By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa- Going into Saturday night's dual meet against Springfield, Penn State junior Wasef Burbar could feel a breakout performance from himself looming.
Having registered a 15.800 on the high bar in the team's previous dual meet, and having recovered from some early struggles vs. the Pride, Burbar knew his best routine of the season had yet to occur.
"Coming off of last meet I had been a little surprised at registering a 15.800," said Burbar. "That helped me realize how high I can score and how good I can be on the high bar."
Burbar emphatically proved how good on the high bar he could be with a dazzling routine that earned a school record score of 16.000 and ended up as the most memorable moment in the Nittany Lions 446.850-403.300 victory.
The announcement of the score, which now stands as the fourth highest score in NCAA history, sent the fans in Rec Hall into a frenzy and earned Burbar the adulation of his coaches and teammates.
"The feeling is indescribable to be perfectly honest," said Burbar. "I never thought I'd get a score that high and to hear it over the loudspeaker means the world for me."
The person most pleased with Burbar's performance was head coach Randy Jepson, who has been waiting for Burbar to show his potential on the high bar.
After watching him struggle to hit his routines consistently early in the season, Jepson knew it was only a matter of time before Burbar started displaying what he can truly do in a meet.
"Wasef hadn't met his own expectations and it's nice to see him confident and having fun while doing gymnastics," said Jepson. "It almost seemed he had a piano on his back his first couple of years but he's comfortable with his routines now and it's really showing."
Another Nittany Lion who continued to thrill the fans with his talent and versatility was freshmen Trevor Howard, who took the top spot in the rings, vault, and parallel bars, with his highest score coming on the rings with a 15.800.
Howard, who typically has competed in the all-around competition this season, was limited to just those three events after returning from a minor injury, yet still appeared to be on the top of his game.
"Having just come back I was kind of added to the lineup last minute," said Howard. "Being able to rock those events was definitely a confidence booster that I'm still in pretty good shape."
Senior captain Parker Raque, who competed in four of the night's six events, also had an excellent overall night.
The highlight for Raque came at the start of the meet, when he earned a season best score on the floor exercise with a 15.050 to finish first in the event.
"I feel like I've been trying to get in my zone on floor exercise all season," said Raque. "I wasn't as clean tonight as I was hoping but I had a pretty good routine to come away with the title and I'm not upset about it."
Competing against an unranked Springfield program, the Nittany Lions used Saturday night as a chance to not only see how high they could get their individuals scores, but also to show off the depth they have as a team.
A number of the team's less experienced gymnasts, including sophomore Ismael Sanabria and junior Ingvar Jochumsson, were given the chance to compete, something that Jepson believes will help the team moving forward.
"Having depth is huge for us because now we're not pounding all of our guys every weekend," said Jepson. "It gives us the chance to build confidence in all of our guys and get them developed to have success later on."