By Anita Nham, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2015 Big Ten Champions. That's
just one name to call the Penn State men's gymnastics team. But these Nittany
Lions are more than that - they're warriors.
"I was just thrilled with the guys' efforts and being
relentless," said head coach Randy Jepson. "We talked a lot about being in
warrior mode, what that means, and I've seen glimpses of it, but I haven't seen
my team have that for a while and we've struggled in some years where we
haven't stepped up and really knocked it out the park when we needed to be
warriors, but we did it tonight."
Penn State outscored Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota,
Nebraska and Ohio State with a final team score of 436.700 to capture the
conference crown in an electrifying and close fashion after having to overcome
misses, falls and injuries.
The championship came down to the wire in the final
rotation. It was a close matchup between Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Penn
State with Michigan leading the competition. Michigan ended the night with a
score of 434.750, a 72.850 lead over Penn State.
However, the men's gymnastics team didn't let that deficient
affect them as sophomore Christian McSwain, sophomore Dominic DiFulvio,
freshmen Thad Lawson and senior Matthew Felleman all had great routines in
floor exercise. They brought the team within 13.15 points of tying for first
In came junior Trevor Howard, the final performance of the evening
for Penn State. Even though Howard knew that the Big Ten title was on the line,
this didn't bother him.
"[There wasn't a lot of pressure]," said Howard. "I had this
feeling before in the NCAA's when it was here [two years ago] and this was
three times better because I know that I can hit this set. I've had a lot of
injuries that's kind of held me back this year, but in my last pass, I could
see in my peripheral vision, the whole crowd standing up and yelling as loud as
they could, and that just gave me the final drive to push through the last pass
and just put it on my feet, so I didn't really feel any pressure. I knew I was
at home, my family was behind me and my brothers were warriors and I was ready
to deliver for them."
Howard needed to earn a score higher than 13.15 to give Penn
State the Big Ten win and he did just that. He finished the night off with a
score of 15.100, and coach Jepson had no hesitation when placing Howard last in
"[Howard's] freshmen year, he was the NCAA floor champion on
that same floor, in that same spot," said coach Jepson. "If there's any guy you
want going last, it's the NCAA floor exercise champion and he's a warrior. He
just is. When he came out to do the floor set, I knew that he would make it, I
didn't have a doubt...[After the routine, I told Howard] 'I had you last because
I knew you would be a warrior. I'll take a whole team of warriors just like you,"
and it was a great moment."
The Nittany Lions opened with a bye in rotation one, after
being introduced to roaring applause from the 1,060 fans inside Rec Hall.
"It's an honor and privilege to win at home with this crowd,
the best crowd I've ever experienced," said Felleman. "I couldn't be happier to
do it at home."
In addition to the team win, Felleman won the all-around
title with a career-best score of 87.200.
"I'm still shocked right now because I wasn't thinking about
my all-around score at all going through the competition," said Felleman. "I
was 100 percent team right there and that [win] just surprised me."
The men's gymnastics team started the competition on pommel
horse in rotation two where they posted a final score of 69.250. Senior Craig
Hernandez recorded 15.200, the highest score of the evening.
Still rings were next in rotation three. Penn State tallied
a team score of 74.950 and Howard earned a career-high score of 16.100.
Next up was vault on rotation four. Lawson posted a
career-high of 15.050 to push Penn State into fourth place in team standings
The Nittany Lions headed to parallel bars for rotation five.
Felleman, DiFulvio, and junior Leroy Clarke recorded high scores for the team
and junior Alexis Torres started to compete, but was unable to finish due to
Freshman Quest Hayden subbed in for Torres and made his Big
Ten Championships debut.
"I was just trying to be super calm," said Hayden. "I knew
that we were going to be down a point for Alexis, for me subbing for him, so
when I went in, I just had to be calm and hit a clean routine."
With a teammate out, the men's gymnastics team knew that they
had to recover. Lawson opened up high bars in rotation six and with his solid
performance, he got the team's and crowd's energy back up. Clarke, Felleman,
Howard and Hayden also competed to give Penn State a team score of 72.350.
