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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Freshman Wyatt Tyndall of the Penn State men's gymnastic squad recently left Happy Valley to travel north to Canada to compete in the Elite Canada Artistic Championships in Nova Scotia last weekend.

 

Originally from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Tyndall is use to competing in Canada and has already made a name for himself both there and at Penn State.  Before representing the Blue and White, Tyndall was a member of the Canadian National Team and was a three-time Provincial all-around champion.

 

"He's really developing into a great gymnast," said head coach Randy Jepson. "Whether he's competing for us or internationally, he's always willing to give it his all. I think he's going to do great things here at Penn State but also think it was a good experience for him to compete individually in Canada to see where stacks up."

 

In the competition Tyndall placed 11th out of 39 gymnasts and despite not winning any medals he returned to State College with valuable experience.

 

"It was definitely different to compete individually again but I'm excited to be back here with the guys," said Tyndall. "Usually there's my team always cheering me on and yelling while at individual competitions it's always a lot quieter. I love the competitions and both style meets have very different atmospheres.

 

"Overall I would say it was a great learning experience," continue Tyndall. "Like any competition it had its ups and downs but I got to walk away with more experience and saw what I needed to continue to work on for the season."

 

Since joining the Nittany Lions, Tyndall has scored a 14.400 on the floor exercises, 14.650 on vault, and 13.900 on the high bars. Going further than his stats, Tyndall is known for his dedication and fearlessness whenever he's training in the gym.

 

"I think he has a bright future in this sport. One of my favorite things about him is he's brave and always willing to try new routines," said Jepson. In this sport you have to be fearless to be great and I see that in Wyatt when he trains." Although he's just a freshman, he's already showing great progress and potential to be a strong leader for the team.

 

"One of my favorite things about Wyatt is that he's not only a good athlete but more importantly he's a great human being," he added. "He's always willing to push himself to improvement and is such a joy to be around."

 

Whether it's for the Blue and White or individually competing in Canada, Tyndall is constantly looking to improve his skills and sharpen his routines.

 

"I always want to get better with every day I train and it makes it even better when I can help out my team in getting a win," said Tyndall.

 

Up next for Tyndall and the rest of the Blue and White is an away meet against Big Ten rivals, Ohio State. The Lions will be facing the Buckeyes on Saturday Feb 13, in Columbus, Ohio at 4:00 p.m.

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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Some leaders use their voices, while others use their skills, but for men's gymnastics team captain Leroy Clarke, Jr. it is all about using his consistent drive for success to lead the Nittany Lions. After walking on the team in 2013, Clarke is now the team captain in his redshirt-junior season

 

Clarke has scored career bests of 14.900 on the pommel horse, 15.300 on still rings, 15.300 on parallel bars, and an impressive 15.050 on the high bar.

 

Something that sets Clarke apart is his humble work ethic. Regardless of how he scores, he is always looking for ways to improve and help his team.

 

"Leroy's been a great kid to work with in terms of his work ethic and how he handles himself," said head coach Randy Jepson."He's such a humble guy and works hard, the kind of guy every coach wants."

 

"Although he didn't compete that much his first year, it was a blessing in disguise since he was able to develop so much. He simply puts in constant effort and does what he's told and that's why he improved so much,"Jepson continued.

 

The Maplewood, N.J  native, has been involved with gymnastics ever since he was a little kid. What started off as him having too much energy, quickly turned into a lifetime commitment to the sport.

 

"I got started when I was about four or five years old and my mom put me in the YMCA then shortly after I got noticed by a club gym coach and I've just been doing it since," said Clarke. "I've been coming to Penn State since high school to compete and I just fell in love with the university and it's always been my first love and just committed myself here."

 

Before becoming a Nittany Lion, Clarke trained at Surgent's Elite Gymnastics for club. Competing since his was a young child, Clarke says it's the rush of landing his routines and flipping through the air that attracted him to the sport.

 

"I love being active and flipping, but the best is the adrenaline rush of learning a new skill," said Clarke. "It's such a great feeling knowing you landed a difficult routine, off that one of my favorite things about gymnastics is the competition."

 

"Showing everyone what you've been working hard at all year is an incredible thing," he added.  "It's your time to show everyone how hard you've been working and your dedication to the sport."

