It’s been a year of transition for the Ohio State men’s gymnastics team.
Combine a young squad with an entirely new coaching staff led by former Oklahoma assistant, Rustam Sharipov, and it’s clear why some believed 2011-12 would be a rebuilding year for the Buckeyes.
But for senior Ty Echard, that’s just not the case.
“It’s gone better than I would have thought it ever would have gone,” Echard said.
That’s not to say the changeover has been easy, though.
“It’s a battle, the whole season’s a battle,” Echard said.
In fact, Sharipov said the focus coming into the season was on molding the team internally, rather than to necessarily “accomplish a lot of stuff on the field.”
“Our goal is more (to) accomplish (work) at the gym. In the practice, our goal is to unite the team, change their work ethics, how the guys interact with each other, with the coaches,” Sharipov said. “I think that’s going to affect how we look at the competition.”
Sharipov said the way the team practices should dictate their performance against other teams.
“(Our) outcome is going to come from how we act at the gym,” he said.
Being ranked No. 7 nationally suggests the Buckeyes have done just that.
Freshman Danny Steiner said he thinks the team has defied much of the expectations that surrounded them at the beginning of the season.
“With the change in coaching with Rustam as our head coach now, I definitely think it’s gone a lot farther than anyone expected us to go,” he said.
Steiner credits Sharipov and his staff as the reason the team has been able to get adjusted to the new coaching changes, and said he believes they’ve been able to “move forward and progress a lot faster than (they) would usually be doing.”
Although OSU fell 355.500-347.200 to No. 2 Penn State Saturday, Sharipov said his team’s performance was an improvement from how they competed against Michigan more than two weeks ago.
He said against the Wolverines, the Buckeyes’ hit percentage was too low, and it’s always tough traveling to a place where it isn’t a secret that they’re not liked.
“They’re going to do everything to make you be uncomfortable,” Sharipov said.
Against Penn State, though, he said he was pleased with OSU’s 77 percent hit percentage, despite the loss.
Sharipov said consistently improving the Buckeyes’ hit percentage, which measures the frequency an athlete successfully lands his routine, is going to be a key to their success down the stretch, and he wants to see it improve to 80-85 percent by the end of the season.
And with a contest at Illinois looming Friday, that mindset remains the same.
“Our plan is to beat them on execution and the hit percentage,” Sharipov said. “I watched their routines against Penn State a couple weeks ago and they also messed up a couple events. Everybody’s a human being; there’s always room for error.”
Steiner said he thinks this season has said a lot about what kind of team the Buckeyes have.
“We’re a hardworking team who’s out to prove everyone else wrong — everyone’s assumptions about Ohio State and where the gymnastics has gone,” he said. “I think we’re just proving people wrong, just making our point saying, ‘We’re here, don’t count us out.'”