By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - After finishing the regular season with five wins, two second-place finishes and one loss, the Penn State men's gymnastics team hopes to secure the program's third conference title in the Big Ten Championships this weekend in Rec Hall.
"I'm a little anxious, but ultimately excited," said freshman Thad Lawson. "To think the season is almost coming to a close is crazy. The days have been long, but the weeks have just flown by and I've just been really excited for the future."
The Nittany Lions will be reuniting with a handful of teams that they have competed against earlier this season, but the results from those meets are no indication of what the results will be for this weekend.
"I have no idea [what the results will be]," said head coach Randy Jepson. "We haven't shown our best yet and I think we're getting closer to where we can do that."
Penn State has been hard at work these past two weeks in preparation for this weekend. With a conference crown on the line, the Blue and White have been practicing a bit differently, but more strategically.
"We've been doing our routines the way we've been doing them the entire season, but we've been doing more competition-style practices rather than the regular traditional practices where everyone kind of does their own thing, just to get used to having a way around the new routine and put on a little bit of pressure," said senior Tristan Duverglas.
During practices, the men's gymnastics have been mainly focusing on the little details - an important aspect to winning.
"Being consistent and sticking landings [is important]," said head coach Randy Jepson. "The team that hits the most routines and sticks the most dismounts is the team that's going to win this meet."
Duverglas adds that in order to win, it's important to never give up.
"The key to winning is definitely not beating ourselves," said Duverglas. "We've done it in the past where we've kind of over thought things or we didn't go out and do what we needed to do, so I think that's been our biggest flaw. We kind of tip ourselves out of the competition, like we lose meets because we lost them, not necessarily because we did a good job and the other team was better, we just didn't have as good of a meet as we should have."
With this type of practice and better knowledge, the best meets and routines are right in front of the Lions.
"I honestly expect us to perform better than we've performed in the past, especially most recently," said Duverglas. "I think we've gotten to the point where we know exactly what we can do and our biggest thing is that we can't take ourselves out of the competition. We have to stay focus, put all our energy onto us and not worry about what other people are doing."
Duverglas, the captain of the men's gymnastics team, plans to lead the team to success by constantly encouraging his teammates.
"[I'm going to] be there for the team," said Duverglas. "I'll be the loudest one cheering. If someone messes up and falls, I'll let me know that 'It's okay and we all mess up sometimes,' just to get their head back in the game. Being if I mess up, then I get my head back in it and really be a support for everybody."
The Nittany Lions recorded a perfect home record this season and hope to continue that feat as they perform in Rec Hall for the conference title.
"I think [being home has its advantage], but not necessarily score-wise, but just how it feels to compete. Being surrounded by thousands of Penn State fans and people here to cheer us on, that energy is unlike anything else, so being able to have that at home and really immerse ourselves in it, I think it'll give us a bit of a confidence boost."
Even with a competitive atmosphere this weekend, there is a lot respect between all the teams.
"It's going to be a spirited meet and it will be a lot of fun" said coach Jepson. "These guys [in the Big Ten] have grown up together. They've been doing gymnastics together with these other guys and these other teams around the country since they were nine, ten years old, so everyone knows everyone. They've competed against each other forever and there's a lot of rivalry. It's a lot of fun, but when the meets over, it's really kind of nice because the community of gymnastics is such that these are friendly rivalries. We support each other and these are good quality coaches and good quality teams."