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Nittany Lions Topple Army to Open Season

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By Matt Allibone, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Music blasted from the speakers as the Penn State men's gymnastics team returned to the floor at Rec Hall.

Competing for the first time this year, the fourth-ranked Nittany Lions got their season off on the right foot, using a total team effort to defeat 13th ranked Army 447.850-404.150.

Chelberg, Matt.jpegAfterwards, Penn State head coach Randy Jepson praised the discipline his team showed in a performance that included only five missed routines and saw his team capture five of the six individual events.

"This is probably the best first meet I've ever had as a head coach," said Jepson. "We hit really solid (routines) and we're ahead of where I thought we'd be at this point."

Penn State opened the meet strong during the Floor Exercise, finishing with four of the top five finishers in the event. Leading the way was senior Matt Chelberg, whose smooth performance gave him a score of 15.000 and the top spot for the exercise.

"I tried to take it one skill at a time and stay focused on each particular movement," said Chelberg. "I knew I had to stay aggressive because if you hold back at all things can go bad, but everything turned out pretty well."

One event that Jepson also believed was a high point for the team was the pommel horse, in which his squad ended up with a score of 75.250.

What pleased Jepson the most about the performance was the improvement that he believes his men have made in the event since last year.

"I remember when these guys were freshmen and they had potential but they just weren't very solid on the pommel horse," said Jepson. "It took three years to get to where they are now but they were outstanding in that event tonight."

Leading the way on the pommel horse was senior and Olympian Felix Aronovich, who finished with a team high score of 15.350.

It was an excellent night overall for Aronovich, who also finished tied for the top score in the high bar, while finishing second in both the rings and the parallel bars.

"Felix was great tonight," said Jepson. "He's prepared very well and he was very clean out there."

For Aronovich, the highlight of the night was being cheered on by the home fans back in Rec Hall.

"There was a really great atmosphere out there tonight," said Aronovich. "It's great to be back in front of the home crowd."

Another standout performer for the Nittany Lions was sophomore Matthew Felleman, who finished tied with Aronovich as the top scorer in the high bar with a score of 15.500.

Jepson stated that while he expected to see seniors such as Aronovich and Chelberg have big nights, he was pleasantly surprised to see Felleman make such huge strides coming off of his freshmen year.

"I was really pleased with what Matt gave us tonight," said Jepson. "He worked really hard this summer to come back from some injuries and he's really on the upswing."

While both Jepson and his gymnasts were pleased to open the season with a win, they maintained that they will look to continue to improve as the season goes on.

"We still need to tighten up the routines a little bit," said Chelberg. "We have some people battling some minor injuries so we'll try to get them better and keep going up from here."

Jepson agreed with Chelberg's sentiments but also stated that he believes this victory will be a springboard for the team's future success.

"We needed this tonight," said Jepson.  "I think this win is really going to motivate us heading into the early part of the season."

The Nittany Lions return to competition on Saturday, Jan. 19 at 2 p.m. at the Navy Open.

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