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April 20, 2013

New scoring suits Sooners just fine as they move on

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Top-ranked Penn State will go for a NCAA men’s gymnastics team title Saturday night on its home floor.

Stanford and Iowa also advanced Friday night in the second qualifying session. Michigan, Oklahoma and defending champion Illinois moved on from the early session Friday.

Third-ranked Michigan scored 443.850 points, 10 better than No. 2 Oklahoma. Seventh-ranked Illinois was third with 426.900.

The NCAA is using a five-up, five-count format instead of the six-up four-count used in past championship events. Five gymnasts per team compete in each of the six events and all scores count. Coaches of the three qualifying teams agreed that the format helps bring interest to the sport.

“The level of performance is better and it makes all the routines that are on the floor meaningful,” said Oklahoma coach Mark Williams. “I think it leaves some doubt even as you go into the last event who will be the champion.”

Michigan coach Kurt Golder listed one drawback to the format.

“I like that everything counts,” Golder said. “What I don’t like about it is a guy who competes really hard and could maybe be an All-American, but because his team is so good he doesn’t get an opportunity to compete. That five-up, five-count denies opportunities.”

Illinois performed poorly on pommel horse early in the round with a 66.2, but scored well in the five other events. Minnesota earned only 65.850 on pommel horse. Illinois, the defending NCAA champion, finished third ahead of Minnesota by 2.2 points.

“I was nervous,” coach Justin Spring said. “I expect my team to go out and hit. Pommel horse was unexpected. I’m relieved but I’m not surprised that we’re here. That’s a different emotion.”

Michigan lost to Penn State and Oklahoma in regular-season dual meets, but earned a favorite’s role among competing coaches when it outscored Penn State in the Big Ten championships.

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