 

Although Clarke isn't the loudest on the team, he is always trying to set a positive example for his teammates and cheers them on.

 

"Gymnastics is unique, although it's only you performing you have an entire team routing for you," said Clarke. "I know I always have my teammates and I want to make them proud and help as much as I can."

 

So far Penn State men's gymnastic team stands at 7-1 and 1-1 in the Big Ten Conference.

 

Up next Clarke and the rest of the Blue and White hit the road to Ohio State University on Saturday, Feb. 13 to face the Buckeyes at 4 p.m.

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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -The Penn State men's gymnastics team returned to Rec Hall on Saturday, January 30 to top the University of Illinois in a 430.200-429.200 victory. The Nittany Lions were also able to earn four season-best scores on the floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings and parallel bars.

In the nail-biter of a meet, junior Dominic DiFulvio was scored a career-best of 85.500 and earn his second career all-around title to help the Blue and White notch the win.

"We grew up today," stated Head Coach Randy Jepson. "We knew it would be a hard fought contest. After last weekend's frustrations and sub-par performance I was really looking forward to the guys coming out within a week and having an opportunity to fight and show the kind of spirit they had. I think they did that today so I'm very pleased." 

Taking the lead early, Penn State performed well on floor exercise with DiFulvio and senior Alexis Torres' performances giving the Blue and White the jump in scores.

"We have our bad days and we have our good days, but today I would definitely say was a good day for the team," said Torres. "We all just came out focused on performing at our best levels and today we were focused on hitting our routines. Today was a good win for the team."

Following the floor, the Lions posted another season-best on the pommel horse with a score of 70.300 as a team. Helping the team hit this score was junior, team captain Leroy Clarke, Jr. and sophomore Colin Coates. In addition, junior Christian McSwain helped with a score of 14.550.

"Everyone did a great job today," commented Jepson. They all were focused and looked strong during routines, these guys are hungry for the win and they fought for it today."

During the third rotation, the Fighting Illini took the lead by sweeping the first three spots on the vault. 

Penn State earned its third-season-best score of the afternoon on the still rings with a 72.650 in the third rotation. DiFulvio and Clarke placed second and third, respectively, to help bring the Lions back into the competition.

"We always want to be each other's biggest support so we're always cheering one another on, "noted Torres. "We had some people give standout performances today and we always make sure we're there for one another as a team."

Penn State took the lead back during the fifth rotation with another season-best score on parallel bars. Clarke and Torres led the Nittany Lions, tying for first with matching 15.050s. 

Continuing to hit his routines, Clarke, Jr. earned his second title of the day with his high bar performance, scoring a 14.400. 

In the end of close match, Penn State Nittany Lions clinched the win by defeating the Fighting Illini by a one-point difference. 

Up next for Penn State will be a weeklong rest before heading to Columbus, Ohio for a meet against the Buckeyes of Ohio State. With the first Big Ten Conference victory under the Lions belt, they'll remain focused for OSU.

The Nittany Lions and the Buckeyes square off Saturday, Feb. 13 at 4 p.m.

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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As Penn State men's gymnastics carries on their regular season, the Nittany Lions enter their second home match on Saturday, January 30 against Illinois.

 

The Blue and White defeated Army to kick off its season before earning a first-place finish at the West Point Open.  Although the team suffered a step back against Minnesota, the boys are focused and determined as the season continues.

 

The 2016 men's gymnastics squad is a mix of veteran and newcomers who all are determined to keep the team focused on the goals set in front of them.

 

"I think one of the biggest goals for the team this season is to win both NCAA and Big Ten's," stated Dominic DiFulvio. "As a team, we want to win back-to-back Big Ten championships, which has never been done before during my time here at Penn State."

 

DiFulvio is a junior and leader on the team. The New York native has been on the team since his freshman year in 2014, and since joining the Blue and White he has become an all-around competitor

 

As one of the veterans, DiFulvio consistently aims to inspire the rest of his teammates to achieve their personal goals to help better the team as a whole.

 

"One thing I'm looking forward to is competing in as many meets as I can this season," said DiFulvio. "I really enjoy doing all the different type of events at competitions so I'm going to keep working towards this goal to help the team out. Each event demands a certain amount of focus and body training so I want to make sure I can perform them all and be as beneficial to my team as possible," he continued.

