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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - The intrasquad meets are over, and it's finally time for the Nittany Lions to gear up for competition. Penn State's men's gymnastics squad was ranked sixth in the initial College Gymnastics Association poll, and they are looking for their NCAA-leading 13th national championship this upcoming year.

Head coach Randy Jepson, now in his 26th season, is going to have to rely heavily on his seniors this season, as they look to build off solid 2016 performances and need to help the young guys develop. Leroy Clarke and Dominic DiFulvio in particular have been main cogs in this program since they arrived on campus three years ago.

"They've both grown into being great ambassadors for us, and great men," Jepson said on his two leaders. "They're really solid competitors, Leroy especially. He's grown, coming out of nowhere being un-recruited and he's done a great job. Both of them have team captain experience and are great leaders for us. [Dominic] is really going to do a great job this year for us.  I'm excited that he laid the foundation for a great senior season."

Clarke was an eighth-place finisher on the still rings at the 2016 national championships, while DiFulvio nabbed four first-place finishes throughout 2015-16. 

Despite the successes from last year, Jepson stressed that there are still areas in which this team can improve. 

"We were very inconsistent on the pommel horse last year. It was a problem all year long until the end, and we were one of the better teams at the end because we made smart decisions about how we were competing and what we were doing," he said.  "This year, I think that will be a much-improved event for us, so that's exciting to see. The other thing that's going to be a key for us is just consistency. We're not a team that is going to overpower anybody, but I think that if we're very stable and consistent, we could surprise some people." 

Part of the reason Jepson is so confident is the arrival of two new studs on pommel horse, as freshmen Stephen Nedoroscik and Favian Valdez have both been labeled as some of the premier competitors in that event.

"We're really pleased so far looking at [Nedoroscik]," Jepson said. "He's just doing an outstanding job and, from what I've seen in his past, he's been a very good competitor. We're looking for solid routines from him all year long and hopefully he'll stay healthy enough to do that. The fact that we have a lot of depth this year will help us, but we're just going to have to be really solid in the system." 

The team's intrasquad meet last Thursday, which was the first time the entire squad was in action at the same time and open to the public, allowed Jepson to better assess where his team is at this point in the season.

"Our fitness level is where it needs to be. Guys weren't fatigued and they were doing routines start to finish pretty solidly. It's always hard to get over that hump at the beginning, but I think they've done a good job in preparing physically. Some of the guys were pretty sharp for this time of the year while other guys need some work to do," Jepson said.  "Getting that consistent practice time and intensity is really important. If you practice well, you have a much better chance to compete well."

Just about a month away from the season opener, the focus now shifts to how this team will prepare for the regular season.

"We have some things we need to accomplish in the next week as well as maintain our fitness," Jepson said. "They'll go home for about eight or nine days and then come back for the next two-week run to get ready for the season. Hopefully they'll stay in shape over those days that they're home and when they come back, it'll be fine-tuning and making lineup decisions even up to the last couple days before the meet." 

Penn State opens up the regular season Jan. 13-14 at Army West Point as part of the West Point Open.

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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  With another academic year in the books, the Penn State men's gymnastics team can reflect on many lessons learned during the 2015-2016 campaign.

 

Despite numerous injuries, the Nittany Lions were determined to grow this past season.

 

"Although it was a tough season due to injuries, it gave a lot of guys a chance to step in and improve," said head coach Randy Jepson. "We gained a lot of experience which is the best thing we can ask for moving forward."

 

The Blue and White fought through all the injuries and showed great determination and drive with every meet.

 

"I would say we surprised a lot of people this year with how much our guys fought until the end," said Jepson.

 

"There were times when we were five points behind and turned around to win the match, and in gymnastics every point and every second of a routine counts," he continued.

 

Penn State was able to place fourth in the Big Ten Championships, and then placed fifth in the NCAA Championships.

 

"These guys were always hungry to win and willing to put the work in it to show the other schools what Penn State has to offer," said Jepson.

 

This year, the team was lead by three seniors, Trevor Howard, Alexis Torres, and Blake Young, who all helped the team grow this year. 

 

In addition to being one of the veterans on the team, Howard was able to earn his seventh All-American title this season.

 

"Everyone motivates one another on this team, we want to see guys lead by an example," Jepson said.

