PROVO -- After earning its highest score of the season in a tri-meet victory Saturday night at the Smith Fieldhouse against two highly ranked opponents, the BYU men's gymnastics team was almost in a state of disbelief.
It wasn't so much that the Cougars won, it was how they won.Eighth-ranked BYU trailed No. 7 Michigan State throughout the meet, which also included No. 9 Nebraska. Then came the final event, which produced a bizarre ending.
While BYU was solid on the high bars, MSU faltered on the parallel bars, enabling the Cougars to leapfrog the Spartans and win the meet with a score of 226, nosing out the Cornhuskers' 225.95.
Not only did MSU fail to win, it fell to third with a score of 225.675.
"I kept looking up at the scoreboard during the meet and Michigan State was blowing everyone away," said BYU's Guard Young, who won the all-around with a 57.20. "I'm surprised we were able to beat them."
Cougar coach Mako Sakamoto expressed a similar sentiment. "I didn't think we'd catch them," he said. Aiding BYU's cause was a meet-high 38.45 score on the high bars.
Sakamoto was not entirely pleased with his team's performance.
"We were a little rusty. We're lucky we made first place," he said.
"We can do better. We want to keep improving our scores. We need to be consistent. I'm just glad we stayed healthy."
Although it was BYU's best scoring outing of the season, Sakamoto said his team did better last week when it claimed the six-team Peter Vidmar Invitational, defeating the likes of Stanford, California and UCLA.
"The scoring was tougher down there (in California) than it was here," Sakamoto said.
Nevertheless, the Cougars' victory Saturday served notice, again, that they belong among the country's elite.
"Nebraska already beat us this year and Michigan State is ranked very high," Young said. "They're both great teams. Tonight we proved we are national contenders this year."
In April, BYU hosts the West Regionals for the first time ever, which certainly won't hurt the Cougars' chances for an NCAA title.
BYU's Cortney Bramwell, ranked first in the country in the rings, turned in stellar 9.9 in that event Saturday. Other performances that impressed Sakamoto included David Patten's 9.5 on the high bars and Dmitry Kolodazhnyy's all-around score of 55.6, good for fifth place.
Nebraska's Derek Leiter finished second in the all-around, followed by teammates Jason Hardahura and Martin Fournier.
The BYU women also competed at the Smith Fieldhouse, against Nebraska, in conjuction with the men's meet. The Cougars recorded their best score of the season yet lost to the No. 7 Cornhuskers, 195.725 to 194.625.