 

With the physical demands of the sport, several of the guys on the team are focusing on getting healthy to compete again.

 

"A challenge our team is facing right now is getting everyone healthy enough to compete, it's important we all take care of ourselves so we can continue to take on the season together," said DiFulvio. "Although some of our guys are hurt, it does allow some new faces to get in the competition and that'll help build their self-esteem while competing, which can help us in the future."

 

This season the Lions will only be hosting three meets, forcing the Blue and White to adjust to being on the road most of the regular season.

 

"Although it can be tough to always be traveling, being on the road is always a fun time with the team," said DiFulvio.  "Whenever the team travels it brings everyone closer and being close with the team makes those trips even more fun. We're all really close so whenever we're on the road like we are majority of this season the bus rides become fun and we're always playing games and talking to one another while traveling."

 

After hosting Illinois this upcoming Saturday, the Blue and White will be on the road until the team hosts Nebraska on March 11.

 

Be sure to keep an eye out on the Nittany Lions as the men's gymnastics team conquers the difficulty of being on the road in hopes to make history with back-to-back Big Ten titles. 

Gene Wettstone and Gymnastics Success Recognized in Facility Upgrades

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IMG_5617.JPGBy Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - "Throughout his 36 year coaching tenure, Gene Wettstone achieved an unmatched level of success. His dedication to his student-athletes, Penn State, and the sport of gymnastics established him as a pillar among his peers. In honor of his outstanding contributions as coach, mentor, and friend, this facility proudly bears his name."

Those are the words engraved in the gymnastics practice facility located inside the White Building, now named the 'Gene Wettstone Gymnastics Complex,' to honor the history of Wettstone and both the men's and women's gymnastics programs.

Wettstone was a legendary Penn State men's gymnastics coach. He brought Penn State and collegiate gymnastics to the forefront by leading the Nittany Lions to nine NCAA championships (the most by any men's gymnastics coach), 13 Eastern Intercollegiate Gymnastics League victories, more than 200 meet wins, 35 individual national titles, 13 Olympians and three Nissen-Emery honorees.

He left a mark on Penn State that could never be forgotten, and that is now displayed in tremendous fashion at the facility.

Before fully entering the gymnastics complex, curved trophy cases, with blue light glowing from the top and the bottom, can now be seen on both sides. The left side features the achievements of women's gymnastics and the right side shows the numerous accolades of men's gymnastics.

When walking towards the complex, a picture of Wettstone and a short biography of him can be seen. In the complex, on the right wall, images of past men gymnasts are shown alongside the number of Olympians, team national championships and individual national championships. There are also displays for the Nissen-Emery Award winners. Down the hallway are two displays of the individual national champions as well as the Olympians.

"It's just nice to be able to have our story in a visual way now for people to really see and understand," said men's gymnastics head coach Randy Jepson. "We couldn't do that before; we could talk about it, but there was no real visual way to do that, where people could really grasp the success of the program. It's unprecedented the NCAA record of individual titles and team titles, much less the Olympians and the international success that Penn State has developed."

But this renovation does not just inspire visitors, it encourages the current team, too.

"[The team and I] talk about the legacy and the standard of what Gene established and what we want to see continue here, and they walk by it every day. It's a constant reminder of the standard that they're to aspire to," said Jepson. "When you walk into the gym, you see 12 Championship banners for the NCAA and three Big Ten banners. My reminder to them is that it's not the banners hanging there, it's the empty space on the wall. The guys that were outside on the wall earned honors, like the Nissen-Emery or Olympian or a national champion. They are the standard, and you can't walk by that without being inspired and motivated."

On the left side of the complex, the women's gymnastics program is featured. The left wall shows the number of All-Americans, team national championships and national championship appearances seen throughout its history. The individual champions and the female gymnasts that earned a perfect 10.0 score are also honored.

The current women's gymnastics roster is presented on the side wall where each gymnast's individual headshots, name and hometown is shown.

"When you want teams to win championships, you need to treat them like champions. If they feel like  a champion, then they are more likely to perform like champions," said women's gymnastics head coach Jeff Thompson. "So the first day, when the team all rounded the corner saw their headshots out there, you should have heard them...They all had a sense of Penn State pride."

