By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's gymnastics team showed up for the hometown crowd on Saturday afternoon as it defeated the Army Black Knights, 407.6-384.1. Penn State returned to Rec Hall for the first of its four home meets in 2018, and the backing of the Blue and White fandom proved vital to the success of the gymnasts.
"I had a team, I had a family behind me," freshman Alex Frack said. "I never really had been apart of something like this. In high school, it's not a school sport so you never really had this big backing so honestly that was incredible, a great feeling."
Returning to the confines of Rec Hall proved to be not only an essential asset to the team's overall victory, but also a momentous occasion for Frack. As a freshman, he experienced the all-encompassing emotional and supportive presence of the entire Nittany Lion community.
Frack proved to be a consistent factor throughout Penn State's routing of Army. He placed in the top three of all of his events: the pommel horse, parallel bars and high bar.
"He did a nice job," head coach Randy Jepson said. "Alex is a pretty savvy competitor. He wasn't perfect on horse but didn't give a break up and he had a solid set there. Parallel bars, flat through, a little sloppy but got it done. On high bar, came through again there so it is good to see."
"I mean last week I went out and I performed decent, better than I thought for my first meet and you know I kind of tried to do the same thing," Frack said. "I had the good positive mindset last week and I tried to keep that momentum going into this week and I really think that it paid off."
While Frack's 13.7 on the high bar gave him a first-place finish and his highest score of the day, it also gave him the Blue and White's applause. When he stuck his landing off of an already clean and consistent routine, the entire gym erupted in favor of the underclassmen.
"Honestly, it's not like anything I have ever experienced," Frack said. "JO [Junior Olympics] is a whole different game than this. This is a lot of people, a lot of fans, you know, you have a bunch of people behind your back cheering you on. It's not really like that in JO so this experience was unlike anything I ever had. You know, I got a new team, a new family and I am really looking forward to the future."
While Frack was warmly welcomed by the hometown crowd for the first time, senior Greg Tamargo highly anticipated the excitement of competition and the welcoming cheers found within the walls of Rec Hall after sustaining an injury that sidelined him for the entirety of the 2017 slate.
"It feels great," Tamargo said. "I haven't competed here in now two years...I am glad I was able to kind of start it off right for the team. I hope we can move forward from here and the whole team can just take it as a kind of a positive...and use this as confidence going forward when we go against other teams."
Tamargo's homecoming was nothing short of successful as his performance earned him an award honoring him as the most outstanding athlete of the meet.
"Greg Tamargo did a great job," Jepson said. "He struggled a little bit last year and it was a struggle for him all season long and he wasn't able to get in the competitive squad. He came through today with a great meet and much sharper than he was last week so that was huge."
Tamargo performed solid still rings and vault routines to earn himself two individual titles on the day, while he came in first for Penn State and second overall for his floor routine.
"Individually for me coming back, it's always tough coming back from an injury in general so it was more just getting back in the swing of things you know getting back to doing full routines," Tamargo said. "You know just getting myself to the point...where I can make the nerves go away and do routine and routine over and over again to the point of where it becomes natural and by the time I get out here it is natural. I don't really have to worry it doesn't matter how big the crowd is, how many people are here, who's here watching just come out here and do what I do best."
As Penn State continues to pursue an undefeated schedule, the Nittany Lions will welcome the Fighting Illini to Rec Hall next Saturday at 4 p.m. for their first Big Ten showing of the season.
"The bright side is we've got a great Illinois team coming in and they are going to challenge us right to the end so we are going to have to be pretty prepared mentally," Jepson said.
For more information on Nittany Lion men's gymnastics, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com and follow the team on the various social media platforms.