By KAREN DUFFIN
The men’s gymnastics squad will play host to the University of New Mexico and Arizona State in their first home meet this Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse.
The Cougars opened their season with their best score ever at the Rocky Mountain Open, beating three preseason Top-10 picks — Nebraska, Oklahoma and New Mexico. It was the first time the Cougars have ever defeated Nebraska.
Senior Fabricio Olsen from Porto Alegre, Brazil, finished second to Nebraska’s Derek Leiter in the all-around.
BYU beat New Mexico and Arizona in the Rocky Mountain Open. Both teams came in ranked fourth and seventh respectively.
Traditionally powerful in men’s gymnastics, New Mexico began the season with a No. 10 preseason ranking. They are currently ranked 13th. New Mexico’s power player is Kendall Shiess, who finished third all-around at the Rocky Mountain open.
Arizona State is one of the top non-NCAA sanctioned club teams in the nation.
Head coach Mako Sakamoto is cautiously optimistic about this weekend’s meet.
“We did great last week, but you can never let your guard down,” he said. “Falls can be contagious, so we have to work hard for everything.”
The Cougars are relatively healthy, with only a few nagging injuries preventing some gymnasts from performing on certain events.
The team brings a mix of young talent and veteran experience, led by powerhouse Olsen. He is the current Brazilian national champion.
Last year BYU finished sixth at both the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championship and NCAA West Regional. Setting a school record, five gymnasts made the NCAA field as individuals. All five gymnasts return this year with hopes of taking the Cougars into the NCAA Championship.
Several of BYU’s gymnasts are ranked individually. Olsen is currently eighth all-around, second in vault and seventh in pommel horse. Dustin Hill is ranked second on vault.
The gymnasts have taken the week-long break between meets to relax and train for this weekend.
“I think it was a good thing to have this week off after the opener. It gave the guys a chance to recuperate a little and get over some of the injuries. The guys are working hard,” Sakamoto said.