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VIDEO: 2018 THON Pep Rally Dance

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Among the most highly anticipated THON weekend events, check out the athlete hour winning pep rally dance from men's gymnastics! 

By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As sophomore gymnast Sam Zakutney returns from his slate representing Canada at Canada Elite in early February, sophomore Stephen Nedoroscik and freshman Brennan Pantazis will get their turn to represent the Blue and White and United States gymnastics this weekend, as they travel to Las Vegas, Nevada to compete against other elite Americans in the coveted Winter Cup.

 

"We've been training really hard and are ready to rock it out at Winter Cup," Nedoroscik said.

 

After he secured a spot to compete in last year's United States Championships, Nedoroscik signed and sealed his first opportunity to prove his pommel horse dominance at the 2018 Winter Cup.

 

"Well it's pretty huge because there is only two of us going out this weekend," Nedoroscik said.

 

Nedoroscik's roommate and travel companion, rookie Pantazis, will be competing in the all-around. As a new edition to the Nittany Lions this year, Pantazis impressed and qualified for this upcoming meet through his dynamic all-around performance during the first meet of the 2018 campaign.

 

"Brennan...qualified through...West Point Open this year," head coach Randy Jepson said. "They take the top three all-arounders from each meet around the country. Five different meets and he qualified in."

 

Just as Zakutney returned to the birth place of his gymnastic dreams in Canada, Pantazis' gymnastics career will come full circle as he intertwines his Penn State training with his Silver State gymnastic roots in Nevada.

 

The two impressive and mature underclassmen have a number of daunting tasks ahead of them as they compete amongst the most elite gymnasts in the country and as they look to fill the shoes of past Nittany Lion gymnasts who have had the honor to compete in such a highly coveted event. Last year, Penn State's Leroy Clarke, Dominic DiFulvio, Michael Burns and Favian Valdez represented the Blue and White at the Winter Cup.

 

"It's all the best guys in the country, it's not just the best guys in college," Jepson said. "So, you have the guys who have competed at the World Championships for the USA this past fall. Those are our best guys so you get a good measuring stick to where you are with the best."

 

As the 2018 Winter Olympics forge ahead, Nedoroscik and Pantazis will get their own taste of Olympian company as they compete against the likes of 2016 Summer Olympians Sam Mikulak and Alex Naddour.

 

"They will be ready to go," Jepson said on his student-athletes. "Gymnastics is one of those things where you are in a field of some really good guys, but you really compete against yourself."

 

Since the Winter Cup is a two-day competition, the young gymnasts only have one day to impress in order to qualify for the second day of competition; their performances on Thursday will determine their access to Saturday's events. The stakes continue to grow as a second day of competition will help their qualifying chances for other national competitions and events down the road.

 

"If you qualify for the second day you automatically qualify for the US Championships so you don't have to go through that qualification process again for another meet," Jepson said. "So, it's nice to be able to do that but it's challenging there is fewer spots this year than there have been in the past. The national team is smaller now by a little bit and so that means you know that those spots are really very coveted."

 

The goals are set high for the Nittany Lions.

 

"My goal is to win," Nedoroscki said. "Realistically, just to place enough to get podium."

 

As the entire Penn State men's gymnastics team continues to train and build upon their victory against the Ohio State Buckeyes last weekend, two Nittany Lions will look to carry that momentum into another high stakes competition across the country.

 

"I was really happy with the mental approach from our guys," Jepson said. "They were really fierce and tough. We've been talking about being poised and they showed that's just kind of part of who they are now."

By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - If one were to travel north beyond the United State's border they would not only find a country rife with beautiful landscapes of mountains and lakes, a myriad of different languages and maple syrup, but also the hometowns of two Penn State gymnasts.

 

Sophomore and all-around competitor Sam Zakutney hails from Ottawa, Ontario, while junior and all-around gymnast Wyatt Tyndall calls Saskatoon, Saskatchewan home. Although the two Nittany Lions live 1821 miles (2932 km) and 32 hours apart, they still share the bond of one country, one maple leaf, and one red and white flag.