Both programs feature a rich history of success on the competition floor and in the classroom. Donations and fundraising efforts made the enhancements possible.

"That says a lot. That the donors were willing to do that and to give the money and recognize the women's achievements even though we've only been around since the early '60s," said Thompson. "We don't have the long history that the men have, but there are a lot of good things that happened here. For them to give that much money so we can look equal is awesome."

Two years ago, when Wettstone was approaching 100 years old, fellow alumni, especially Ira Stolzer, co-captain of the 1976 national champion men's gymnastics team, wished to create something to honor Wettstone's legacy as well as the future of the men's gymnastics program.

Stolzer and all the captains from the Varsity 'S' Club led the fundraising efforts for the department and renovation. In only 90 days, Stolzer and the committee were able to raise nearly $500,000 from former Penn State gymnasts and former Penn State gymnasts' families and friends. Wettstone passed in July, 2013, less than one month after turning 100.


"Ira Stolzer has just been a tremendous guy to our team and our program here," said Jepson. "He's really done a lot for Penn State, and this is the guy that could do anything he wants, and he puts a lot of effort into this. We're fortunate for him."

There were numerous people that stepped up to help with the program and some names are included on a plaque in the Gene Wettstone Gymnastics Complex.

"It's just great to be able to showcase [all the accomplishments], and be able to have that support from our alumni," said Jepson. "We're very gracious and appreciative of what they have done. They've just been very gracious with their gifts, and it's really a real tribute to Gene...There's a lot of people that contributed to make this happen, and it just really makes a statement about how they feel about Gene and how he made an impact on the individuals when he was here."

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VIDEO: 2014-15 Year in Review with Sandy Barbour

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour to review a superb 2014-15 season for Penn State Athletics.





Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: 2014-15 Season Highlights

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's 2014-15 season was one marked by excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community. GoPSUsports.com takes a look back at the campaign in a season highlight reel.


Commemorating 25 Years of Penn State and the Big Ten

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Penn State has won 92 Big Ten titles, including 21 in women's soccer (16 regular season).



By Tony Mancuso
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just four months into his tenure as commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, Jim Delany recalls an idea brought to the table by former Illinois President Stan Ikenberry.

It was October of 1989 when Ikenberry, who spent time as a senior administrator at Penn State earlier in his career, broached the thought of adding an institution to the Big Ten for the first time since Michigan State was invited to become a member in 1949.

The Big Ten then began a formal research process of an institution that would bridge a Midwestern league to the East.

The Pennsylvania State University was on the table for discussion as a superb academic institution with a rich tradition in athletic success.

Delany, whose sister attended Penn State as a graduate student, didn't need much convincing. He knew the level of potential a partnership between Penn State and the Big Ten could foster.

"The Big Ten hadn't changed in many, many decades, but I thought if the opportunity to expand presented itself it was a no brainer," Delany said earlier this week. "Excellent academics. Excellent athletics. And pointed towards the East Coast, I thought there was a lot of potential there. That was my recommendation at the time."

The process moved forward with the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten institutions discussing the topic before news broke just before the holidays in December of 1989 that Penn State could be on its way into a new conference. Under the direction of athletic director Jim Tarman at the time, Penn State had been competing as an independent in football for more than a century, and the rest of the department had been a member of the Atlantic 10 since 1976.

When the news initially surfaced, women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose, who along with field hockey coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss are the two current Penn State head coaches who were on staff in 1989, was giving a presentation at the annual women's volleyball coaches convention (AVCA) about the importance of NCAA Tournament at-large bids for teams in smaller conferences.

"I remember talking in front of the group about the importance that not all of the at-large bids go to the bigger conferences and that there were good teams in other conferences even though they didn't have the same notoriety, said Rose. "We have a lunch break. I turn on ESPN at lunch, and I see that Penn State is going to be a member of the Big Ten. I come back. I say to some people that I would like to retract what I said about at-large teams."

The formal process concluded with a vote in Iowa City on June 4, 1990, at which time Penn State was officially accepted as a member of the Big Ten Conference. Twenty-five years have passed in a partnership that allowed both the University and conference to reach unprecedented heights on the field and in the classroom.