 

Other notable veterans on the squad were team captain, Leroy Clarke Jr., and Dominic DiFulvio, who was picked to be team captain for next season.

 

Despite any injuries, every member of the squad played their part and helped the Lions advance this season. Additionally, the season allowed many of the younger players gain experience and start molding the future leaders.

 

"I always tell the guys there's success to be had as long as we keep moving forward and working hard," said coach Jepson. "I want us to always grow from the season."

 

"This season was good and I'm very proud of the team, we fought hard and showed everyone what our program is about," continued Jepson.

 

With the season officially over, the team is already in preparation for next year. Many of the guys will continue their training this summer and start working out wit the team again in no time.

 

Recent graduate Trevor Howard will also be returning in the fall, joining the coaching staff come fall as he continues to train and help develop the team.

 

"I'm very excited to have (Trevor) Howard back and see what happens in the future, said Jepson. "A lot of these guys train year round and now we can take what we learned this past season and use that to make us an even stronger team in the future."

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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Penn State men's gymnastic team heads back to Columbus, Ohio this weekend for the 2016 NCAA Championships.

 

Being no strangers to the national stage, the Nittany Lions have won the championships 12 times already, the last one being in 2007.

 

"I've seen it all in my career," said head coach Randy Jepson. "I've had teams that dominate in regular season but then loss it in the championships, and I've had teams that battle their way to the championships and take it from behind."

 

The Lions recently came in fourth place at the Big Ten championships and bring back valuable lessons with them as they prepare for the NCAA championships.

 

"We have some things to work out still but I think we're standing at a good spot right now," said Jepson. "This is the healthiest we've been all season which is good, we're not a 100% but I'm glad we're better than where we were earlier in the season."

 

The championship breaks down into two sessions on Friday, April 15th, with the top three teams of both session I and session II competing for the team event finals on Saturday, April 16th.

 

"We've been really solid all around this year," said coach Jepson. "We've been really solid on rings and parallel bars, which is the event we've really been able to make the most gain on people in competition."

 

"High bars we've also been very solid on this year," he continued.

 

Although the team's been solid in the competition, they still aim to improve.

 

"If anything I would say we want to hit pommel horse," Jepson said.  "Not that we're bad on that event, but it's not as strong as the rest of our routines and I think if we iron that out we'll be in great shape for the competition."

 

With the Blue and White just recently competing in the St. John Arena at Ohio State University, they're well-prepared for the setting of the NCAA competition.

 

"This is our third postseason in this arena, I think the guys will be very comfortable entering the arena," said Jepson. "It plays to our benefit we've seen the setting before and know what the teams we're competing against are."

 

"We're entering the weekend expecting no surprises, but also prepared for anything."

 

With a squad full of veterans such as Trevor Howard, Alexis Torres, and Leroy Clarke Jr. leading the team the Lions are keeping their spirits high.

 

The Nittany Lions have worked hard the entire season and they'll end their 2015-2016 campaign this weekend with hopes to finish on a high note.

 

"I always tell my guys anything can happen," said Jepson. "As long as we go out and do the job we're trained to do and have fun doing it we'll be fine, we just need to stay focused on the big picture and see what happens."

 

The competition will start at 1 p.m. on Friday, April 15th and extend into Saturday with the first event starting at 7 p.m.

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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach Randy Jepson of the Penn State men's gymnastics team is celebrating his 25th anniversary of coaching the Nittany Lions this season.

 

In addition to being part of the coaching staff, Jepson graduated from Penn State in 1982, where he was a member of the squad and earned the position of team captain, winning All-American honors on rings.

 

"I've been with this university for so many years now and I couldn't image myself anywhere else," said Jepson. "It's funny I've been here so long, yet it feels like I haven't worked a day in my life-I think that's the key, if you do something you love you'll never get sick of your job."

 

Jepson has been able to earn National Coach of the Year in 2000, 2004 and 2007, and lead the men's gymnastic team to three national championships and three Big Ten titles.

 

Many boosters that have been with the program recognize Jepson for the way he preserves the honorable heritage of Penn State's gymnastics, while always finding ways to improve the program.

 

Jepson started his Penn State affair after transferring from the University of Oregon after the school dropped the gymnastics program.

