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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.





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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."

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."


By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- From 1939 through 1976, legendary men's gymnastics coach Gene Wettstone led Penn State to nine NCAA championships, 13 Eastern Intercollegiate Gymnastics League crowns, over 200 meet victories, 35 individual national titles and 13 Olympians, while enriching the image of gymnastics on a campus that was better known for its football program.

With such outstanding accomplishments, the new gymnastics complex is being named the "Gene Wettstone Gymnastics Complex" to honor Wettstone, the record-holder for most NCAA team championships in men's gymnastics.

"It's a great tribute to Gene who really was Mr. Gymnastics," said head coach Randy Jepson. "Gene took gymnastics here, from really nothing, to the premiere sport at Penn State, aside from football. People would fill the arena at Rec Hall and basketball was never filled nor was wrestling, so he just did an outstanding job of promoting gymnastics and won more national championships than any other coach. He's a great, great coach."                              

Phase one of the complex is finished and phase two is in progress. The finished complex will showcase Wettstone's achievements throughout his 36 seasons as well as the success of the men's gymnastics program for nearly seven decades. There will be different displays throughout the lobby of the complex, including a wall dedicated for national champions, a wall for Olympians, an area for the Nissen-Emery winners and a curved trophy case for all the national championship trophies and accolades.

"It's an honor to [Wettstone], but to our guys, it's great to showcase the accomplishments of our teams over the years," said Coach Jepson. "We had that before, but now it's showcased in a way that is branded properly with the real amenities in today's day-and-age...It has liven this whole wing for gymnastics."

Though it's important to recognize the history of the program, the main focus is the future of men's gymnastics.

"The goal of the complex is to help secure the future for future student-athletes who want to be gymnasts, so it's a nice way to help them understand their responsibility in continuing the legacy that has been set before them, said Ira Stolzer, co-caption of the 1976 national champion men's gymnastics team. "It's a nice way to honor those that have done a nice job in representing the school and continuing the concept of excellence in classroom and excellence in athletics."

The idea for the complex came about a couple years ago, when Wettstone was approaching 100 years old. Stolzer and friends wanted to honor Wettstone and celebrate him, while helping the current gymnastics teams and the future of the program.

"We initiated the idea of naming the gymnastics workout complex after [Wettstone], so we worked with the university, went to their naming company and they agreed," said Stolzer. "Since it was during the "For the Future" campaign, we promised that we would form a committee of volunteers. We wouldn't take a disappropriate amount of time away from the development staff who were focused on the "For the Future" campaign. We wanted to make sure those funds could count towards the campaign and we formed a committee of five or six, focused on former gymnasts and family of gymnasts, and divided up the names and just got at it." 

After reaching out to former Penn State gymnasts and former Penn State gymnasts' family and friends, Stolzer and the committee were able to raise nearly $500,000 in 90 days.

"I think some guys who came to Penn State that have never given before saw an opportunity to create their own legacy in supporting an institution that they have so much to be grateful for," said Stolzer.

In addition to the celebration of Wettstone and the men's gymnastics program, it was agreed that Coach Jepson could use the funds in the best interest of the team and the success of future teams.

"What Randy decided to do, which we're really happy with, he built the new locker room for the team because they didn't have their own," said Stolzer. "Hard to believe, but they didn't have their own, so they now have a really beautiful new locker room with some nice facilities with it. Steam room, conference room."

Because of last week's Big Ten Gymnastics Championships, Coach Jepson invited the alumni to Penn State to support the team and to do the Wettstone naming celebration.

"The team won the Big Ten title and it was a great weekend," said Stolzer. "It was a great group back and a good part of [the complex] is completed, but some is not. They had renderings to show us what it's going to look like when it's done. They've done a terrific job and it's going to look wonderful when it's done."

Even though the complex was only half done, Stolzer loved everything he saw.

"It was impressive," said Stolzer. "They've done a remarkable job there and I have to admit it, I got a little choked up when I saw it. This idea really came to be with a group of guys that really believed in continuing the legacy of gymnastics at Penn State and we couldn't be prouder."

The Gene Wettstone Complex is just one example of the pride that every Penn Stater contains. 

"I think one of the most remarkable things about Penn State is Penn State's unbelievable ability to create such amazing loyalty, dedication and commitment to excellence with each and every graduating class, so when Penn Staters come back for a reunion or they come back to visit the school or they meet other Penn Starters around the country, there's an immediate prideful connection," said Stolzer. "It's really something to see and something to be part of and I'm 

just glad to be part of it."