"From a broad perspective, at the time, my view was that it was a tremendous fit for both sides. And history has proven that," Delany said. "With all the other expansions around the country, I'm not sure there was one that benefitted both institution and conference as much as this did, largely because of the characteristics of Penn State were so well matched with the characteristics of the Big Ten."

The positive news zipped throughout campus shortly after the vote in Iowa.

"I remember hearing about the announcement from Mary Jo Haverbeck, from the Sports Information office," said Morett-Curtiss. "She told me about us going in and how it was going to have a major impact for women's athletics at Penn State."

It was an announcement that changed the landscape of funding and development for all of Penn State's 28 programs at the time, and it was a day Morett-Curtiss remembers quite well.

"Ironically, I had gone for a run that day on the trails near Sunset Park and as I'm running, I see someone walking in front of me and it was Joe Paterno," Morett-Curtiss said. "And it was that day, so I said to him, 'hey what's going to happen?' He said, 'I think this is going to be a really good thing for Penn State and the exposure all of the programs are going to get.'"

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The women's volleyball program captured Penn State's first Big Ten title in 1992, marking volleyball's first of 16 conference crowns.

 
Penn State's teams felt the impact of the Big Ten conference almost immediately.

"What it did for us when we joined the Big Ten is that it No. 1 it resulted in a reassessment of the levels of commitment we had to the various programs," Rose said. "We became fully funded when we joined the Big Ten. Prior to that, we were not fully funded. And we were not fully staffed. Entering Big Ten, collectively, for all of the sports resulted in us having a new commitment from the University to try and be competitive. From a volleyball perspective, we had been competitive prior to that, but playing in the Big Ten in women's volleyball made us better because the level of competition was better than we were experiencing in the Atlantic 10."

At the time, women's volleyball had just one assistant coach on the staff alongside Rose and nine scholarships to field a roster. Joining the Big Ten boosted the program to full funding and 12 scholarships.

"As I look at it now, we could have had some great teams if we had funding in the early years," said Rose. "That was just the way that it was.  When you take a job, that is the job you took. When we joined the Big Ten, a lot of us got a better job without having to move. But it's way more competitive. Recruiting is a lot different than what we had experienced in the Atlantic 10."

The same can be said for what Morett-Curtiss experienced within the field hockey program.

"The financial support from a scholarship standpoint was huge right away," said Morett-Curtiss. "And knowing our field that we were going to build was going to be a first rate facility."

The investment for success around the Big Ten stood out during Penn State's transition. Every institution and athletic program strives to be the best. It's a trait that has not changed during the department's 25 years as a member, and it's something that will be a trademark of the Big Ten for decades to come.

"The level of commitment to being good across the conference, everybody cared," said Rose. "I don't believe every conference across the country has that sort of commitment in all of their sports. I think that is one of the things that makes the Big Ten really unique. If they offer it, they care and they want to be relevant."

Penn State's time in the Big Ten has been marked by excellence in the classroom and on the field of play. In all, Penn State's programs have accounted for 92 Big Ten championships from 15 different programs - 76 regular season and 16 post-season. Additionally, more than 170 student-athletes have accounted for nearly 300 individual Big Ten titles.

Penn State student-athletes have earned more than 5,000 Academic All-Big Ten recognitions since it joined the conference, with its three highest totals during the past three years, led by 296 in 2012-13.

"Penn State's entrance into the Big Ten not only changed the intercollegiate sports landscape, it also changed our academic landscape and our future. Our size, our academic reputation and our athletic tradition matched up well with Big Ten schools," said Penn State President Eric Barron, who also noted that all Big Ten schools are flagship universities for their states. "The academic side of the Big Ten is known as the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and the institutions together have annual research expenditures topping $10.2 billion -- more than the Ivy League and the University of California System combined -- and they educate a total of nearly 600,000 students. The benefits from being part of such an outstanding and prestigious organization with such an expansive footprint across the nation are immeasurable."

The women's volleyball program earned Penn State's first Big Ten crown during the 1992 season, just one year after the team began competing in the league. The title marked the first of Penn State's superlative 16 Big Ten titles in women's volleyball, in addition to seven NCAA Championships since 1999.

