Ann Arbor, Mich. - The No. 11 Nebraska men's gymnastics team kicked off the 2014 NCAA Championships Thursday with their team qualifying session. The first day of the three-day championship started a 1 p.m. EST at the University of Michigan's Crisler Center with two qualifying sessions. The Huskers finished out their session with a team score of 426.350, placing them in fifth of six teams.
The Huskers started on a rings, one of their strongest and most consistent events of the season. The team earned an event score of 71.700, placing them in fourth after the first rotation. Junior Grant Perdue started off the team qualifiers for Nebraska, earning a 13.70 for his routine. He was followed by seniors Zach Hedval (14.40) and Wyatt Aycock (14.60), as well as redshirt freshman Austin Epperson (13.80). Junior Robbie Kocks, NU's only 2014 Big Ten medalist, rounded out the rotation, earning a 15.20 for his routine.
Nebraska then moved to vault for their second rotation. Perdue, a returning All-American on the event, led the Huskers with a strong 15.20 vault. Aycock (14.60), senior C.J. Schaaf (14.50) and sophomore Sam Chamberlain (14.45) all executed well under the pressure of the national spotlight. Junior Josh Ungar saw some trouble during his vault, posting a 13.80 for the team's fifth score.
Nebraska finished out their first half of the night's meet on parallel bars, earning a team score of 70.600. Senior Eric Schryver and junior Louis Klein matched scores on the event, both earning a 14.20. Aycock led the event, grabbing a 14.85 for his routine. Epperson earned a 13.85 while Chamberlain, the Huskers' returning All-American on parallel bars, struggled through his routine, earning a 13.50.
The Huskers started off the second half of the team finals on high bar, an event that has caused them problems throught the season. Sophomore Ethan Lottman started out the event, earning a 13.70 for his routine. Klein followed, grabbing a 14.60 for his routine. Ungar hoped to keep the momentum going, but struggled through his performance, earning a 13.70. Lottman's and Ungar's scores were matched yet again by Epperson, who followed after Ungar. Schryver was able to break away from the slump for NU's last score on the event, a 14.45.
NU continued on to floor for their fifth rotation. The rotation started slow with freshman Travis Gollott grabbing a 13.50 for his routine. However, Ungar managed to pull together the performance he'd been looking for all evening, earning a 14.40 for his routine. He was followed by Aycock and junior Andrew House, who both earned 14.45s. Perdue, a former All-American on floor, rounded out the rotation with a score of 14.85.
The Huskers looked to finish the team qualifier portion of the NCAA Championships strong. House started off the team on pommel horse, earning a 13.55 for his routine. Schaaf followed House with a matching 13.55 score. Aycock looked to improve the team's last-rotation performance, as well as keep steady scores going toward his all-around total. The senior put forth a strong effort, grabbing a 14.70. Lottman really bumped up the game for the team, earning a 15.30 for his rotine. Schryver looked to finish out the evening on a solid note, but saw some major difficulties, resulting in a 12.60 score.
Nebraska finished out the meet with a total team score of 426.350. The Huskers finished out the team finals in fifth, coming in over eight points above No. 10 Air Force. As the only all-around competitor for Nebraska, Wyatt Aycock came in first in the session's all-around competition with a score of 86.950.
Aycock transfered into Friday's all-around finals, while five other athletes made it into the individual event qualifiers. Perdue qualified on both floor and vault, and sophomore Ethan Lottman qualified for the second year in a row on pommel horse. Kocks qualified on rings after tying for the top spot overall on the event with Penn State's Trevor Howard. Klein and Schryver both qualified on high bar.
Nebraska's six qualifiers will compete during day two of NCAA championship competition in Ann Arbor, Mich. Team and All-Around qualifiers will compete in finals tomorrow, while individuals will compete on their qualified events in hopes of moving on to individual finals Saturday night. Day 2 will begin at 7 p.m. EST in the Crysler Center. Competition will be streamed live on NCAA Championship Central.