By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Last April in the midst of cheers and NCAA National Championships excitement, current sophomore Stephen Nedoroscik stood at the top of the pommel horse podium amongst some of the best gymnasts in the United States.
"Just a really energetic vibe there," Nedoroscik said. "I didn't expect to win honestly, but I just wanted to have fun."
This April, Nedoroscik plans to do the same.
Nedoroscik traveled to Chicago, Illinois early Wednesday morning along with his teammates. Penn State will compete as a team on all events this weekend, while Nedoroscik and freshman Brennan Pantazis will represent the Blue and White individually on pommel horse and floor respectively.
"They've been just fine tuning and they look sharper and sharper each day, really really pleased with that," head coach Randy Jepson said. "They are ready to go, there's nothing else we can do. You can't do anything extra at this point. More's not better so we're doing just fine that way."
As underclassmen, Nedoroscik and Pantazis have built a relationship around their expectations in the gym.
"Seize every moment," Nedoroscik on the advice he's given to the younger gymnast. "Starting from like beginning of the season, we've just been talking, especially since Winter Cup. He has like a champion mindset, kind of like what I did last year. He's going into win."
Similarly to Pantazis, Nedoroscik's freshman season proved his ability and skill as an underclassman earning All-American pommel horse honors. This season he secured his career best on his specialty at the West Point Open with a 15.000 tally, while also overcoming the mental challenge of meeting championship expectations from his competition.
"It's a tough thing to have a target on your back and to feel like you have all of these expectations, which is I know what he felt at the beginning of the year," Jepson said. "There's nothing different than you were before you were national champion so getting him to embrace that and to understand that that's the biggest thing otherwise you put this mountain on yourself and I think he's worked through that fairly well."
"It feels good that people look up to me as competition and I look forward to having a good competition," Nedoroscik said.
Nedoroscik has stiff competition this year in fellow pommel horse specialist Brandon Ngai, a Fighting Illini and previous NCAA champion, and Alec Yoder, a Buckeye and a former bronze medalist at the Doha World Cup in Qatar.
"There are some other guys out there that are really good," Jepson said. "So you know there is a good field, really good field."
Aside from the competition, the entire atmosphere at a high-stake event like the NCAA National Championship adds more pressure.
"It's fantastic," Jepson said. "You know the great thing is they got the taste at Big Tens...the emotion that noise everybody in their carrel just going crazy and the crowd is going to be a really good crowd."
But Nedoroscik and the rest of the Penn State men's gymnastics team are ready for the challenge.
"Every away meet so far this year I've hit and I've done really well and I just want to keep that momentum going into NCAAs," Nedoroscik said.
"Just go out and have fun do your job do your routine and let the chips fall where they may and if you do everything you can that's all you can do," Jepson added.
Can Stephen Nedoroscik repeat as a champion?
"I want to win again," Nedoroscik said.