Like women's volleyball, the women's soccer program has been a benchmark of success in conference play. The program became the department's 29th varsity sport in 1994. Since then, Penn State has won an unprecedented 16 conference titles, including a string of 15-straight from 1998-2012.

The football program claimed the Big Ten title in its second season of competition during an undefeated Rose Bowl championship campaign in 1994. Coach Joe Paterno's '94 squad became the first Big Ten team to ever post a 12-0 record. The '94 crown marked the program's first of three Big Ten championships to date (2005 and 2008).

The fall season of 2005 stands out as a monumental period in Penn State's history within the conference. Nittany Lion teams clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days. The list included field hockey, football, men's soccer, women's soccer and women's volleyball. Since the fall of 2005, Penn State teams have won 51 Big Ten championships (5.1 titles per year in a 10-year span).

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Penn State clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days during the fall of 2005, including one for the women's volleyball team.



It's impossible to quantify how the partnership between Penn State and the Big Ten altered the recruiting landscape for the teams on campus and how the recruiting gains equated to success on the field of play. But pitching a world-renowned education with an elite conference affiliation cultivated relationships with premier student-athletes.

"The name recognition was big for football, but when you see how many of the Universities and programs have been successful on a national level, I think that has greatly helped," Morett-Curtiss. "Exposure for all of the Universities within the conference has helped us all grow. Combining the academic side of what these Universities have with the athletics, it's a very powerful combination when we go out recruiting student-athletes."

A big piece to the exposure of Penn State teams during the past 25 years was the launch of the Big Ten Network on Aug. 30, 2007. More than 800 Penn State sporting events have aired live on the BTN since it launched. The benefits of the conference's TV network, which is in more than 60 million homes,  increased visibility across the country for the department in a way that cannot be measured.

"The Network was a major step for us," Morett-Curtiss. "Just having the opportunity to have games on TV so that little girls can watch and learn about the sport. It's helped, not only exposure for the program, but it's helped the sport grow. It's just a phenomenal avenue for us to showcase our University and the sport."

The BTN's impact goes back to what Rose talked about as one of the immediate impacts his program felt - funding. Not only did the BTN infinitely increase exposure for Penn State teams, it has played a paramount role in increased revenues for each institution.

"Certainly, the Big Ten Network has been instrumental in generating funds for the Universities and the conference and the bowl revenue sharing has resulted in more money for all of the schools and the conference," said Rose.

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In 2008, Penn State captured its third Big Ten title in football en route to a trip to the Rose Bowl.

 

While the competitive atmosphere is intense between teams across all of the conference's sports, each member institution understands that the individual success aids in the growth of the collective conference.

"I think the relationship has been a really positive one," said Rose. "There are a lot of similarities between the various Universities."

"Everybody in the Big Ten shares what they do and why they do it; best practices," said Dave Baker, Associate Athletic Director for Business Operations. "We share lots of ideas, at least from the business manager and ticketing perspective. We learn things from one another. And there aren't secrets. We all work together and try to help each other out...We all don't do things the same way. We all have limitations, but we are all looking to help one another out for the betterment of the conference.

"Some people would find it hard to believe that people in the Big Ten root for other Big Ten teams in the postseason, but we do. We follow what is going on...It is a cooperative spirit and a partnership."

Baker is one of just a handful of Penn State administrators and coaches who have been with Intercollegiate Athletics during the past 25 years. That list includes Jan Bortner, who was head coach of the men's tennis team in 1990 and has since transitioned into a role as an associate athletic director. Among the key changes Baker felt from the business operation centered on travel. Bus trips were the norm for Penn State teams in the Atlantic 10, but the geography of the Big Ten led to more plane travel.

A quarter century has passed since initial discussions of a new relationship took place and bonds were formed. Many things have changed significantly for Penn State, the conference and intercollegiate athletics nationwide, but it's been 25 years marked by growth stemming from a vision in 1989.

"Pennsylvania is a very important state. It served as a bridge to the East for us. It made our football offerings stronger," said Delany. "It has been excellence with national championships in a variety of sports. And I have always felt that the 1994 Penn State team was the best team in the country; no disrespect to Nebraska. When you look at the players that team had (five first team All-Americans on offense) and what that group accomplished. That team was the national runner-up. That was a tremendous football team. I've seen some very good basketball teams both on the men's side and the women's side. And obviously, the wrestling and volleyball programs have been dominant on the national scene."

