Men’s gymnasts miss trip to nationals

By Kari Brackett

Houston Baptist put on a divine performance at Chick Evans Field House Saturday afternoon, scoring 282.05 to win the blue ribbon at the Independent Gymnastics Championships.

NIU finished third in the tourney with its 274.75 tally, just missing second place by eight-tenths of a point to Penn State’s 275.60 mark.

Southern Illinois finished fourth with 269.50. Western Michigan and Illinois-Chicago followed, scoring 265.50 and 262.25, respectively. Kent State concluded the championships with 261.75.

The Huskies were looking for a team bid to the NCAA championships, and needed a second-place finish to qualify. Sending individual gymnasts to the NCAA tournament is now the only hope NIU has.

“Our chance for nationals is over,” said a disappointed Chuck Ehrlich, NIU’s coach. “Actually, I think we did a good representation without Thomas Koll.”

Koll missed Saturday’s contest for Olympic qualifications in his West German hometown. Koll is an all-arounder for the NIU team, and his presence could have meant another five points for the team score.

While Ehrlich acknowledged Koll’s absence, he did not use it as an excuse for NIU’s third-place finish. Ehrlich blamed the final showing on inconsistencies.

“One of the three misses we had were on high bar,” Ehrlich said. “We were very inconsistent on high bar. When we scored our 281 in California, we were 6-of-6.”

Houston’s Alfonso Rodriquez and Miguel Rubio placed in the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in the all-around standings. NIU had three all-arounders finish in the top 10. Carlos Fulcher placed fifth (55.85), Jens Furst claimed seventh (55.35) and Wilson Aihara took eighth (55.05).

“I was expecting the team to compete better,” Aihara said. “But we knew that we did not have the same chance without Koll.”

In the individual competion held Saturday night, NIU placed first in five of the six events. Huskie Gene Margiotta put forth a strong 9.70 showing on the floor exercise to tie SIU’s Tom Glielmi. Furst received a 9.50 on the pommel horse. Fulcher’s 9.65 matched UIC’s Jerome Langosch for the top-spot on the still rings, while Aihara’s first place came on the horizontal bar with a 9.75 score. Fulcher, Aihara and Furst captured the three positions on the parallel bars.

Gymnasts were not the only ones being honored Saturday. J. Hubert Dunn was recognized for his 26 years of influence. Dunn coached NIU for 10 years and has spent the last 16 as meet director.