By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Less than 24-hours after Penn State claimed the Big Ten conference title in a hard-fought battle, the men's gymnastics team headed back to Rec Hall for the individual event finals on the final day of the Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Championships.

Seven gymnasts from Penn State competed in 10 routines Saturday evening. Take a look at the amazing accomplishments from the Nittany Lions.

Trevor Howard

Junior Trevor Howard competed in four individual event finals, the most of any Big Ten gymnast and earned a spot on the podium on three occasions.

He seized the lone individual title of the night for Penn State. With a score of 15.750, Howard defended his Big Ten still rings title from the year prior.

"It's an awesome feeling," said Howard. "Being home and winning it, you can't beat it. There are so many great competitors out there and seeing routines, stick after stick, it definitely put more pressure on me, but it was still fun to go out there and compete." 

Howard tied two other gymnasts for third place on vault with a score of 15.100. He also recorded 14.675 on floor exercise for fifth place and placed eighth on parallel bars.

In addition to all of these accomplishments, Howard was named the Penn State Sportsmanship Award Honoree, an award given to student-athletes who has distinguished themselves through sportsmanship, noble citizenship and good academic standing. Furthermore, it was announced that Howard was selected for the first team All-Big Ten team. 

"It's always an honor to make the team like that," said Howard. "Just being able to represent your school and knowing you're on the first team is a huge success."

Matthew Felleman

With a score of 14.950, senior Matthew Felleman ended his Big Ten career with a second-place finish on high bar. 

"It feels great because it's my senior year, my last chance to make a name for myself and for Penn State and to accomplish what we did today, it's an honor and I couldn't be happier."

After the championship, it was announced that Felleman would join his teammate Howard in being an honoree for the first team All-Big Ten team.

Felleman also earned the Big Ten all-around title Friday evening with a score of 87.200. It was the third Big Ten all-around title in Penn State history. 

Thad Lawson

Freshman Thad Lawson was the only other Nittany Lion to compete in multiple events after qualifying for the floor exercise and vault event finals. 

Even as a rookie, Lawson did a great job in both events. He placed fourth overall on floor exercise with a score of 15.000 and got ninth place on the vault after posting 14.775. 

Tristan Duverglas

Senior Tristan Duverglas joined teammate Howard on the still rings' podium after recording 15.375 to claim fourth place.

"It's an incredible feeling [to be on the podium senior year]," said Duverglas. "This is something we've been chasing after for the past three seasons at Penn State and being able to do it my senior year and end it off with a great note, I really couldn't ask for anything more. It's an amazing feeling, especially being at home."

Leroy Clarke, Jr.

With a score of 14.450, redshirt-sophomore Leroy Clarke, Jr. tied with one other gymnast for fifth place in the high bar final and was able to join Felleman on the podium.

Craig Hernandez

Craig Hernandez ended his senior career on the podium Saturday evening as well by placing fifth on pommel horse (14.750). 

Alexis Torres

After having to sub out Friday evening due to an injury, junior Alexis Torres returned to competition Saturday evening. He placed 10th at 14.425 on still rings.

Coach Jepson

"The weekend was just outstanding," said head coach Randy Jepson. "The guys just competed really, really well...Tonight, we can relax a little bit and the guys can unwind and rest in the fact that they're the Big Ten Champions this year, so that's exciting."

At the end of the championships, coach Jepson was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year for the third time in his career. He previously won the award in 2003 and 2008 after claiming the Big Ten title in both seasons.

"I've got a great staff and a great group of guys and it's a tribute to our organization," said coach Jepson. "We're a family. From the guys, all the way up to the top, and I mean to the very top of Penn State. It's beyond me and the staff."

Looking Ahead

In only 11 days, the men's gymnastics team will be competing in the NCAA Championships in Norman, Okla, with hopes of winning the team's first national championship title since 2007.

"We still have a lot to improve on," said Howard. "Getting our hit ratio up, our sticks, that's going to be a huge factor in the NCAA's...and just trying to pristine all that we do in every event. We know [Oklahoma] is a good team and we're looking to take them off their podium and their pedestal, so we're ready."

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 place.

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 the lineup.

"[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 with 217.950.

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 injury.

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 for everybody."

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."