Penn State has won a total of 27 national championships since joining the Big Ten, including three in 2013-14, and the department's collective success speaks for itself.

By no means was the integration in 1990 an easy one, but the partnership between the University and Big Ten is a match that enabled both sides to mutually prosper in a way neither side could have envisioned when the formal vote concluded 25 years ago today.


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The wrestling team began a string of four-straight Big Ten titles in March of 2011.





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By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After finishing off the regular season with two second-place finishes, there was doubt in how well the men's gymnastics team could perform in the postseason. The Nittany Lions used that uncertainty and their passion as motivation to finish off the 2014-15 season in a tremendous way.

Big Ten Championships

In front of 1,060 fans inside Rec Hall, the Penn State men's gymnastics team completed a perfect home record by capturing its third Big Ten title with a score of 436.700 after edging by Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska in a vigorous battle that came down to the final set.

Junior Trevor Howard ended the championship on floor exercise with a score of 15.100 to let Penn State secure the conference crown.

Howard, senior Matthew Felleman, freshman Thad Lawson, senior captain Tristian Duverglas, redshirt-sophomore Leroy Clare, Jr., senior Craig Hernandez and junior Alexis Torres all competed in the individual event finals.

Howard competed in four individual event finals, the most of any gymnast, and seized the lone individual title of the night for Penn State. He defended his Big Ten still rings title from the year prior.

After finishing the Big Ten Championships with a score of 87.200, Felleman earned the Big Ten all-around title. He also placed second on high bar and was named an honoree alongside Howard for the first team All-Big Ten team.

NCAA Championships

The men's gymnastics team built on its momentum from the Big Ten victory as they went to the NCAA Championships two weeks later. They finished the season with a third-place finish inside Lloyd Noble Center in Oklahoma.

"I was really pleased that they rose to the occasion," said head coach Randy Jepson. "There were some really dramatic moments, but it could have been a far different result than what it was and our guys really showed a lot of heart to finish through it, just shy of second, and I was really pleased with the team's performance overall and how the individuals did, as well."

In the qualifiers last Thursday, the Nittany Lions finished third with a score of 432.900, two-tenths higher than Minnesota, to advance to Friday's NCAA team finals.

The situation was similar to the Big Ten Championships where it came down to the final performance on floor exercise. Sophomore Christian McSwain, sophomore Dominic DiFulvio, freshmen Thad Lawson and Felleman had great performances to bring the team close to qualifying. Howard tied his career-best of 15.800 to help the team advance to the team finals.

"I was just focusing on the there-and-now, and not really in the past, but just getting through the set and making sure to do the best that I could," said Howard.

In the team finals, the Nittany Lions followed behind Oklahoma and Stanford to be the third best team in the country. It was Penn state's highest finish since they placed third in 2012.

"We had a lot to prove after the first day, having the mistakes, but overall, I think we made a strong statement in competition against the other big teams as well as the national team members," said Lawson. "I think we went out there and proved our worth."

Lawson captured the NCAA individual title on floor exercise in the individual finals.

"[Lawson] was great," said coach Jepson. "He was rough the first day, but fortunately, we qualified in and he got a second day and he was perfect, nearly flawless. It was probably the best routine of his life and that's the time to do it. I was really impressed that he was that focused and knew what he had to do and that he went out and did it."

Lawson tallied as the fourth national champion in floor exercise in Penn State history and is the second one in the past three years.

"It definitely is a sign to any other team and it proves our dominance on [floor exercise] as well as being the force to be reckoned with on that event and it definitely keeps me with high expectations looking into the future as well as people, recruits and people that come to this team and what we expect," said Lawson.

The last freshman to earn the NCAA floor exercise title was Howard in 2013. Due to injury, Howard was unable to compete in the individual finals, but he was ecstatic for his teammate's accomplishment.

"It's awesome," said Howard. "[Lawson] trained so hard and he's been having injuries with his back for years now since his previous injury, so him coming out and winning floor was definitely a huge motivational thing for him and I'm really happy for him...I was definitely really disappointed I couldn't compete, but the team needed me more than just individually, so being able to go out and help the team more than myself is always just an honor."