Penn State was in fourth place with a score of 361.900, but
the floor exercise helped to win it all.
"I looked down the line at the floor lineup, knew we had a
very good floor lineup and that we could win it," said coach Jepson. "I pulled
them together and said, 'Guys, this is within our reach. We just do our job and
it can be ours,' and they did that."
With the first Big Ten title in seven years, coach Jepson
couldn't be more thrilled for the men's gymnastics team.
"I'm just so happy for them," said coach Jepson. "They pay a
big price, they really do. We ask a lot of our guys and to have them step up and
receive the trophy and get the accolade, today they were the best team. That
was wonderful to see. They really deserved it. There's more to the season, we
got to come back tomorrow and do a good job and then a couple more weeks, we go
to the NCAA's, so it all starts over again, but for tonight, they're the Big
Ten Champions. I'm really happy and proud of them."
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
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."
By Anita Nham,
GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After finishing sixth at the NCAA Championships last
year, the Penn State men's gymnastics team began its 2015 regular season at No.
6 in the College Gymnastics Association (CGA) Preseason Coaches' Poll. Though
the Nittany Lions weren't expected to perform as highly as in previous years,
the Blue and White exceeded those predictions with a remarkable season.
"I'm pleased [with this season's results]," said head coach Randy Jepson.
"We took a team that was not picked to do that great and we're in the hunt
here, so I'm really happy with that."
Penn State excelled early in the season with a season-opener win against
Army in Rec Hall. The Nittany Lions' feat continued with a first-place finish
at West Point, a win against Michigan in the only double dual of the season, a
win against Ohio State and a win against Iowa on the annual Senior Night.
In addition to having a perfect home record this season, the men's
gymnastics team posted two new school records. The Nittany Lions earned a score
of 75.950 on parallel bars in the meet against Michigan and they also broke the
record on floor exercise with a score of 75.800 in the meet versus Ohio State.
"We've been pretty constant with our work," said junior Alexis Torres. "We
have done better in the past competitions, like in the beginning [of the
season], but we still keep it together as a team in our performance."
The blue and white finished off its regular season with two second-place
finishes - one at the Puerto Rico Gymnastics Challenge and one against Iowa,
Minnesota and Nebraska at Iowa last weekend.
"We thought we'd be kind of right where we are," said coach Jepson. "We've
leveled off and kind of plateaued here at the end of the season, but we haven't
had everybody together at the end of the season yet either, so I think our best
meets are in front of us, which is great. That's where you want to be at the
With so many accomplishments, it's hard for coach Jepson to pick his
"There's a lot of great moments," said coach Jepson. "To single any one out
is really tough, but I look at each guy and I see moments that have just been
outstanding and that's one of the joys is of being a coach - just seeing guys
rise to the occasion and do great things."
Aside from the team's accolades, numerous gymnasts shined individually this
Senior Craig Hernandez is one of the six finalists for the Nissen-Emery
Award, an annual honor given to the most outstanding senior student-athlete in
collegiate gymnastics. After the meet against Michigan earlier in the season,
Hernandez was named the Big Ten Co-Gymnast of the Week after capturing the
school record in the pommel horse with a near perfect score of 15.950.
Hernandez and junior Trevor Howard participated in the 2015 Winter Cup
Challenge in Las Vegas and Hernandez was able to finish 12th on the
pommel horse with a combined score of 28.850.
Junior Alexis Torres also had a triumphant season by notching three Big Ten
Gymnast of the Week honors. In addition, Torres was named the CGA Gymnast of
the Week following the 440.800-435.700 win over the Hawkeyes on Senior Night
where Torres tallied five top-three finishes to post the top all-around score of
"I mean, I don't win anything, but it does tell me something," said Torres.
"It tells me that I've been performing pretty well and that kind of motivates
me even more, but still, in my own mind, I think that I can do even better.
It's like a reminder to just keep going."