 

"Ever since my first visit at this university I was overwhelmed with the positive feel and sense of community Penn State provides," said Jepson.

 

"When I think of Penn State, I think of family. This school provides people with such pride regardless of when you went to school here. I think it's a very powerful and unique aspect that Penn State has."

 

After graduation, Jepson officially joined the coaching staff in 1983, then in July 1992 he was appointed head coach.

 

"I'm a little seasoned now, but it's always hard to see the seniors go," said Jepson. "The best thing about coaching is watching these guys grow and mature into great gymnast but that just make's it harder to see them leave."

 

Jepson has groomed Olympians, Big Ten honorees, and national champions.

 

"As a mentor, it's great to see the guys blossom into not only great gymnast but great people outside the gym," said Jepson.

 

"I always like to keep track of the guys whether they end up pursuing professional gymnastics or something else.  I think this sport teaches the guys a lot about hard work and dedication, even if they don't recognize it until after the program."

 

Jepson recognizes that although coaching is rewarding, it does come with challenges.

 

"Gymnastics isn't for the weak. I tell the guys all the time this sport constantly tells you that you're not good enough, it's always demanding improvement," he said.  "That also plays a role in being a gymnastics coach, I'm always trying to improve and help the guys find ways to better their routines."

 

Through the ups and downs, Jepson enjoys the challenges of being a gymnastics coach and strives to continue to grow the program.

 

 Up next the Nittany Lions will be heading the NCAA Championships in Columbus, Ohio. The competition will start on Friday, April 15th and end on the following day.  

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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With only a few days until the Nittany Lions travel to Columbus, Ohio to compete in the Big Ten championships, Penn State is getting ready to try and make program history as back-to-back Big Ten champions.

 

Since winning the title last year, the men's team dreams of bringing home back-to-back championships and are staying strong and focused to complete their goal.

 

For his first time competing in the Big Ten, freshman Michael Burns is preparing himself for a whole new experience.

 

"To prepare we're doing a lot of work on routines and staying healthy," said Burns. "I'm expecting us to go out there and do our job, we're not going to do better than what we have been doing in practice but I think if we do as well we'll get the job done."

 

"We know the importance of ironing out the little details in practice so that's what we're focusing on right now," continued Burns.

 

Burns, just like senior Trevor Howard, is actually returning to their native state of Ohio.

 

"It'll be pretty bittersweet having my last time step on the map for Penn State be in my hometown, " said Howard.

 

Howard, who is one of the leaders on the team, came up huge for the Blue and White last year with his performance.  He helped Penn State score a 436.700, edging out Illinois (436.100) and Michigan (434.750) to claim first place.

 

This year, Howard is aiming to three-peat on the still rings. If he accomplishes this, he will be the second Penn Stater in the program to complete this task.

 

"I always train my hardest," said Howard. "I want to make sure I can come in clutch for my team and it motivates me to perform at my best level."

 

"This is my last time competing and I've learned a lot on the way to getting here, I think we have a good mindset heading into this competition," said Howard.

 

Veterans Benjamin Cooperman (sophomore) and Dominic Difulvio (junior) also enter the competition with experience.

 

"Last year we showed that if we fight until the end, anything can happen and I think that first place trophy will really motivate us to complete our goals," said Cooperman.

 

"There's nothing like competing in that championship environment since It's so different than the regular season," continued Cooperman. "The pressure is higher but I think that brings out some of our best work as a team."

 

Upperclassman Difulvio also enters the weekend with high hopes of bringing back the gold to Happy Valley.

 

"It's a pretty crazy contest in the past so I'm expecting nothing less," said Difulvio. "I'm prepared to keep our team hyped throughout the contest cause we've learned that when you want to have fun-that's when you compete your best and that's what will help us win the best."

 

"Coach always tells us we need to do our jobs, nothing more and nothing less and that's how we'll be victorious," continued Difulvio.

 

The Big Ten championship will start on April 1 and continue on until April 2. Starting time is 7:00 p.m. ET.



By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the regular season officially over, the Penn State men's gymnastics team is preparing to start the Big Ten Championships.

 

The Nittany Lions ended the season 10-4 overall, and 3-4 in the Big Ten. Staying focused, the boys are entering the postseason determined heading to Columbus.