 

"Coming here my freshman year I didn't know anybody so when we were recruiting Sam I knew Sam from where I'm from," Tyndall said. "We're pretty far apart but we've seen each other before, been on the same team. We've been at nationals at Elite Canada before so I got to know him a little bit...We always relate back. We always make jokes about maple syrup and things like that and it's fun that way for sure."

 

While the two teammates and native Canadians bond over their childhood roots, they also find unity through their ability to represent the sport they love in both Penn State Blue and White and Canadian Red and White.

 

"It is interesting to note that a lot of the other schools have started to look at Canada as a viable option for some prospects," head coach Randy Jepson said. "We were out in front of that a little bit because people wanted a good engineering degree for the most part and be able to do gymnastics...So that is kind of the draw here you can't lose education or gymnastics."

 

"It brings a little bit to the team and Penn State has always been an international team," Tyndall said. "Randy recruited around the world for a long time now so I think that helped my opportunity here and I think that is a big part of why I am here. I mean I am proud of being Canadian but it is fun learning to live in another country too."

 

Since the Nittany Lions had off the first weekend of February, Zakutney and Jepson took the opportunity to travel north for Elite Canada. Elite Canada is equivalent to America's Winter Cup, which will host sophomore Stephen Nedoroscik and freshman Brennan Pantazis later this month.

 

"I've been competing in it since I was 11 years old," Zakutney said of Elite Canada. "But I guess this one is pretty important considering these World Championships are the first ones where you can qualify a team to the Olympics possibly so that is kind of a dream of mine but I am kind of just going to make it a reality some day."

 

Zakutney returned to the country, city and meet where he first laid the path for his gymnastic pursuits and dreams. As a senior competitor, the future Nittany Lion placed fourth with an all-around 75.134 score. Club Gymnika's Rene Cournoyer topped the podium at 80.800.

 

"Sam did a nice job at Elite Canada," Jepson said. "He finished fourth all-around and he showed he is right in the thick of it for Team Canada which is great...He has a good chance to represent Canada at the World Championships next fall so this is a part of that process and he showed well for that."

 

Although Tyndall stayed in State College to rest and maintain his health for the remainder of the season, both Nittany Lions are expected to compete for Canada during the country's national championships in May and throughout training camp in the summer.

 

"We wanted to save him a little bit and he had the opportunity last year to go as well," Jepson said. "He'll probably go to the Canadian Championships this summer, but you know it's tough to have all the meets in a row and have a good weekend there and be able to come back and really perform."

 

Beyond the opportunity to compete for Olympic berths and national recognitions, the two gymnasts forged a friendship through the dedication of gymnastics and the pride of a country.

 

"Getting to know him [Zakutney] a lot more here was cool," Tyndall said. "He had a connection here; I think that helped why he came here and we've come closer for sure obviously."

 

Their evolved bond not only tightens the threads of the pride, honor and legacy woven throughout the storied histories of their school and country, but it also transcends the meaning of gymnastic and sport.

 

For more information on Nittany Lion men's gymnastics, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com and follow the team on the various social media platforms.

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By Maria Evangelou, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Ava Verdeflor did not grow up like the rest of her Penn State teammates. After spending the first three years of her life in the Phillipines, Verdeflor and her family moved to the United States, where the bulk of the now-freshman's gymnastics career would take off. Despite the move at a young age, she would often return to the Philippines, where the dual-citizen would compete in gymnastics for both of the countries she called home.

 For Verdeflor,who lived in Allen, Texas for the majority of her life, balancing a gymnastics career in two countries can be a challenge, but is also rewarding.

"There's a significant difference between the gymnastics program in the Philippines and the U.S.," Verdeflor said. "Girls here can get scholarships out of this and go to college out of this, but in the Philippines, you do it just because you want to."

