STATE COLLEGE, Pa. —
Also, Oklahoma senior Michael Squires won on the rings, while Illinois’ Fred Hartville took the vault title.
However, the weekend belonged to Mikulak, who competed in five of the six individual events Sunday, sitting out only the rings. He said he didn’t feel tired considering the workload he had Saturday night too.
Michigan teammates yelled a chorus of “Let’s Go Blue!” while Mikulak dusted off his hands in the chalk bowl before taking the high bar. He finished the routine with a perfect landing and slapped his hands together immediately as if knowing he had just clinched another crown.
“No honestly, I don’t think I have,” Mikulak said when asked if he had experienced a better weekend in his career. “Overall for this entire weekend, I didn’t miss a single routine ... It kind of felt easy going with the flow.”
Mikulak also finished fourth on the pommel horse and tied for seventh on the vault.
Howard gave Penn State something to celebrate after the Nittany Lions fizzled in the team competition Saturday night.
The freshman scored 15.8 on his floor exercise routine Sunday for the victory. He was so excited that he sprinted off the mat to one corner of Rec Hall, unaware that coach Randy Jepson was running after him from another corner trying to congratulate him.
They finally caught up, but the drama wasn’t over. Getting pats on the back from other gymnasts, Howard watched nervously from the corner to make sure Penev, who was up next, didn’t snatch away first place.
A couple slight early stumbles and an unplanned step forward on the final landing for Penev virtually assured Howard of the win. Penev was the top-ranked gymnast on the floor entering the weekend but finished second Sunday.
It had been 50 years since Penn State last had a floor exercise champ, Tom Seward in 1963. Howard’s win also came just two months after he had suffered a concussion that kept him out of action for two weeks.
“To have him come into the NCAA final as a freshman on his home floor with everything there to take, that’s a lot of pressure,” Jepson said. “I knew he had it in him, and it showed today. Really proud of him.”