Even with Howard out of the finals, he was still able to provide advice for Lawson.

"I always tell [Lawson] to be calm, not worry about the scoreboard, just doing you will have the outcome that you want," said Howard. "I think he really took that to heart and it showed."

Though Lawson is a national champion, he still has plans to improve.

"I've proven myself this year on floor and I came out with a win, but definitely still have work to do," said Lawson. "We all do. For me, it's time to prove myself on the other events."

Duverglas, Clarke, Jr., Torres and Felleman also competed in the individual event finals. They each finished in the top-six for their events. All four of them and Lawson recorded All-America honors. Howard also tallied All-American with a fourth-place finish in the all-around.

What's next?

"[The team] is excited about what the future holds and we have a busy summer ahead of us with some training and competition and development, so that's kind of where we're headed and the guys are really upbeat and excited about where they can go and what they can do next year," said coach Jepson.

By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's gymnastics team battled hard against Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Ohio State to win the Big Ten Championship only two weeks ago. The Nittany Lions have been riding on that victory as they get ready for the NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships this weekend.

"I honestly feel like we're really prepared for this competition," said senior Tristian Duverglas. "We had two intrasquads last week on Thursday and Friday and I just feel like we're really prepared to do a good job. Compared to previous years, there were some people in some routines that we weren't necessarily 100 percent sure on, that were kind of shaky, and I don't feel that at all this year. I think everyone is easily prepared to go out and do some of the best routines that we've ever done."

The men's gymnastics team has been hard at work all season in preparation for the NCAA Championships. They've recorded five wins, two-second places finishes, one loss and a Big Ten title thus far, but they know that they can prove themselves to be this best team in the country this weekend.

"We're not really [looking to improve on anything]," said junior Alexis Torres. "We're pretty much joined together as a team. We know what we can do and we know what we're capable of, even though in some competitions, we didn't demonstrate it, but this semester has been really good for us and we showed that in the Big Tens and we'll see what happens at the NCAA Championships."

Though it's important to enter a meet with confidence, it's also imperative to not let the assurance affect performances and routines.

"I feel pretty confident [about this weekend] and I think the team feels pretty confident, too, but not in a way that is too overwhelming to ourselves," said Alexis Torres. "We know that we can do a good job, so we're pretty much prepared to do that and to do the things that we've been doing in the gym over the past week after Big Tens and this week, too. In this moment, it's just to go and have fun and do whatever we've been doing this whole semester and past semester."

With only two missed routines in the Big Ten Championships, the team knows the key to winning.

"We're just going to have to perform solidly," said head coach Jepson. "Stick landings. Not miss routines. It's 5-of-5 counts, so you can't have wholesale meltdowns from anybody where you're counting to 12 or something like that."

The NCAA Championships is a three-day competition. Penn State will open competition on Thursday in the NCAA Qualifier against No. 2 Stanford, No. 6 Minnesota, No. 7 California, No. 10 Air Force and No. 11 Nebraska, so it's vital to take each day one at a time.

"[The Big Ten win] gives the team confidence in knowing that they've faced some great teams and they've done really well against them, but it's a whole new day and anything can happened," said head coach Randy Jepson. "The most important thing is that we advance as the top-three teams on Thursday and we'll look at Friday, if we get there, but we got to get through Thursday first. That's the focus."

Even if Penn State does not win the National Championship title this weekend, there is no better school for a gymnast to attend.

"Just looking back, it's just been an amazing ride," said Duverglas. "My experience at Penn State has been a blessing and if this is my last NCAAs, then on that note, I have a group of guys behind me that are willing to fight for it just as much as I am. Going into the competition and knowing that, and knowing that, regardless of how we do, we competed with our hearts on the floor, it's really all I can ask for."

But for these Nittany Lions, doing gymnastics and doing it with passion is their every day job and they know what they're capable of doing

"We compete so much, like weekend by weekend, so we're prepared for it, so we don't have any pressure," said Torres. "It's just go there and do our job. We're [at practice] every day, so it's not really that different. It's just another place doing the same thing."

 

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