ANN ARBOR, Mich. At its final dual before the start of the championships season, the seventh-ranked Ohio State men’s gymnastics team (4-8; 2-5 Big Ten) fell to No. 5 Michigan (7-5 overall), 359.2-356.25, Saturday night at Cliff Keen Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich. The conference meet will be aired on tape delay at 8 p.m. March 29 on the Big Ten Network.
The Buckeyes recorded three-season highs en route to a season-best 356.25, outscoring their previous best by more than three points. The mark ranks as the second-highest team road score in the Big Ten this season, following Penn State’s 360.55 scored vs. Ohio State in St. John Arena Feb. 24. At the meet, senior tri-captains DJ Bucher and Jimmy Wickham recorded first-place finishes on parallel bars (15.35) and vault (16.45), respectively.
“The guys did awesome tonight and I couldn’t expect them to do any better after three weeks off,” Miles Avery, Ohio State head coach, said. “This is the type of performance we need heading into the Big Ten championships. It was good to welcome back DJ Bucher and Tai Lee to the lineup.”
The Buckeyes started on pommel horse, with Bucher, a 2008 Nissen-Emery Award finalist, scoring a team-best 14.5 for second place at his first competition since Jan. 26 and only his third event this season. Event specialist junior Andy Saurber added a 14.2 for fourth while senior Tony Duong had a 13.9 for sixth. As a team, Ohio State tallied a 55.95, finishing second to Michigan who combined to score a 57.1.
In the second rotation, Wickham, a native of Gulfport, Miss., hit a Buckeye-high 15.5 on floor to finish third and help the squad to a season-high 60.05 event total. The score bested the team’s previous season high of 59.8 set against California Feb. 16, but was not enough to outscore the Wolverines’ 61.8 total on the event. Just behind Wickham was junior Eddie Hay tied for fifth with a 15.05 while classmate and Ohio State tri-captain Jake Bateman registered a 14.6. Also on floor freshman Brandon Wynn tied his season high, a mark first set at the tri-meet vs. Temple and Navy Feb. 2, with a 14.45.
Ohio State set its second event season high and first event win of the night, scoring a 63.15 on vault behind Wickham’s season-best 16.45. Wickham, ranked fifth in the nation on the apparatus, has led the Buckeyes on the event at all five competitions in which he has competed in 2008, collecting three first-place finishes. Senior David Ortiz made his 2008 debut on vault with a 15.7 to tie teammate Wynn and Michigan’s Dan Rais for third. With the 15.7, Wynn tied another season high, his second of the night.
With only four gymnasts competing on rings, the Buckeyes dropped the event to the Wolverines, 60.15-59.15. Sophomore Shachar Tal tied his season-best 14.85 as Bateman notched another 14.85 to share the team’s high mark and finish in fourth. In addition, Wynn contributed a 14.8 while Lee had a 14.65 in his 2008 debut.
On high bar, Ortiz and Justin Myers registered a pair of 14.65s to tie for fourth while Wynn and Bateman scored a pair of 14.5s to help Ohio State to a 58.3 event total. At his first meet this season, Lee notched added a 14.25 on the event.
In the final event of the evening, Ohio State scored a season-best 59.65 to outscore Michigan’s 57.85 on parallel bars. On his second event, Bucher logged another Buckeye-high with a 15.35 to nab first place. Bateman hit a 14.95 for third and was followed by Tal with a 14.75 in fourth and Wynn with a 14.6 to tie for fifth, his second-best mark of the season.
For the first time this season, rookie Wynn outscored Bateman in the all-around with an 87.35 while his junior teammate notched an 86.3. Michigan had no gymnasts compete in the all-around.
Postseason action kicks off April 4-5 for the Buckeyes with the Big Ten championships held at 7 p.m. both nights at Rec Hall on the campus of Penn State.