By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Penn State men's gymnastic team prepares for its first home meet of the 2018 campaign against Army West Point, the gymnasts who unite through the threads of the Blue and White will be experiencing different emotions and milestones as they compete within the walls of Rec Hall on Saturday night.
For the first time, freshman gymnasts like Brennan Pantazis will find themselves thrust into the encouraging arms of Penn State's hometown crowd as they compete within and for the legacy of Rec Hall.
"Really exciting," Pantazis said on his thoughts heading into the meet. "I mean it was exciting enough at an away competition so I can't imagine the energy being competing at home."
Even before stepping within the confines of Rec Hall, Pantazis has found himself within the spotlight of Penn State and the Big Ten's athletic community. After finishing first in the individual floor and parallel bars events last weekend, Pantazis secured Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors.
"He competes better than he is trained and he had a really rough summer and fall, he really did and so I thought that he was capable of doing what he did," head coach Randy Jepson said. "It was great just to see the old Brennan back, that was awesome."
Pantazis hopes to continue to build off of his initial success against familiar foe, Army.
"Just remaining confident in my abilities and trusting the training I've been doing in the gym," Pantazis said. "That's what I did at this competition and I just want to do the same thing and try to polish some things up."
While Pantazis and the other underclassmen will have a series of firsts this Saturday, senior Colin Coates, will compete on the pommel horse for his last home opener as a Nittany Lion.
"I'm really excited to have a first, last meet in Rec Hall and especially after the first meet we had away," Coates said. "Ready to knock it out and do great things this season."
"You know the opportunities are few and far between for our seniors," Jepson said. "They only have four left and that's it and you know you can count on them to put in a great meet every time they go out cause there's just very few opportunities to get at home but it is just great to be back home."
Although the freshmen and seniors will find new and different meanings in the men's gymnastics home opener, each competing Nittany Lion hopes to continue to build off of their performances seen in last weekend's West Point Open.
Sophomore and national pommel horse champion, Stephen Nedoroscik continued to impress as he earned a victory and career high 15.000 on his specialty, while junior Michael Burns conquered the high bar and his competition for a third-straight title at the West Point Open. Sophomore Sam Zakutney also continued to prove the strength of Penn State men's gymnastics younger core of athletes as he notched a Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honor for his victories in the team finals on vault, parallel bars and the all-around.
"Well I was pleased to see that they translated what we trained into a competitive setting so we hit about 86 percent our last intrasquad and they held pace with that and got a little bit better and in the first meet of the season that was great," Jepson said. "I was really pleased to see that translated and they are off and running and doing well."
Coming off of a dominant performance, the Blue and White faithful should expect Jepson's team to continue to roll through their first bout at Rec Hall as they face Army for the second-straight week and the 16th-straight home opener against the Black Knights of Army West Point.
"Rec Hall is always great," Jepson said. "They have friends and family coming in, that kind of thing but you know like I said you always want to defend the home turf and the nice thing for us is that we will be able to we had a sizable cushion on Army."
For more information on Nittany Lion men's gymnastics, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com and follow the team on the various social media platforms.