When the men's gymnastics team headed to Puerto Rico for the Puerto Rican
Challenge, Torres traveled to Arlington, Texas instead to compete with Puerto
Rico in the 2015 AT&T American Cup. The AT&T American Cup is the USA's
most prestigious international invitational.
"It was amazing," said Torres. "It was kind of boring because I was alone,
but [it was great] to socialize with other gymnasts. They're really great
gymnasts. They're like world champions, world medalists. Just being on that
stage was an honor and to say that I was competing with the best in the world,
I just felt amazing."
The upperclassmen weren't the only ones to succeed as freshmen Thad Lawson
captured the Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor three times this season. Lawson
has won four individual floor exercise titles this season, too.
The men's gymnastics team has had its ups and downs during the regular
season, but they wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
"[I wouldn't have changed anything] this season," said Torres. "We have
been working pretty well and we have been mostly healthy. Minor injuries, but
we come back really fast and we've maintained the most important concept, which
is being healthy."
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After finishing up the last home meet of the
regular season with a win against then No. 7 Iowa, the Penn State men's
gymnastics team will travel to Puerto Rico for the Puerto Rican Gymnastics
Challenge for the fifth consecutive year today.
The Nittany Lions will compete against gymnasts of the Puerto Rican and
Mexican National Teams as well as Big Ten rival University of Michigan.
Back in January, Penn State took on Michigan in the only double dual of
the season and came out on top with a 444.700-436.250 win. Though, the two
teams have previously met, the final results from their last meet is no
indication of what the outcome will be for this weekend.
"It was early then," said head coach Randy Jepson. "We were certainly
more prepared than they were. They're going to be a solid team, ready to go
this time around, so I'm expecting a really good competition with them as
Senior Ismael Sanabria echoes his coach in that results and standings
can always change as the season progresses.
"[The meet against Michigan earlier this season] gave somewhat of a
clue, but then again, they didn't have their whole lineup," said Sanabria.
"Neither did we though. Especially for me though, it doesn't matter to me what
This Friday will be a homecoming for seniors Sanabria and Nestor
Rodriguez and they couldn't be more ecstatic about it.
"I'm pretty excited," said Sanabria. "I'm competing with my friends
again, with my teammates back home...I'll be going back [to Puerto Rico] later,
but for the team, it will be the last time. I'm excited for it, but it's also
bittersweet because I won't be competing there again and it will be my last competition
in Puerto Rico."
In last year's Puerto Rican Gymnastics Challenge, Penn State finished
second (428.550). The men's gymnastics team outscored the Puerto Rican national
team (405.450), but came up short against Michigan (438.800). Sanabria tied with
junior Alexis Torres for eighth on the vault and expectations are high for
Sanabria, but coach Jepson believes that he will do a stellar job in his
"It's nice for [Sanabria]," said coach Jepson. "He's a senior and this
is the last time he'll get to compete with us in Puerto Rico. I know he's got
some plans outside of gymnastics after this, so this might be the last time
competing in front of his friends and family at home, so I know that he is
primed to do a good job there."
Torres led the team with individual titles last year in Puerto Rico. In
addition to placing first on still rings, he recorded three more top-5 finishes
in floor exercise, parallel bars, and high bar. Torres will not be heading to
Puerto Rico this weekend since he will be competing in the American Cup in
"It will be a little different weekend since we don't have everyone
together," said coach Jepson. "We're sending Alexis Torres off to the American
Cup and he'll compete in Texas on Saturday. It's a very prestigious meet. It's
actually on NBC at 1 and will be nationally-televised. It will be nice to have
him out competing, but it will take something out of our team, obviously."
With a teammate gone for the weekend, Sanabria had some advice for the
"Just stay focused. Do what you do at the gym. It's the same [as other
meets], said Sanabria.
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 4 men's gymnastics team finished their final
home meet of the regular season with a 440.800-435.750 win over No. 7 Iowa on
Friday evening on Senior Night.
"It's bittersweet," said senior Tristan Duverglas. "I knew this day
would come, but you can't really prepare for it, but it definitely means a lot
to me, just being my last regular meet in Rec Hall. I'm just glad we got to see
the crowd, something to really end it on a big note."
