Thomas Paul was 12 before he started competing in gymnastics.

“I stumbled across a YouTube video and thought it would be cool to be able to do the things I saw. I also felt like I had yet to find the sport that fit me, so I decided to give it a try,” he said last week.

It didn’t take long for the Morgantown native to find success.

A University High graduate, Paul trained at the West Virginia Gymnastics Training Center, off Scott Avenue.

At 15, Paul earned an opportunity few receive. He competed in the 2014 Junior Olympics, in Long Beach, Calif.

Paul said he enjoyed the trip to California.

“It was actually colder than I expected, but it was awesome getting to travel across the country for a competition,” he said.

Paul also competed in the 2015 and 2016 Junior Olympics, in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Battle Creek, Mich., respectively. In 2016, he finished in fourth place on high bar and seventh all-around. He was a Level 10 National Competitor from 2014-’16.

Paul said participating in the Junior Olympics made him realize he wanted to compete in college.

“It was a great experience. Competing at JOs (Junior Olympics) gave me a lot of insight and confidence to move to the next level,” he said.

Paul was also inspired by going to Michigan to attend competitions and camps.

“Seeing how the college gymnasts trained motivated me a lot to try to get on that level,” he said.

Paul also found success in the classroom during high school. He was named an Academic all-American from 2014-’16.

After graduating from UHS, in 2016, Paul became a Wolverine and is a sophomore at the University of Michigan. As a freshman, he competed in every meet on still rings. He appeared in his first meet as a Wolverine on Jan. 14 at the Windy City, competing on still rings and high bar.

He finished second at Ohio State, after a 14.10 performance on still rings Feb. 4. He marked a 13.55 on still rings and a 13.45 on high bar during the Stanford/ Illinois tri-meet on March 11.

He marked a season-best 13.75 on high bar at the last home meet of the season, against UIC, on March 25.

He competed on still rings in his first Big Ten finals on April 7, and marked a 13.10 on still rings at the April 21 NCAA qualifier.

Paul said competing in college is different than even the Junior Olympics.

“In the JO (Junior Olympics) program, you feel as if you’re competing for yourself, but in college, you’re competing for the team,” he said.

“It’s a bit more pressure, but the competitions are much more intense and fun. It’s also a different feeling knowing that you’ve got a team backing you through every routine.”

Paul also said there is another big difference between high school and college.

In high school, he trained 16 hours a week. That has increased at Michigan.

“We train 20 hours a week during season, but also spend a few hours doing physical therapy for injury prevention,” he said. “The training is also much more efficient and intense in college than it was in high school.”

This is all while taking classes toward an engineering degree. How does he manage his time and stay so motivated?

“It helps a lot that I really enjoy the sport and know how great the opportunity I have is,” he said. “We won Big Ten and NCAA championships in 2013 and 2014, so it’s also really motivating pursuing a championship.

“It’s really tough. Michigan’s engineering program is really rigorous, but using time efficiently and utilizing the resources we’re offered at Michigan helps a lot.”

Paul said Ann Arbor and Morgantown are different. “The first thing I noticed was how much flatter it is,” he said. “It’s definitely much different than Morgantown, but it’s an awesome college town, and I love it here.”

In his spare time, Paul enjoys hanging out with his friends, watching movies and relaxing.

He is the son of Stephan and Regina Paul, of Morgantown.

Kerri Kosten is a columnist for The Dominion Post. Email her at