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Men's Gymnastics Heads to NCAA Championships with Confidence

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By Anita Nham, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's gymnastics team battled hard against Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Ohio State to win the Big Ten Championship only two weeks ago. The Nittany Lions have been riding on that victory as they get ready for the NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships this weekend.

"I honestly feel like we're really prepared for this competition," said senior Tristian Duverglas. "We had two intrasquads last week on Thursday and Friday and I just feel like we're really prepared to do a good job. Compared to previous years, there were some people in some routines that we weren't necessarily 100 percent sure on, that were kind of shaky, and I don't feel that at all this year. I think everyone is easily prepared to go out and do some of the best routines that we've ever done."

The men's gymnastics team has been hard at work all season in preparation for the NCAA Championships. They've recorded five wins, two-second places finishes, one loss and a Big Ten title thus far, but they know that they can prove themselves to be this best team in the country this weekend.

"We're not really [looking to improve on anything]," said junior Alexis Torres. "We're pretty much joined together as a team. We know what we can do and we know what we're capable of, even though in some competitions, we didn't demonstrate it, but this semester has been really good for us and we showed that in the Big Tens and we'll see what happens at the NCAA Championships."

Though it's important to enter a meet with confidence, it's also imperative to not let the assurance affect performances and routines.

"I feel pretty confident [about this weekend] and I think the team feels pretty confident, too, but not in a way that is too overwhelming to ourselves," said Alexis Torres. "We know that we can do a good job, so we're pretty much prepared to do that and to do the things that we've been doing in the gym over the past week after Big Tens and this week, too. In this moment, it's just to go and have fun and do whatever we've been doing this whole semester and past semester."

With only two missed routines in the Big Ten Championships, the team knows the key to winning.

"We're just going to have to perform solidly," said head coach Jepson. "Stick landings. Not miss routines. It's 5-of-5 counts, so you can't have wholesale meltdowns from anybody where you're counting to 12 or something like that."

The NCAA Championships is a three-day competition. Penn State will open competition on Thursday in the NCAA Qualifier against No. 2 Stanford, No. 6 Minnesota, No. 7 California, No. 10 Air Force and No. 11 Nebraska, so it's vital to take each day one at a time.

"[The Big Ten win] gives the team confidence in knowing that they've faced some great teams and they've done really well against them, but it's a whole new day and anything can happened," said head coach Randy Jepson. "The most important thing is that we advance as the top-three teams on Thursday and we'll look at Friday, if we get there, but we got to get through Thursday first. That's the focus."

Even if Penn State does not win the National Championship title this weekend, there is no better school for a gymnast to attend.

"Just looking back, it's just been an amazing ride," said Duverglas. "My experience at Penn State has been a blessing and if this is my last NCAAs, then on that note, I have a group of guys behind me that are willing to fight for it just as much as I am. Going into the competition and knowing that, and knowing that, regardless of how we do, we competed with our hearts on the floor, it's really all I can ask for."

But for these Nittany Lions, doing gymnastics and doing it with passion is their every day job and they know what they're capable of doing

"We compete so much, like weekend by weekend, so we're prepared for it, so we don't have any pressure," said Torres. "It's just go there and do our job. We're [at practice] every day, so it's not really that different. It's just another place doing the same thing."

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