Ava truly loved the sport growing up, but admits she didn't expect to be competing internationally and for the Philippines. All of her siblings were talented gymnasts, but Ava truly excelled. When it came time to send them to college, the tuition cost to fund three athletes of the same family was too high, so her siblings sought out other sports, while gymnastics was Ava's sole focus.  It was her parents' idea for her to go onto the Philippines national team.

My parents put a lot of effort into me succeeding in the sport," Verdeflor said on the encouragement they provided. "I truly wouldn't be where I am today without them. All of my accomplishments are theirs as much as mine."

"Coming from WOGA (World Olympics Gymnastics Academy in Texas), the coaches are strict," Verdeflor said on training in both countries. "Over in the Philippines, it was kind of a free for all, the coaches offer more suggestions. It was weird having that drastic change from always listening and being told what to do, and being told I can do whatever I want. It kind of helped me. At WOGA, my coach Natasha raised me. She was what I needed when I was younger, telling me what to do, she helped me develop my gymnastics, and that's why my technique and my form is the way it is. Cecile (in the Phillipines) was the coach I could talk to and go to when I needed advice. I was extremely close with both of them, but there's a different need in each side."

Since her qualification, Verdeflor has travelled to the Philippines to compete twice, with her mother as her companion.  She competes individually as an international gymnast, and has competed in the 2015 World Gymnastics Championships in Scotland.

"My international experience was really fun, especially being able to compete in China, Uzbekistan, and Scotland," Verdeflor said. "But I went there as an individual, not with a team, so I was by myself most of the time. I didn't go with my coaches from club since they had other gymnasts on the U.S. team. The experience helped me grow a lot. It was a lot of fun but very nerve-wracking on an international stage knowing that so many people were watching--like people from the Philippines. Apparently, I had a fan base, I didn't even know I had a fan base! I was in the news and newspapers, and it was a little weird for me, because in the U.S. I'm just a level ten gymnast, but over there I'm THE gymnast."

Verdeflor credits her unique skills and attention to precision to her international competition experience.

 "After competing internationally, I know the importance of cleanliness. Every single detail in elite--if you flex your foot just barely, that's a tenth of a point off," she said.  "So, I try to look at the details, and how I present myself, like smiling at the judges and showing that you enjoy what you're doing."

While she knows the imprortance of cleanliness, Penn State head coach Sarah Brown has also noticed a creativity. 

"What I've noticed first and foremost about Ava is her creativity. If you even watch down to the way that she does her makeup, she's an artist," Brown said.  "Anytime she writes something, it's in the most beautiful penmanship, anytime she decorates something, it's extravagant. She is incredibly artistic, so I think that's the most unique characteristic that she brings to this team and I learn about more the more I get to know her."

Her success, cleanliness, and creativity would eventually lead to a commitment to compete as a Nittany Lion.

When it was time to commit to a college career her sophomore year, Verdeflor's talents allowed her to seek Penn State as an option to continue her gymnastics career --with a slight push from fellow Texas gymnast, close friend, and Nittany Lion Tess McCracken.

Ava and Tess had grown up together, and knew each other since they were six and seven years old. Both level tens at same time. The two competed together for years, but got much closer during high school.

"Getting to compete with your best friend is amazing," McCracken said. "I committed to Penn State as a sophomore, and she was competing with the Philippine team. When she started looking at colleges, I knew that Penn State had a spot and was interested in her."

McCracken emphasized that she wanted her friend to make the best decision for herself, but also not to pick Penn State strictly because of her encouragement. Fortunately, Ava ended up falling in love with the Nittany Lion atmosphere on her own. Ava even coincidentally took over her friend's exact dorm room her freshman year.

"The education was huge," Verdeflor said on what brought her to Happy Valley. "Penn State has such a reputation for education. I actually wasn't looking at Penn State at first until Tess told me that the coaches were interested in me, and when I came and had a visit here I fell in love with the place, and that means a lot because I hate the cold. My friends always saw me at a city school as opposed to a college town, but now that I'm here, I can't imagine myself anywhere else. I've connected so much with the coaches and the team, I just love it here."