The Nittany Lions won five out of the six events and earned four
individual titles. Junior Alexis Torres placed first in all around and still
rings, freshman Thad Lawson finished first in floor exercise with a score of
15.700 and senior Craig Hernandez secured the title for pommel horse with a
score of 15.250. Freshman Quest Hayden also tied for first with Iowa on vault.
"We had five misses tonight and our goal was a 100 percent, so we were
85 percent," said head coach Randy Jepson. "We also wanted to hit a lot more
sticks than five. We wanted to get a minimum of 10, so we didn't do what we
wanted to do. Pommel horse was a little bit of a problem; we had two breaks
there. We're just going to have to be better as we go here...Overall, not too
Senior Matthew Felleman started the meet off for Penn State in the
first rotation, the floor exercise. He finished with a score of 15.050 and
helped energize the team to grab four of the top five spots in the event.
"It's definitely a hit routine in the beginning," said Felleman. "It
gets the energy going and it's what Randy's looking for."
Though Felleman loves to bring liveliness to his teammates, he loves
the enthusiasm that the crowd at Rec Hall brings to the meets even more.
"[I'm going to remember] the meets at Rec Hall the most because the
crowd's awesome, especially when we get a nice and loud "We Are...Penn State"
from the crowd. That's what shakes me," said Felleman.
After the meet, the five seniors were recognized with individual video montages
of their gymnastics careers, from the early childhood years to their time at
"It was crazy [to see myself on the screen]," said Duverglas. "I didn't even
know my parents had some of those videos, but it's just odd to see how hard
we've come from the middle competition that we did as kids to competing for a
university, like Penn State. The transition is just insane."
Four years may seem like a long time, but it goes by quicker than one would
"[The videos] made me realize how fast it went by, especially when I went up to
Randy and shook his hand and he goes, 'I told you it would go by fast,'" said
Felleman. "I remember when I was a freshman and our seniors were doing this and
now it's real."
The men's gymnastics team finished their regular home meet with a win and coach
Jepson had only high praise for the five seniors and everything they've
"They're just great guys," said coach Jepson. "These guys come in and they get
to know what our program is all about and they get to know our staff and we get
to know them. It's really a bond that's made between all of us to get them to
be the best they can everywhere. You know, it's tough to say goodbye, they've
got a couple more seasons, so we're not going to say goodbye fully yet, but
it's great to see the videos of when they're youngsters in their first couple
of meets when they're kids. They're just hardworking young guys and they/re great
people, so that's what keeps me ticking in this job - I love what I do because
I love my guys and they're just wonderful young men."
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a week of rest, a majority of the Nittany
Lions are ecstatic to compete again, but for five seniors, they don't want the season
to end this Friday evening as they take on the Iowa Hawkeyes on their annual
Take a look at the outstanding careers as a Penn State gymnast for five seniors.
"It's the last time I get to suit up in the Blue and White, but it will be
exciting to have my family there and have a bunch of recognition," said
During his freshman year, Hernandez displayed that he would be an important
aspect to the team. He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice during the
season, was named First Team All-Big Ten and qualified for the NCAA
In his sophomore year, Hernandez made history after he broke Penn State's pommel
horse record by securing a score of 15.750 at the Navy Open. His accolades
continued in his junior year, but his favorite memory in his Penn State career has
nothing to do with his achievements.
"My favorite competition was the Big Ten [Championships] last year in
Nebraska," said Hernandez. "The team did well, but it was so much fun competing
with the guys and I'm just hoping that the rest of our competitions are like
Rec Hall is home to men's gymnastics and is known for being one of the most
captivating sports venue in the nation. Hernandez couldn't agree more with the
"I just love the atmosphere of Rec Hall," said Hernandez. "You travel
everywhere and Rec Hall is always my favorite place."
At the age of three, Sanabria's father decided to have him participate
in gymnastics because he was an extremely hyper kid. Eighteen years later and Sanabria
has continued to practice the sport.
