Their history hung directly over their heads, written in the banners dangling from the Maturi Pavilion rafters. Each panel told a piece of the Gophers' 118-year-old story: their first Big Ten championship in 1903, John Roethlisberger's brilliant run in the 1990s, Shane Wiskus' 2019 NCAA championship on parallel bars.
Gophers gymnast Mike Moran didn't think about those broad strokes Saturday, when the program's timeline ended at the NCAA men's gymnastics championships. He focused tightly on the small moments of the Gophers' final meet as a varsity sport, the ones he wanted to remember for the rest of his life.
"The whole meet, I was trying to actively remember every hug, every cheer,'' Moran said. "Because it was tough, knowing through the whole meet that once you hit that final dismount, you are done.''
The Gophers finished in fifth place in their home gym to conclude their final season, and Wiskus added individual national titles on parallel bars and still rings. Wiskus' bid for an all-around title fell just short, as the senior finished in second place for the third time in his career.
Stanford's Brody Malone — who defeated Wiskus for the all-around title in 2019 — repeated the feat Saturday. Malone prevailed by 0.198 of a point, leading Stanford to its second consecutive team title. The Cardinal won with 414.521 points, topping Oklahoma (411.591) and Michigan (410.358).
The Gophers finished with 406.291 points, their highest total of the season. Wiskus, of Spring Park, also finished second on floor exercise and high bar to finish one of the greatest careers in Gophers gymnastics history.
The all-around title came down to the final rotation. Malone held an 0.265-point lead after Wiskus fell on his vault landing, then Malone nailed his final routine on rings. Wiskus needed to score a 14.631 on parallel bars to tie him but took a small step on the landing, scoring well enough to win the event crown but not the all-around.
"I definitely didn't go away empty-handed,'' Wiskus said. "But the all-around title is something I've been chasing for three years. It's devastating, to say the least.''
Malone won the NCAA title on high bar. Other champions were Oklahoma's Gage Dyer (floor exercise and vault) and Ian Skirkey of Illinois (pommel horse).
After earning their highest team score of the season in Friday's qualifying session, the Gophers topped it Saturday, ending the season — and their time as a varsity sport — on a high note.
"There's a lot of love in that group,'' coach Mike Burns said. "I told them how proud I was of them, and how happy I was for what they did. They're all champions in my mind.
"We didn't get a trophy, but there's something in each one of their hearts that nobody can take away from them. The experience they had this weekend and this whole year, and the bond that was strengthened through dealing with a lot of adversity.''
Wiskus said he played it a bit safe in Friday's qualifier, but there was no holding back Saturday, for him or his teammates. The Gophers started solidly on high bar and followed with a season high on floor exercise to move into second place.
They struggled on pommel horse — their most troublesome event — and dropped to fifth, as Wiskus fell 0.133 behind Malone in the all-around standings. The Gophers rebounded on still rings, as Henry Meeker — who competed despite a torn knee ligament — started them off well.
On vault, Wiskus stumbled backward and sat down on the landing. That left him needing a nearly perfect routine on parallel bars. He didn't get it but said, "It was emotional. I couldn't be more proud of these guys.''
After the meet, Burns gathered his gymnasts in a huddle. As Stanford celebrated on the podium, Burns told the Gophers he loved them, and that he was proud of how they performed under such trying circumstances.
Moran listened intently. He wanted to remember every second of how it felt to be in Maturi Pavilion, with his teammates to the end.
"Even though we are no longer Golden Gophers, we are no longer student-athletes, we are no longer the University of Minnesota gymnastics team, we put our blood, sweat and tears into this school,'' Moran said. "Regardless of whether they want to take it from us, we are still the Minnesota men's gymnastics team. Forever."