 

"I think there will be tough competition, with Ohio State being home for the competition it does add some pressure but we're really focused right now," said Penn State head coach Randy Jepson.

 

Last year the Blue and White took home the top prize as Big Ten champions. If they successfully keep the title, it will be the first time in the program's history they are back-to-back Big Ten champions.

 

"This is a completely new team than last year and with that comes new challenges and new strengths," said coach Jepson. "Being last year's champs can motivate us for sure but we are a different team so we need to adjust accordingly if we want to win it all again."

 

Last year, the team won after Trevor Howard's performance put them in the lead.

 

"Everyone wants to be that guy to bring home the win and that's what I use as motivation," said Jepson. "These guys are all capable of great things and highly motivated, each of them wants to help the team win."

 

Although there's plenty of talent on the team, there's also an immense amount of Penn State pride and brotherhood.

 

During any meet, the boys can be found cheering on one another throughout the competition.

 

"We learned against Nebraska that team moral is an essential. We were down that meet and turned it around to win by only a few points and I think that had a lot to do with our attitude," Jepson said.

 

Penn State is known for top-notch gymnastics, and the team is trying to iron out all little details before the competition.

 

"We've really been solid on rings, but if we can get consistency to be our key and hammer that out as we move forward I think we stand a good chance," said Jepson.

 

The first day of the competition starts on Friday, April 1st in Columbus, Ohio and will begin at 7:00 p.m. ET.

 

Other Big Ten schools competing are Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and host Ohio State.

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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With only one meet left in the regular season, Penn State men's gymnastics is entering Saturday's meet against Michigan strong and focused.

 

"This weekend's meet is really important to us since it's the last chance we have to end the season to really show everyone what we got," said redshirt-sophomore Joseph Boyle. "Michigan is a very tough team and since we won the Big Ten last year, we know they're going to be throwing their best at us on Saturday."

 

Since the Lions are the defending champs, all are keeping their eyes on the prize, as Saturday's competition will affect post-season chances and rankings.

 

"We've all been working really hard this season and are excited for this meet. It's always a good time when it's another Big Ten team and we want to show everyone what Penn State can do," said Boyle.

 

Although every member of the team bleeds Blue and White, Boyle has been a Nittany Lion fan since he was a kid.

 

"Penn State has always been a family thing for me," said Boyle. "Since I'm from New Jersey a lot of my family has gone here including my older sister who actually graduated a few months before I enrolled my freshman year."

 

"I've always loved coming to Penn State when I was growing up and was constantly surrounded by Penn State fans so it was pretty clear I was going to come here one day."

 

In addition to his family influence, Boyle was attracted to Happy Valley due the combination of both athletics and academics the university offers.

 

Outside of gymnastics, Boyle is biology major and also a member of Schyer's Honor College. After Penn State, he has dreams of attending medical school.

 

"Being a student athlete is really awesome, just being on this team has given me a new perspective of Penn State. It allows you to notice how much support there is at such a big university," said Boyle.

 

"Gymnastics teaches you a lot of valuable life lessons and with such a demanding schedule it really forces you to make sure you always have your schoolwork done and are ready to go for practice, overall it's been an extremely humbling experience," continued Boyle.

 

Boyle started off in gymnastics at a very young age, again due to family influences.

 

"My sister was involved in gymnastics and since I was always doing it in the waiting room, my mom finally signed me up for it also," said Boyle.

 

Whether it's his family in New Jersey or his gymnastics family at Penn State, Boyle credits his career to his family.

 

"I always want to do well to benefit Penn State, we're all brothers and anything I can do to help the team out is great," said Boyle.

 

Boyle's typically competes in floor exercise and on both vault and high bar for the Nittany Lions. His high score is a 14.300 on the floor.

 

Boyle will join the rest of the squad as they hit the road for Michigan. The meet will take place on this Saturday, March 19th, in Ann Arbor. The start time is 1:00 p.m. ET. 

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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -The Penn State men's gymnastics will be honoring three seniors on Friday, March 11th while hosting Nebraska in the last regular season home meet at 7 p.m. inside Rec Hall.

 

Four years together, through ups and downs, these three seniors are about to graduate, and all they've accomplished while donning the Blue and White won't be forgotten anytime soon.