While the excitement of committing was there, just prior to graduating high school, Verdeflor faced the most heartbreaking point of her career when she tore her ACL twice, back-to-back within a year of each other.

"I was devastated, but I knew I could come out of it stronger," Verdeflor said. "I knew something would have to happen eventually in my career, I can't go through my entire career without getting injured. I thought I'd come back my senior year and showcase what I had, but I had that taken away from me too. But I came out of that stronger too, and now I'm here at Penn State. Getting that exhibition spot and competing for the first time in over two years for Penn State, something I'd been dreaming about for three years since I committed, it was such a relief." 

Althoguh she had recent injuries, coach Brown saw potential in Verdeflor immediately, despite getting to know her later than some of the other freshmen. Since Verdeflor didn't participate in the traditional summer bridge program that most freshman student-athletes do prior to their season starting, Brown got to experience Ava's talents more recently.

"She and I had spoken on the phone and met many times before, but she got here and we weren't exactly sure where she'd make a contribution," Brown said. "She had been battling some injuries and we wanted to make sure that we got her healthy first and foremost. It is 100% apparent that she has beautiful lines on bars and beam in particular, and I think that she's proven in the last few competitions that she's very consistent. This past weekend she followed a fall, which I think is huge for a freshman to step up on the very first event and hit a routine after someone fell, so I'm becoming more and more reliant on her and looking forward to a very bright future."

Verdeflor is excited for her bright future, but also knows she still has a freshman year to go. 

"For the rest of my freshman year, I want to continue contributing to the rest of the team," Verdeflor said. "I want to help on and off of the competition floor. I've been training beam also, and I'm hoping to go out there and do well."

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By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Redshirt junior Noah Roberson doesn't only exert impressive amounts of concentration and balance on the still rings, but also in the classroom as he pursues a double major in biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering within the Schreyers Honors College. As the Penn State men's gymnastic team enters this semester with 13 out of their 21 gymnasts on the dean's list, Roberson leads the precedence for educational excellence as he continues to maintain a 4.0 GPA.

 

"So even coming to college it is just putting all of the effort I can into every aspect of life whether gymnastics, school and it's turned out well for me so far," Roberson said on his path to success.

 

Since Roberson joined the Nittany Lions in 2015, his academic accomplishments have been honored across a number of platforms. Roberson's awards range from Big Ten Distinguished Scholar, Academic All-Big Ten, First Team CGA All-America Scholar-Athlete to the prestigious Elite 90 Award. In both the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Roberson notched three of the four awards listed.

 

"As a student he is like 99.9%, he's killing it... He hasn't gotten anything less than an A yet," head coach Randy Jepson said. "There isn't anything he hasn't done academically that he can do better."

 

Even before joining the Blue and White, Roberson had high academic standards as he graduated from Willamsville South High School in Willamsville, New York with another perfect 4.0 GPA.

 

"I like to credit to my parents and my upbringing really," Roberson said. "It's always been like this for us...my parents really pushed me and my siblings to be the best we could be in everything we do."

 

Jepson views Roberson's academic dedication and childhood foundation as a vital factor to his gymnastic career as a still ring specialist.

 

"He is a bright guy, he gets what we are talking about when we are training and the changes he needs to make," Jepson said. "A good example of that is this summer he struggled at the end of routines for the past two years in terms of fitness. He just didn't quite have a strong enough handstand at the end and he came back much stronger this summer. He made the changes he needed to get better and you know he has been able to put in some really good rings for us so far this year."

 

Roberson's classroom achievements not only improve his personal gymnastics career, but also helps elevate the standard of Penn State men's gymnastics as he offers academic advice and knowledge to the other student-athletes on the squad, especially sophomore biomedical engineering major Sam Zakutney.

