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Men’s Gymnastics: No. 5 Ohio State set to face No. 6 Michigan in Ann Arbor

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The No. 5 Ohio State Men’s Gymnastics team travels to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to face No. 6 Michigan this weekend. Credit: Christian Harsa | Managing Editor for Digital Content

Nearly one week removed from the No. 5 Ohio State men’s gymnastics team’s victory at the Navy Open Jan. 21, senior captain Donovan Hewitt made something clear to his teammates: In the grand scheme, the victory “doesn’t matter.”

“It doesn’t matter because, ‘Congrats on winning the Navy Open,’ yes, it’s awesome, but that’s not the Big Tens, that’s not coming top three in the NCAAs,” Hewitt said. “That’s winning a meet in early January when the meets that matter are taking place in late March and early April. I’m just trying to relay to them, ‘Good job, we got good momentum, but now it doesn’t matter.’ We have to keep moving forward, not focusing on the past.”

As the Buckeyes look towards Saturday’s Big Ten opener against conference foe No. 6 Michigan, Hewitt and head coach Rustam Sharipov are in lockstep about the mentality needed to leave Ann Arbor with a win.

“We always go in with our No. 1 goal, which is to take care of business,” Sharipov said. “We’re excited like any competition. We’re not making any conditions special or less important, every meet is important. Yes, it’s the opening of the regular season of the Big Ten, but, again, we’re not worried about the team or name. We have our own goals, our own requirements that we’re looking for.”

Saturday’s dual meet represents an early litmus test for Ohio State.

In the Big Ten’s preseason poll, Michigan was selected unanimously to win the conference with Ohio State finishing third. While Michigan has senior Paul Juda and freshman Fred Richard as its preseason gymnasts to watch, the Buckeyes boast defending Big Ten vault champion junior Kameron Nelson along with Hewitt.

Sharipov has been pleased with his squad’s performance thus far, noting the team is “picking up right where we left off last year after the NCAAs.”

“I think they did a great job focusing on each other, focusing on the team performance and not worrying about the scores, not worrying about what’s going on around them,” Sharipov said. “They create their own bubble, and they stay in that bubble, and that’s what I’m trying to teach them. I think that the results speak for themselves.”

In addition to the members of last year’s team that have continued the momentum from NCAAs, freshman Kristian Grahovski has made an immediate impact for the Buckeyes, winning Big Ten Gymnast of the Week for his performance on pommel horse at the Navy Open.

Grahovski was Ohio State’s highest individual scorer in any event last weekend and is now ranked 13th nationally on pommel horse.

Saturday will mark 1,455 days since the men’s gymnastics team last set foot in Cliff Keen Arena — a duration so long that senior captain Luke Smigliani is the only gymnast on the team who has competed there.

Hewitt said the Buckeyes are ready for the challenge the Wolverines present.

“[Smigliani] talks about how it’s like enemy lines,” Hewitt said. “It’s going to be hard to get a win there, but we have to make sure that we’re in our own circle, doing our own thing. It’s exciting because last year we beat them. We look a lot more poised this time right now than we were last time we went against them.”

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