By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa- Coming off a junior season in which he earned All-American honors and won an individual Big Ten Championship, Penn State gymnast Scott Rosenthal entered preseason of his senior year looking to once again be one of the Nittany Lions top gymnasts.
What he didn't plan on was that a nagging shoulder injury he had developed over the summer would lead to a partially torn muscle in the posterior region of his shoulder.
All of a sudden, Rosenthal was faced with the prospect of beginning the final year of his collegiate gymnastics career on the bench without knowing when he'd be fully healed.
"It was pretty heavy hit having to ride the bench at the start of my senior year," said Rosenthal. "To barely be able to practice was really unpleasant."
After missing the team's first three meets and the Winter Cup Challenge, Rosenthal finally returned to action last Saturday in the Nittany Lions tri-meet victory over Temple and William & Mary.
Competing in his signature event, the still rings, the reigning Big Ten Champion dusted the rust off to produce a score of 15.500 and claim second place in the event.
"It was really nice to not be on the bench and finally have a part in what happened," said Rosenthal. "It may only be one event but having the chance to go out there and show what you can do to represent the team was really nice."
While both Rosenthal and head coach Randy Jepson are pleased with the progress he has made in returning, both acknowledge that he is not quite at 100 percent yet.
"I feel like my muscle strength is almost completely back but my range of motion is still pretty limited," said Rosenthal. "It's really going to be matter of seeing how much my body can handle going forward but I'm looking forward to getting back to the level of being one of our top guys consistently."
Still, Jepson believes it will only be a matter of time before Rosenthal is back at the level he was at last year when he set the school record in still rings with a score of 16.300.
Until then, Jepson is just glad he won't have to watch one of best gymnasts miss another significant chunk of his final season.
"I'm so happy for him because the thought that he might not be able to compete in the NCAA Championships when we're hosting them was really tugging at all of our hearts," said Jepson. "It's great to see him rebounding and he did a great job in getting back."
In order for Rosenthal to return as quickly as he did, he first had to face the challenge of not doing too much too soon, something he admitted was difficult for him at first.
For a gymnast who has earned a reputation with coaches and teammates for his ability to fight through pain, taking it easy on himself was something that he wasn't used to.
"I'm the kind of guy who likes to push through pain no matter what," said Rosenthal. "My coaches and teammates really helped me by telling me that if I paced myself properly I'd be back when I needed to be."
Being out of action also forced the Clearfield, Pa native to adapt his leadership strategies so that he could remain a positive influence on the team while injured.
Instead of leading by example like he's done in the past, Rosenthal adjusted by giving out advice and encouragement to his teammates from afar.
"I had to make sure I wasn't in a bad mood and that my outlook stayed positive for my teammates," said Rosenthal. "I just tried to do as much as I could to pass my knowledge on to the guys."
Now that he has finally returned, the rest of the Nittany Lions can breathe easier knowing that they now have one of their best gymnasts and leaders back on the mat.
"Scott brings so much to the team whether it's his quirky sense of humor, his dedication, or his intelligence," said Jepson. "He's all about getting things done and he does."