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In a perfect world, Chuck Chmelka wishes he could close his eyes, make a wish and then open them again to see the Bob Devaney Sports Center filled to the brim for this weekend’s Big Ten Conference Men’s Gymnastics Championships, an event that includes seven of the top 11 teams in America, including No. 11 Nebraska. “All those fans who filled the Devaney Center during volleyball season would really enjoy watching this event, too,” Chmelka said. “I’d love to see us draw a huge crowd. This is the first time in 15 years that we’ve had a major national men’s gymnastics event at the Devaney Center, and oh, how people would be surprised to see what The Devaney looks like now.”
Fans attending Friday’s 6 p.m. individual qualifiers and team finals session will be watching in a recently renovated facility that reduced capacity but dramatically enhanced the original Devaney Center that last hosted an NCAA Men’s Championship event in 1999. No. 2-ranked Ohio State is the pre-meet favorite followed by No. 4-ranked Michigan, No. 5 Minnesota, No. 6 Illinois, No. 7 Penn State and No. 8 Iowa. The Buckeyes average nearly two points higher than the Wolverines, who, in turn, average a whopping 7½ points more than the next closest competitor. Tickets are $5 for adult general admission and $3 for youth and senior general admission. Fans can purchase tickets online using the related links above. Tickets also will be available at the door on both days.
Four Underclassmen Achieve Outstanding Scores
Even though the team competition is crowded at the very top, Chmelka has four underclassmen gymnasts on his roster who could vie for top individual honors, including Robbie Kocks, a 5-foot-7, 165-pound junior from Collins Hill in Lawrenceville, Georgia; Grant Perdue, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound junior from Fort Bend Elkins in Houston, Texas; Travis Gollott, a 5-foot-5 130-pound freshman from Livermore, California; and Sam Chamberlain, a 5-foot-5, 152-pound sophomore from Franklin, Ohio. Those four underclassmen have combined for nine of Nebraska’s top 10 individual scores throughout this season. The only senior who has achieved among the top 10 scores is Donovan Arndt, a 5-foot-7, 155-pound second-team Academic All-American from Muskego High School in Waterford, Wisconsin.
Last April, then freshman Chamberlain and sophomore Perdue became Nebraska’s 49th and 50th All-Americans after both finished within the top four at individual event finals in the 2013 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships in State College, Pa. Perdue’s honor on vault enabled him to become the first Nebraska gymnast to earn All-America honors in two consecutive years since Jim Koziol in 1999 and become the Huskers first All-American on vault since Stephen Tétraul in 2005. Chamberlain earned NU's first All-America honors on parallel bars since Steven Friedman in 2003. He was the second consecutive freshman to earn the award for Nebraska. The 2014 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships will begin Thursday, April 10, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Kocks, Perdue Occupy Top Eight Scores on Chart
Here are the top 10 Husker individual scores of the season with Kocks owning the top four performances (15.55, 15.50, and two 15.40 scores on rings); Perdue claiming the next four highest marks (15.25 on floor exercise and another 15.25 and two 15.20 scores on vault); Gollott having the No. 9 spot (15.15 on floor); and Arndt (15.10 on rings) and Chamberlain (15.10 on parallel bars) sharing the No. 10 position.
- 15.55 (Robbie Kocks, Rings, Mar 9 @ OU)
- 15.50 (Robbie Kocks, Rings, Mar 15 vs. Minn., Iowa, Illinois, Air Force)
- 15.40 (Robbie Kocks, Rings, Jan 11 @ RMO)
- 15.40 (Robbie Kocks, Rings, Jan 25 vs. Air Force)
- 15.25 (Grant Perdue, Floor, Mar 1 @ Arnold Challenge)
- 15.25 (Grant Perdue, Vault, Mar 9 @ OU)
- 15.20 (Grant Perdue, Vault, Jan 25 vs. Air Force)
- 15.20 (Grant Perdue, Vault, Mar 15 vs. Minn., Iowa, Illinois, Air Force)
- 15.15 (Travis Gollott, Floor, Mar 1 @ Arnold Challenge)
- 15.10 (Donovan Arndt, Rings, Jan 11 @ RMO)
- 15.10 (Sammy Chamberlain, Parallel Bars, Mar 15 vs. Minn., Iowa, Illinois, Air Force)
What Scores Mean the Most? Glad You Asked
If you’re like many and behind the times in men’s gymnastics, you might be asking the same two questions a fan recently asked me – Whatever happened to the 10-point system? How can we tell what a great performance is? Glad you asked. “Scores in the 14s are good,” Chmelka told me. “They’re kind of like the old 9 score. A 15 is outstanding and equates to an old 9.5 score. Above 15 is unbelievably good. One of the highest scores you can get in the Olympics is a 16.2, so if a guy is in the 15’s, he’s in NCAA territory. It’s all about execution and difficulty, but fans can still be a judge. Just add the difficulty to the execution score and you’ll be thinking just like a judge. Let’s say you see a base score of a 9.7 and envision the degree of difficulty as a 6.0. That equates to a 15.7. There are no limits for difficulty. A 6.0 is really good. Our guys will range from a 5.2 to a 6.1 when it comes to difficulty. We try to go for as much gusto as we have in us. Men’s gymnastics is a lot different than women’s gymnastics, where everyone knows what a 10 means.” Chmelka said the Big Ten Championships includes Michigan's Sam Mikulak, a USA Olympic gymnast who won the NCAA’s 2013 all-around title, plus the parallel bars and high bar to lead the Wolverines to the national team title.
Chmelka Likes Future Prospects for Program
Chmelka has been pleased with the way senior Eric Schryver has helped lead the program. “He’s a great kid and has a chance to be a two-time All-American in gymnastics,” Chmelka said. “He’s our team captain and the liaison for Life Skills for gymnastics. He was a First-Team NCAA Academic All-American last year and has already been admitted to Medical School at the University of Texas in Galveston.” Two-time Olympian and 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Jim Hartung and former Husker gymnast John Robinson assist Chmelka, who likes the future prospects of the program. “Shawn Eichorst is very supportive of our program and makes sure we have everything we need to be successful,” Chmelka said. “We just have to keep working hard and recruit more All-Americans. Last year, we had more All-Americans than we’ve had since the 1999 season. We also had more qualifiers for the United States National Championships (Winter Cup) than we’ve had since the mid-1980s here, so we’re on the right track. We’re not where we want to be in the Big Ten, and we will continue to work hard to get where we need to be.”
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