 

"He always gives me pointers about all of the different classes I am planning on taking and giving me tips on who are good professors and what not and how to properly study for exams," Zakutney said. "Yeah he's a real help, real mentor."

 

While Roberson embraces his current student-athlete role, he looks to the future to pursue a career that bolsters his education, but also his love for gymnastics. Last summer he applied his experiences to his first internship, an opportunity with Delphi.

 

"It's really different honestly," Roberson said on his internship experience. "It's nothing like school. It's the real world. It gives you a taste of it. It gives me connections, it helps me network, really learn...I really think that has helped me moving on."

 

While this summer he has an opportunity to work with prosthetics at Stryker, a medical devices and equipment manufacturing company. He hopes this internship will also call upon his gymnastics background and interests.

 

"Stryker is a company I really would like to work for coming out of school as well," Roberson said. "I have always been interested in biomechanics. Cleary with gymnastics everything we do is strength, injury related, so I will be working with prosthetics with them and specifically the foot and ankle team which is awesome."

 

Roberson's dedication to hard work has motivated a path that intersects at the pinnacle of his interests: gymnastics, engineering, and Penn State.

 

"I am really looking forward to just getting more real world experience getting engineering knowledge and kind of helping to better the world which is why I became an engineer in the first place," Roberson said.

 

The discipline of gymnastics, the rigorousness of a double major education and the dedication of a student-athlete's life proved to be the formula for Roberson's success as a Nittany Lion and a future engineer.

 

"It is going to open up doors coming out of here where as much as I love gymnastics, gymnastics can't really do [that] and it's going to give me a platform to really reach any goal I have," Roberson said. 

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By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Rec Hall has erupted in cheers over the clean routines and stuck landings of a 5'4" freshman from Nazareth, Pennsylvania many times this season. And, as the new Nittany Lion gymnast takes Rec Hall by storm, he continues to focus on the bigger picture of team, brotherhood and Penn State as a whole.

 

That new gymnast is Alex Frack, and he is making the most of his Penn State opportunity.   

 

"Alex just really embraces this atmosphere and he doesn't want to let anybody down and he's done a great job," head coach Randy Jepson said.

 

"He is kind of those guys who just loves the competitive atmosphere," sophomore Sam Zakutney said.

 

Although a new addition to the Nittany Lion squad, Frack has already made a lasting impact and cemented pivotal relationships within the walls of Penn State's Rec Hall.

 

"I think the whole team atmosphere has really helped him," Jepson said. "He's a real big team guy."

 

Not even a month into the official season, Frack cemented a Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor with his home showing against Army West Point.

 

"He was struggling a little bit in the summer and leading up to our first meet he looked a little bit off...but he really did his job and he did it well," Zakutney said. "I'm pretty proud of him."

 

In his first home appearance donning the Blue and White, Frack placed in the top three for pommel horse and parallel bars, while climbing the podium for his first high bar victory of the season.  He improved upon each of his scores from the previous meet at the West Point Open.

 

"We knew Alex had talent," Jepson said. "I've been pleased to see him compete really well that's something that sometimes you have to learn. He's competing better than when I saw him in the junior level so I'm really pleased about that."

 

Two of his three performances during the home opener turned up the crowd's volume and left Frack pumping his fists.

 

"He's one of the guys that is going to go up first or second on any event and that really sets a tone for the team so he has done a really good job of doing that for us," Jepson said.

 

Although not as dominating against the Fighting Illini, he maintained a consistent showing for the home crowd as he finished third for Penn State and fourth overall in parallel bars.

 

"I mean, I have been pretty consistent so far, but I think I need to put more pressure on myself in the gym when it comes to practicing for a competition environment and I think that will help me compete better as well," Frack said.

 

"There are certain areas of routines that he can clean up and as he does that the scores will improve, but you know he has been hitting a lot of routines for us and that's tough," Jepson said.