During recruiting, even being from Puerto Rico, Sanabria didn't need to
think twice about attending Penn State.
"We've had a couple of teammates come here before me and it's a great
university and they have a great gymnastics program and just seemed right to go
here," said Sanabria.
Being so far from home can be tough, but with a tight-knit group, finding a
new home isn't hard.
"[I'm going to miss] my teammates and being around everyone," said
Sanabria. "They're all great people and they all love the sport and they want
With such a close bond with his teammates, his favorite memory is a similar
one to his teammate, Hernandez.
"[My favorite memory] was the Big Ten [Championship] in Nebraska," said
Sanabria. "It was the best competition I had ever been to. It was fun and there
was just a great atmosphere there."
Though Sanabria loved the Championships last year, he's eager for the meet
"I feel pretty good about it," said Sanabria. "I'm actually pretty excited
about it, last home meet, even though I don't want to leave Rec Hall. It's a
Felleman started his collegiate career by competing in seven of the
team's nine meets and would always surpass his career-best score as the season
continued. He competed in all of the team's meets and at the NCAA Championships
his sophomore year where he finished fourth overall on high bar with a score of
During his junior year, he led the Blue and White on high bar and
eventually represented Penn State on the high bar at the Big Ten Championship
team finals where he finished sixth.
The Big Ten Championships last year were a favorite memory for some of his
fellow teammates, but for Felleman, anytime on high bar is a good memory.
"Every time I went up on high bar [was my favorite moment]," said Felleman.
"I was usually either anchor or somewhat of a lift up for the team, so those
moments when I was last on high bar, the team relied on me. Those were some
really big moments that I won't forget."
He hopes to make more memories and be the best he can be this Friday.
"I'm very excited. My body is feeling probably the best its felt all
season," said Felleman. "I can't wait. There's a lot of nervous energy because
it's my last real home meet besides Big Ten, so I'm sure there's going to be
emotions on the floor...I'm hoping to go out there and hit all five events the
best that I can."
Rodríguez was part of the Puerto Rican National Team Gymnasium club team
before he came to Penn State and has continued to compete internationally for
Puerto Rico. Those 1,600 miles may be hard at times, but he has a strong
"[I'm going to miss] the team and how everyone just gets along," said
Rodríguez. "For someone like me, coming from Puerto Rico, to get along and meet
new people, it's pretty much getting a new family."
Even with a unique and memorable career, Rodríguez favorite meet is a
commonality between the seniors.
"[My favorite memory was] last year's Big Ten Championships," said
Rodríguez. "It was one of the funnest meets I had ever lived through and
everyone pretty much hit their set and the energy was so high."
Though Rodríguez is injured and unable to compete this Friday, he is
satisfied with his time at Penn State.
"It's the end of an era," said Rodríguez. "It's the end of my four years as
a college athlete and student. It's just something that makes me proud."
Duverglas started gymnastics when he was three years old because his parents
wanted him to be safe when they noticed how hyper he was and how he would
always love to jump off of things. Seeing gymnastics at the summer Olympics was
another factor to the start of his career.
Duverglas has accomplished a lot in his collegiate career, but his favorite
memory was last year in the meet against the Illini.
"I won the Gene Wettstone Award last year and it was my first time
winning and it was a good feeling," said Duverglas.
"Gene Wettstone Award" is granted to the most extraordinary gymnast
after each double dual meet.
With that being such a good memory, Duverglas doesn't want
his career at Penn State to end.
[I feel] bittersweet," said Duverglas. "Being in Rec Hall is always fun,
always a great time, but thinking about it as the last time I'll be competing
there before Big Ten's is somewhat sad because it's going to bring back a lot
As Duverglas finishes his time at Penn State, he hopes the underclassmen
understands the chance being given to them.
"Take advantage of every opportunity you have," said Duverglas.
