Courtesy: Tim Fitzgerald/CMU Athletics
Freshman Kirsten Petzold competes in the vault. The Chippewas will host Northern Illinois on Friday at 7 p.m. at McGuirk Arena for the second ever Royal Rumble and Tumble
No. 21 CMU Hosts Northern Illinois for Royal Rumble and Tumble
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – After three straight road meets, No. 21 Central Michigan returns to McGuirk Arena for the showcase home event of the 2013 season on Friday evening, as the gymnastics and wrestling programs come together for the second-ever Royal Rumble and Tumble. Scheduled for a 7 p.m. start, the gymnastics team will face Northern Illinois while the No. 12 wrestling squad battles Eastern Michigan in an extravaganza that features both teams competing simultaneously on the same floor.

The Chippewas, which are ranked No. 6 in the Central region, are coming off their best overall performance of 2013, scoring a season high 195.875 to defeat Illinois State (194.100), Eastern Michigan (192.850) and host Illinois-Chicago (192.550) and capture the title at the Illinois-Michigan Challenge. CMU won every event as a team, posting season highs in the vault (49.275) and the floor exercise (48.975). Sophomore Kylie Fagan led CMU, claiming titles in the uneven bars and the balance beam to earn MAC Specialist of the Week honors. Freshman Kirsten Petzold headlined the Chippewas’ stellar vault effort, scoring a team season best and career high 9.900 to finish second.

After five weeks of competition, CMU is ranked highest nationally in the balance beam (No. 19). The Chippewas are also ranked No. 22 in the floor exercise, No. 29 in the vault, and No. 30 in the uneven bars. Individually, at the regional level, CMU has three gymnasts in the top 10: sophomore Taylor Noonan (No. 8, balance beam), Fagan (No. 9, uneven bars), and sophomore Halle Moraw (No. 10, floor exercise).

Northern Illinois is coming off a close home win over Southeast Missouri State, using a season high score of 192.875 to defeat the Redhawks (192.775). The Huskies have also notched home wins over Illinois State (192.175-195.050) and MAC foe Bowling Green (192.775-192.525) with their lone defeat coming two weeks ago at Ball State (192.475-192.075). NIU is ranked highest, as a team, in the floor exercise (No. 36). The Huskies are led by junior Megan Melendez, the 2012 MAC Co-Specialist of the Year, who has a team-high four title wins this season.

CMU holds a commanding 37-8-1 all-time series record versus Northern Illinois. A year ago, the Chippewas downed the Huskies, 194.950-193.925, in a dual meet in DeKalb.

Central Michigan returns to the road next weekend, traveling to northeast Ohio for a showdown with MAC preseason favorite No. 24 Kent State. The three-time defending conference champion Chippewas and the Golden Flashes will meet on Friday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center in Kent. CMU defeated Kent State twice last season, head-to-head in a dual meet in Mount Pleasant (194.475-193.550) and at the MAC Championships (195.625-195.225).