 

As Frack continues working hard in the gym, the young gymnast also looks to the upperclassmen as mentors and for advice on balancing the student-athlete schedule. With a high standard of education rife throughout the men's gymnastics team, Frack has an immense weight of excellence on his shoulders in competition and classroom. Thirteen of the 21 gymnasts last semester made Penn State's Dean's List.

 

"Honestly all the upperclassmen, even sophomores, juniors and seniors, have all helped just as much equally," Frack said. "They have all been pretty accounting."

 

He also cites pommel horse specialist, senior Colin Coates, as a role model who motivated his transition onto the team.

 

"My mentor specifically is Colin Coates," Frack said. "He's been a great help. He's helped with some classes, some work, just anything I could pretty much ask for."

 

Coates success on the pommel horse and mentorship also aims to help Frack evolve his reach as a gymnast and reach his all-around pursuits.

 

"Honestly, my goal is to do all-arounds," Frack said. "I mean I'm not quite there yet, I still have a lot to do on vault and rings and even a little more on floor, but all-around is definitely a great goal."

 

As a freshman, Frack has high expectations of his future plans while representing the Blue and White.

 

"Maybe a team captain eventually looking even further into the future but hopefully some big things," Frack said of his goals.

 

As Penn State is looking at a road bout against conference counterpart Ohio State, on Feb. 9, Frack embraces his role as a Nittany Lion in hopes of bolstering his brotherhood of gymnasts, tackling his personal goals down the stretch and balancing what it means to be a representative of Penn State student athletics.

 

"I mean the momentum has just kept going this week," Frack said. "We have a lot to learn and a lot to grow on and I am looking forward to the rest of the season."

 

For more information on Nittany Lion men's gymnastics, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com and follow the team on the various social media platforms.

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By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Although the Penn State men's gymnastics team fell to Illinois in a close 412.5-405.9 battle, they maintained resilient for both the surplus of fans donning the Blue and White, and the Penn State women's team, who was also competing alongside men throughout the afternoon's double dual meet

 

"I think we saw some bright spots." head coach Randy Jepson said. "Plenty of room to grow and a lot of season to still do it. So, we'll keep positive."

 

While the Penn State's women's gymnastics team also fell to the Fighting Illini, the two representations of Penn State gymnastics proved to be a uniting force for each other and the fans throughout Saturday's contest.

 

As the meet wound down to the men finishing up their events on the parallel and high bars, the women gathered to provide support and encouragement for their Blue and White counterparts. As sophomore Sam Zakutney landed a near flawless high bar routine, the women's team erupted alongside of the cheers heard loud from the crowd.

 

Besides the opportunity to continue to build camaraderie and chemistry between the two teams, double duals also create an opportunity to stimulate future high-intensity environments. Instead of the distraction of the men competing on pommel horse and floor, while the women perform on the uneven bars and vault, both teams take it as an opportunity to prepare for higher-caliber meets that bookend the season.

 

"We train in that all the time," Jepson said. "It's busy in our gym, the girls are there, the music is loud, it's a busy atmosphere. It's great for us because we get a champion format test so to speak in terms of intensity so when you get to the end of the season you are used to that as well but you know we just try to train."

 

Freshman Alex Frack and Zakutney didn't seemed phased by the increased energy, louder music, and constant progression of events.

 

Last week's Big Ten Freshman of the Week, Frack, erupted Rec Hall with his 14-score parallel bars performance that notched a personal best for the underclassmen.

 

"Alex Frack continues to compete well," Jepson said. "He struggled a little bit on pommel horse but you know he came through and it's just a good test overall."

 

As the score between the Nittany Lions and the Fighting Illini fluctuated all afternoon between the two forces, Frack's mature performance proved clutch and resilient to pressure.

 

Like Frack, Zakutney proved to be another bright spot for the Penn State men's gymnastics team.

 

"He [Zakutney] finished really soundly on two events with what great routines and great scores," Jepson said. "Great to see him finish strong."

