Plymouth gymnast prepares for largest Jewish athletic competition

The Wayzata High School sophomore to represent Team USA in Israel

Tyler Schmidt practices his skills on the still rings, the event that resulted in a head and neck injury that cost him three months of training. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Kristen Miller)
Tyler Schmidt practices his skills on the still rings, the event that resulted in a head and neck injury that cost him three months of training. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Kristen Miller)

After recovering from an injury that kept him from competing at nationals last spring, Wayzata High School sophomore and gymnast Tyler Schmidt has made a comeback and will represent his faith and nation this summer at Maccabiah 2017 in Israel.

Even before his second birthday, Tyler was introduced to the sport at Mini-Hops Gymnastics Association, which relocated last year from Minnetonka to a 48,000 square-foot gym in Plymouth.

By age 6, Tyler was competing. “I thought it was cool to go do these things that not many people can do,” he said of what attracted him to the sport at a young age.

Because boys gymnastics is not a Minnesota State High School League sanctioned sport, Tyler continued training at Mini-Hops and was set to compete at nationals in Michigan last May when he encountered a physical setback.

The day before the competition, Tyler was podium training, getting a feel for the equipment.
As he was preparing a dismount on the still rings, Tyler “peeled,” meaning his hands involuntarily slipped off the rings causing him to land on the back of his head and neck.

Tyler’s father, Andy, credits the quick response of his son’s coach Michael Morse, who kept Tyler from landing on his head and breaking his neck.
Rather suffering a catastrophic injury, Tyler walked away with a sprained neck and a concussion.

Despite his willingness and determination to continue competing the following day, Tyler was not medically cleared to participate.
“To say he was disappointed would be a big understatement,” said Tyler’s father. “He was having an awesome season and had just come off of finishing tied for second at regionals, while finishing in the top three on most events.”

It would take the next three months for Tyler to fully recover and be cleared to return to training.
“Ironically, I saw something about the games (Maccabi) in the program at nationals,” Tyler said, adding he thought it would be a cool thing to try out for, even if he didn’t make it.

The international event, known as the “Jewish Olympics,” is July 4-18 and will host about 10,000 athletes and 22,000 additional fans from more than 80 countries. It is a festival of sports, Jewish continuity and connection to the Center of the Jewish People and the State of Israel.

In August, Tyler began training for the Maccabi USA team qualifications, which were this month.
Understandably, Tyler was a bit apprehensive getting back on the rings, particularly dismounting the apparatus. But trusting his coach was there spotting him, “I started getting back into the rhythm of it,” he said.

Tyler Schmidt with Mini-Hops coach Michael Morse after qualifying for Team USA for the 2017 Maccabi games in Israel. (Submitted photo)
Tyler Schmidt with Mini-Hops coach Michael Morse after qualifying for Team USA for the 2017 Maccabi games in Israel. (Submitted photo)

Not only was Tyler able to get back to the level he was at prior to nationals, he was able to gain new skills to advance to level 10, the highest at the high school level.

The first weekend in December, Tyler traveled to Oklahoma for the qualifying meet, where he competed against 20 gymnasts for six spots on the junior team. With his favorite events being floor and parallel bars, Tyler placed first with his floor routine and ranked fifth all-around, garnishing him a spot on Team USA.

In July, Tyler will travel to Israel with his team and family, where he will spend one week touring the country and one week in competition.
“It’s a huge deal for me now that I’ve made it,” Tyler said. “I’ve finally realized it’s a bigger deal than I was expecting … being able to represent all Jewish athletes.”

“I couldn’t be more proud of him for what he’s accomplished,” said Tyler’s father, who sees the Maccabi games as “huge opportunity.” Not only is it a great opportunity to compete with athletes from all over the world, but it also gives Tyler the opportunity to learn more about his Jewish heritage, he added.

Tyler also credits his coaches at Mini-Hops, Doug Price and Morse.
“They are very supportive of this whole thing I’ve been working toward,” Tyler said, noting they are very trustworthy and “great people.”

Morse, a former NCAA competitor for the University of Minnesota, traveled to Oklahoma with Tyler. Before going, Morse said he wasn’t sure of the level of competition Tyler would face, noting it was a wide range of skill levels with competitor ages ranging from 14-22.
“I’m excited for him to have this experience, a little jealous honestly, to get to go with such a large group of athletes from all around the world,” Morse said.

With professional inspirations like 2008 Olympic silver medalist Jonathon Horton and Sam Mikulak, who competed in both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, Tyler said gymnastics has helped him become more courageous and brave as he pushes himself to do more and expand his skill level. It also requires a great deal of patience, especially returning from an injury, he said, but was able to prove to himself “If you stay strong, everything will be alright in the end,” he said.

Being able to compete on the world stage is testament to his hard work and dedication to the sport he loves.
“I’m just excited to represent the USA and Jewish athletes,” Tyler said. “It’s going to be fun.”

Contact Kristen Miller at [email protected]