"Opportunities come and go, but the ones you take advantage of, the ones that you're
going to grow the most from, so being able to come to Penn State and be on the
gymnastics team, and experience all those things, was really an opportunity
that I've never really thought about before, before being approached by coach
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Having the opportunity to compete against some
of the best athletes in the nation during one's lifetime is something few people
can say they have done, but for senior Craig Hernandez and junior Trevor Howard
that is exactly what they will be doing this weekend.
Hernandez and Howard will be competing in the Winter Cup Challenge in
Las Vegas, Nev., on Feb. 19 and 21.
"I'm actually really excited," said Hernandez. "It should be fun.
Getting back to some of the individual styles of gymnastics that's like before
college and of course, it's nice and warm out there and it's frigid here."
These two Nittany Lions will be leaving the comforts of Rec Hall for a
two-day competition where they will be taking on the top gymnasts in the
"They will be with guys that competed in the World Championships in the
United States and Olympic Games," said head coach Randy Jepson. "It's the top
gymnasts. It's not just collegiate guys there - it's people that are
post-grads, the best the US has to offer, so it's a good chance to compete with
some of the best guys."
Facing off against the best gymnasts in the country can be
intimidating, but Hernandez and Howard don't plan for that to affect their
"It's a little intimidating [to be competing against the best in the
country], but we wouldn't be going there if we weren't good ourselves and
that's the way I look at it," said Hernandez. "I want to beat them and we'll
try to beat them."
This Penn State duo is familiar with the scene at the Winter Cup as
both have been part of the competition in previous years. Hernandez placed
first in pommel horse for the past two years and last year, he earned the title
with a score of 14.350. Though getting a third win is ideal, that isn't the
main emphasis for Hernandez.
"Maybe a little bit of expectation [is there], but I don't really look
at it," said Hernandez. "I just focus on doing the best gymnastics that I can."
Out of the 42 gymnastics in the 2014 Winter Cup last year, Howard
placed 17th-overall with an all-around score of 81.750 in the finals.
Even with that grand accomplishment, Howard is only focusing on being better.
"Basically, I go out there and just think, 'This is for yourself. What
you do is on you,' so I kind of make it more myself-oriented than
team-oriented," said Howard. "I feel like there are always high expectations. I
always set my standards higher than normal, so I want to plan on getting Top-10.
A lot of guys are injured, so this is the time to step up and make the [Senior
Although the Winter Cup and NCAA meets are vastly different, the
toughest challenge will be the fact that their fellow teammates will not be
"It definitely is [hard to go to Las Vegas without the team]," said
Howard. "Having the team behind you and hearing them cheer your name when
you're doing your routine is awesome, so it's definitely a little more quieting."
Besides competing individually, Hernandez and Howard will have the
opportunity to watch their other opponents.
"You get the chance to see the rest of the guys in the country from the
other teams and outside the NCAA structure - what the best are doing, so that
gives you some ideas to what you need to compete against," said head coach
Jepson. "You got to know your opponent, so it's really important to have a
grasp of that, but really, we can only control the things we do, so we have to
do what we can to be the best we can. That means focusing on execution at this
point and being clean."
Even though Hernandez and Howard have multiple experiences
with competing in the Winter Cup, it's always an enjoyable time.
"It's always exciting to go out there," said Howard.
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Determined. Strong-willed. Unbeatable. Indomitable.
Those are just a couple words to describe the undefeated Penn State men's
gymnastics team. Not only have they won all four meets thus far this season,
but the Blue and White has also captured the team title in floor exercise in
all of those meets.
"It feels great," said sophomore Christian McSwain. "I definitely knew in the
preseason that we were capable of it and it's nice to actually be doing it."
What has changed in the past year to allow such success to the men's gymnastics
"Last year, we couldn't stick a landing on the floor to save our life, but
we've developed now to where we can do that and we've seen that in good scores"
said head coach Randy Jepson.
Normally, it is a cliché to say "practice makes perfect," but in this case,
that phrase couldn't be any more fitting.