 

As the only all-around competitor of the meet, Zakutney finished with a flourish for the Blue and White as he landed identical 14.45 scores on the parallel and high bars. He was the only Blue and White victor on the day as he secured the all-around and parallel bars titles.

 

Zakutney will be taking his momentum into next week for the Canadian national championships before returning to the Penn State Nittany Lions as they take on the Ohio State Buckeyes down the stretch.

 

The Nittany Lions will be on the road for nearly a month as they kick off their away stand against the Buckeyes on Feb 9. Penn State men's gymnastics will return to Rec Hall on Feb. 24 to compete against the Minnesota Gophers.

 

"We've obviously got some things to correct and to focus on and we will do that," Jepsen said as his team looking forward to the road. 

 

For more information on Nittany Lion men's gymnastics, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com and follow the team on the various social media platforms.

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By Madeleine Balestrier, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As Penn State gymnast Greg Tamargo stuck his landings on vault and maintained composure on still rings for two event victories last Saturday, the Blue and White faithful cheered on a full-circle story of struggle, comeback, and redemption.

 

"It's been quite an experience for him and it was really nice to see him succeed this weekend," senior caption Ben Cooperman said. "We've got a lot of talented people on this team and Greg's a guy who works hard and it shows when you compete like that so I'm proud of him."

 

Flashback to the spring of 2016 when Tamargo began preparing for the finale of his sophomore year: the NCAA championships. During a normal intrasquad practice, Tamargo was perfecting his floor routine as his second pass landed him a nagging ankle injury, an ankle injury that would continually create issues and eventually sideline his entire 2017 season.

 

"I kind of didn't even know it was broken for quite sometime," Tamargo said. "So it wasn't until that following January...where I actually got the surgery I needed to get it fixed. It took [me] almost three quarters of a year just to even realize that it was even broken and then I had a long recovery process."

 

The Nittany Lion, with the help of Penn State trainers, rehabbed continuously for three months just to reach a basic activity level and regain his strength. While working on the mobility of his ankle, Tamargo also dealt with a lingering shoulder injury.

 

"I was already very injured for the most part so I guess timing-wise it wasn't what I wanted, I never want to miss a season but in the end, I kind of needed it," Tamargo said.

 

Tamargo's story of struggle turned its page to comeback when he relocated to Columbia, Maryland this past summer for an internship as a marketing risk analyst at Exelon Corporation and an opportunity arose to train at Paragon Gymnastics with a childhood coach and former Olympian.

 

"It took about three months or so you know to get back to be able to basic stuff again and it took another couple of months to get back into the swing of things fully," Tamargo said on the training.

 

While upholding the men's gymnastics standards for excellence in athletics and education, Tamargo utilized his internship and time training in Columbia as a means to distance himself from his injury and focus his training and goals for the upcoming year and season within Rec Hall and across the Big Ten.

 

"He learned a lot his freshman year, he soaked up a lot of instruction and then he had some injuries along the way," head coach Randy Jepson said. "He's matured to the point where physically he knows what he needs to do and how to do it best and so I think that is giving him a really good start this year."

 

Tamargo's dedication to his comeback accelerated his path to redemption, success, and the heights of the podium.

 

"He works really hard...always in the gym wanting to get better," Cooperman said. "That's something I really point out about him, he's a work horse. That's what he does, he gets in the gym everyday."

 

Tamargo persevered to the top of the podium as last Saturday's most outstanding gymnast with impressive showings on vault, still rings and the floor. Although no stranger to competition with the Penn State Nittany Lions and top-10 finishes in his respective events throughout his career, Tamargo is cruising towards his best season yet while donning the Blue and White.

 

"He's made some great progress and I am really happy for his success this year," Jepson said.

 

As the Nittany Lions take on the Fighting Illini this Saturday at 4 p.m., keep an eye on Tamargo as he continues to write his redemption story.

"So first time getting surgery [was] definitely a tough experience overall but I benefitted from it in the end," Tamargo 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.

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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. 

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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.

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