her usual form, check and gets it back with some spontaneous arm choreography. Split to split 1/2, I just love the 3/2 turn, side aerial. Gainer pike with chest down and a step forward. 9.775

Warga (OSU): Two and a half punch front, flirting pretty aggressively with the corner, couldn’t tell if she was actually out. This choreography is contemporary and gorgeous. Good leaps, really precise positions. Front double full, underrotated and falls to one side. 8.9

Mariani (UM): Full turn, side aerial to split great. Beat switch side, excellent BHS LOSO. She looks so secure. One and a half stuck. 9.9!!

Chesney (OSU): Um, I think that was meant to be a wolf jump 3/2 but it was a full half turn short and stepped around. Potential SV trouble if so. Double pike with chest a bit low, good combo pass, switch side Popa, one and a half front lay underrotated with a big hop back. 9.725

Wilson (UM): Orphan cat leap, BHS LOSO unsteady but keeps it on. Wolf hop switch side, double tuck dismount with a step back. 9.775

Pritchard (OSU): Two and a half punch front pretty but OOB. Switch half split full a bit bouncy, front lay to Rudi with panache. This floor rotation is… slipping a bit. 9.7

Heiskell (UM): Cat leap side aerial, little check, another check on a switch side combo. BHS LOSO and falls. One and a half with a little step. 🙁 9.175

Hankins (OSU): Solid full in, step forward. Front lay front 1/2 split drifts hard to the side, switch ring tour jete 1/2 excellent. Great landing on a double back. She looks thrilled by that one. Great setup for Gagliardi, too. 9.825

Brooks (UM): Series with a smaller bend check, good switch switch combo. Super confident on the kick front, one and a half dismount with a hop. This rotation can still be pretty good if Wojcik does what she can. 9.725

Gagliardi (OSU): She is just so freaking delightful. Double pike, good, she really milks landings with her arms and it’s excellent. Little hop to the side on her front lay Rudi, switch side Popa. The energy level is ridiculous. Great double back. 9.85

Wojcik (UM): Front aerial to beat, switch to split. Steady and fluid. Tiny lean on her triple series, one and a half with a little hop. Needed that. 9.9

Malas (OSU): Two and a half punch front with a bit of knees, switch switch 1/2, excellent landing on her double back. 9.875

Koulos heading for an exhibition AA set I guess. Looks fantastic on beam. I’d put that in the lineup tomorrow. Morrison up in the second ex, yay! I was disappointed not to see her on bars. Leaps are gorg.

After 3: Michigan 147.775, Ohio State 146.900

UM had what can only be described as a massive wobblefest and still walked away with a 49.075, which is something to be proud of in week 1. That could have gone south really fast and it didn’t. Floor judges were quite permissive for Ohio State, so there’s an opportunity for the Wolverines to really gun it now.

Beam is the bugaboo for the Buckeyes as we’ve discussed, but this team has looked really resilient thus far in the meet and worked through falls that easily could have set off a chain reaction. Just maybe their mental game is robust enough this year to withstand what beam will throw at them.

Rotation 4: Ohio State beam, Michigan floor

Lowe (OSU): Aggressive choice to make the veteran lead and she’s looked very sharp in training. BHS LOSO a bit off line but hangs on with minimal drama, switch straddle 1/4 and falls. Cat leap side aerial, one and a half dismount with a side scoot. 9.15

Guggino (UM): Scoot back on her double pike, cat leap 2/1 is fun. Switch side Popa is maaaaaassive. Straddle jumps are her thing. Solid combo pass, she’s a strong dancer with lots of energy, cross step out of her Rudi. That was fun. 9.825

Miller (OSU): BHS LOSO, check, walks it off. Good side leaps, looking a bit shaky but getting through, step forward on the gainer tuck full. 9.725

Koulos (UM): She’s in a lineup!! Oh, I like this routine. Pretty 2.5 twist, double pike, she can really finesse a lunge. Step back on the front lay front full. Music wasn’t Greek at the beginning but gets more Greek at the end. Love it. 9.825

Hankins (OSU): Actually fairly pretty wolf turn, secure and easy BHS LOSO. Lean forward on the kick front, switch switch split 1/4 WOW. Double full with a tiny hop back. YES. 9.8.

Brenner (UM): Full in, good. One and a half front lay, a bit archy and low. There’s a lot of stylistic diversity in the Michigan choreography this year, which is great to see from a team that has in past years been one of the worst offenders of giving everyone bland ambiguous techno routines that look the same. Good double pike and she’s SCREAMING. 9.875

Oliveros (OSU): Side to back series ooooo. Looks good. She’s a very pretty beamer, I believe she was coached by Kristina Comforte before Comforte left club for UCLA. Side aerial back full, little scoot. GOOD. 9.9!!

Brooks (UM): Full in, ugh, it looked so good and then she moved her front foot. Still excellent, to be clear, but we have to be assessing her as someone who could get a 10 at any time at this point. One and a half front lay, good leaps, hop forward on double pike. 9.9

Pritchard (OSU): Good side aerial. Little lean on her series, not a problem, something to switch side. Getting through. These underclassmen are gritty in a way that we haven’t seen from the Buckeyes in awhile. Double twist with a hop. 9.825

Wojcik (UM): Double pike, almost overpowered it but kept the front foot down. Bounced out of her leaps a bit. Front double full front pike great. Pretty low choreography. Rudi to straddle, I love that pass on her, she controls it so well. 9.9

Hodges (OSU): Good turning leap series to open, lean on BHS LOSO but gets it back. Gainer LOSO from standing, literally the best one I’ve ever seen. Step forward on her 1.5. Fall = dropped. 9.85

Wilson (UM): Open full in, good. Really solid landing from how much oomph that pass has in the air. FRONT LAY FRONT FULL STUCK OKAY GIRL. Switch side straddle 3/2, that leap is really her trademark. Hop forward on the double tuck. 9.95

Swartzentruber turns in ANOTHER clean beam routine for the Buckeyes in ex. Naomi Morrison gets a turn on floor, a lot of her tumbling is a bit sideways in the air.

FINAL: Michigan 197.225 – Ohio State 196.000

This is the highest opening score in Michigan program history and the second-highest in Big Ten history, and that with a pretty junk beam rotation. Dang. Michigan has some thoughts to think about lineups—if we don’t see a lot more of Nicoletta Koulos I’ll be a bit upset. But there’s really almost nothing the Wolverines can be upset about here. Heck of a day.

But while the conversation will understandably mostly be about Michigan, today is arguably a bigger deal for Ohio State. This is a team that only scored 196+ once in 2020! The resilience and panache the Buckeyes showed today is so, so promising. Today would have been the second-best beam lineup score of the whole 2020 season, too. Ohio State is overdue for a renaissance and it might finally be here.

VT: Sierra Brooks (UM) 9.925
UB: Sierra Brooks, Natalie Wojcik (UM) 9.925
BB: Maddie Mariani, Natalie Wojcik (UM), Hannah Oliveros (OSU) 9.900
FX: Gabby Wilson (UM) 9.950
AA: Natalie Wojcik (UM) 39.575

Live blog by Rebecca Scally

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