"There's no secret," said coach Jepson. "We've been working forever on just
trying to have clean, consistent landings...The successes we've had on the floor
has just been a coalition of year-and-a-half of work, especially for the
freshmen. Our seniors have been doing basic tumbling that we do every day for
four years and those things culminate and build to where things come easier and
easier every day you're out there and week by week, you get better, and so
we're seeing the fruit of that in all the landings we're getting."
The routine and choreography for each athlete has to stand out to the judges,
but the most important aspect for the floor exercise is to stick the landings.
"[The judging of landings] is huge because every other event, you only have one
landing," said coach Jepson. "On floor, you have multiple landings, so that
means there's a lot more places where you can get execution errors. They take
off for every step you talk - one to three to five-tenths, and so if you have
several steps during your routine, you just get killed in terms of scoring, so
it's really important to stick your landings in floor exercise."
In addition to four team titles in floor exercise, three Nittany Lions have
taken home individual titles in the event, including senior Matthew Felleman,
freshman Thad Lawson, and McSwain.
Penn State opened the 2015 campaign with a matchup against then-No.12 Army. The
team won all six events and Felleman received the first individual title of the
season by placing first in floor exercise with a score of 15.100.
The men's gymnastics team's success continued the following week at the West
Point Open at Christl Arena. Lawson finished first with a score of 15.300 and
earned his first career award - Big Ten Freshman of the Week.
Lawson hasn't let the accolade slow him down as he has been consistently performing
in the top-three at each meet.
Most recently, McSwain placed first in floor exercise at last week's meet
against Ohio State.
"It felt amazing," said McSwain. "I've been waiting two years to finally hit a
Even with winning an individual title, McSwain hopes to improve for the rest of
"I can definitely stick a few more landings," said McSwain. "[The routine last
week] was a really good routine, but I still had a few little hops here and
With the team is doing so well in the floor exercise event, the focus at
practice has been slightly shifted.
"We need to do better on high bar," said coach Jepson. "We haven't done as well
as we like on pommel horse yet either and we're working at it, but it's not
going to be overnight, especially on high bar, you know. Hopefully we'll see
better performance and consistency on high bar."
The Nittany Lions travel to Champaign, Ill. to compete against Illinois on
Saturday, Feb. 14.
Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 3 Penn State men's gymnastics team's season
remains undefeated with a 443.600-431.400 win over No.7 Ohio State Friday
evening at Rec Hall.
"We started out really strong and did a really solid job, but fell a little
short in the last event," said head coach Randy Jepson. "We had a little bit of
a mental lapse, so that was unfortunate, but it was a strong showing overall. I
The Nittany Lions won the first five events and earned six individual
titles. Sophomore Christian McSwain placed first in the floor exercise event,
senior Craig Hernandez finished first on pommel horse, and senior Matthew
Felleman came in first on high bar.
Junior Trevor Howard took home three individual titles in still rings, parallel
bars, and all-around.
"It's exciting," said Howard. "I've been struggling in the gym doing my
sets, but being able to come out and do a set [on still rings] like that even
when I'm tried from not doing all-around all the time, it's good to go out
there and hit a nice set."
With a final score of 443.600, the Blue and White notched the sixth-best
team score in program history. However, even with this positive outcome, Penn
State still plans to improve for their meet against Illinois next Friday.
"Well, we're going to have to be better to beat Illinois," said coach
Jepson. "They're a very good team and one of the things we can focus on is the certainly
the finishing could be better in the last couple of events, so we can do a
better job there and pommel horse wasn't particularly good today, so hopefully
next week, [the team's] games up."
Howard echoed coach Jepson's statement about refining the routines on
"I definitely need to improve on pommel horse, that's always been a weak
point for me," said Howard. "It was good. It built my confidence hitting it
tonight, but I still need to get the nerves under control and be able to come
out and show that I've been training in the gym."
Ohio State and Penn State will meet again in the Big Ten Championships on
March 27-28, but this meet is no indication of what the results for the
championships will be.
"There's going to be a lot of change between now and Big Ten," said coach
Jepson. "A lot of teams are looking healthier, getting better, that's a lot of
season to be competed, so by no means are we set in stone in anything. We got a
job to work."