 

"It's always sad to see a class go, every one of these guys have grown so much throughout the years and we'll miss their presence," said head coach Randy Jepson.

 

"Each one of the three guys played an important role on the team and it'll be sad to say goodbye to them. I'm positive though that great success is in each of their futures," continued Jepson.


Trevor Howard

 

Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Howard has been a key gymnast for Penn State all four years of his collegiate career.

 

He's competed in all six events for the Blue and White, scoring a career-high 88.500 in the all-around at the 2015 NCAA Championship. The Columbus, Ohio native was a 2013 National Champion on the floor exercise and a three-time All-American in his career donning the Blue and White. Howard also earned First Team All-Big Ten on two occasions, holds the conference record being an eight-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week in 2013 and was a two-time Big Ten still rings champion.

 

"Being on the team taught me a lot," said Howard. "The sport teaches you discipline and learning how to become cohesive with an entire team. It's kind of cool becoming so close with all these guys with different backgrounds since we have the same goal of winning."

 

"This sport has taught me so much and will always influence my life even past graduation," he continued.

 

After Penn State, Howard wants continue a career in advertising and becoming a creative director.

 

Alexis Torres

 

Both a leader through his actions and words, Torres is known for his charismatic personality and dedication to gymnastics.

 

Born in Catano, Puerto Rico, Torres has created a name for himself both in America and his homeland within the gymnastic community. With an overall best score of 90.550 in the all-around against Iowa earlier this season; he has excelled on all six events in competition. Furthermore, Torres is a two-time All-American on the still rings.

 

"It's going to be an emotional meet, simply due to this will be my last competition in Rec Hall and Penn State means so much to me," said Torres.

 

"Representing Penn State these past four years have meant so much to me. It's been a great experience working with Coach Randy and being around these guys every day," said Torres

 

After Penn State, Torres wants to go to physical therapy school and continue competing in gymnastics for Puerto Rico.

 

Blake Young

 

Originally from Winston-Salem, N.C., Young was prepped at Mount Tabor before coming to Penn State.

 

Known for his energetic presence and being someone who can interact with anyone on the team, Young played a vital role in always motivating his teammates at both practice and in competition with his positive attitude.

 

His career high on pommel horse is 13.900 and earned a 13.500 on the high bar.

 

"It's been an incredible experience overall," said Young. "We've become so close to one another we're really more of a family on this team and Coach Randy has been a great role model."

 

After Penn State, Young wants to peruse a career as a dentist.

 

 

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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer    

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Chris Sands has always been involved in gymnastics growing up, and the Penn State freshman can thank his father for getting him involved in the sport at a young age. 

 

"My dad has a big role of why I chose gymnastics growing up, he was a gymnast as well for his high school and he knew all the benefits there was of putting his son through the same sport," said Sands.

 

Although Sand's father never made it to the collegiate level, he always motivated him to constantly strive for improvement.

 

"My entire family is pretty involved in sports," said Sands. "Besides my dad, my mom did track and field and my brother swam, so we always put an importance on athletics and staying in shape while growing up."

 

This season Sands has competed on still rings with a 14.700 and on vault with a 13.650 for the Nittany Lions. Despite still being new to the program, the coaching staff see a bright future for the underclassman.

 

"The two biggest factors for Chris are his physical strength and his ambition to always get stronger," said head coach Randy Jepson. "It's funny, he's always ready to learn new routines and we sometimes have to slow him down to keep him healthy."

 

"As a coach, Chris is an ideal gymnast," coach Jepson continued. "He's a great team player yet constantly wants to improve himself and his abilities."

 

Known as being one of the most energetic guys on the team, Sands credits his teammates for making his first year in college a much easier transition.

 

"Being a Division I student-athlete can be tough sometimes due to the time demands, it's worth it to have such great teammates like these guys," said Sands. "They're always willing to help me out, which is a huge help when adjusting to college."

 

"That's something I ultimately want to do one day is be as good as a role model to the future freshman as these guys are for me," Sands continued.

 

Before Penn State, Sands was prepped at Lancaster Catholic High School and trained at Prestige Gymnastics, where he competed in the 2015 Junior Olympic Nationals Championships and earned a third-place finish in still rings and ninth-place in floor exercises.

 

Although Sands is still early in his collegiate career, he has big goals for his career and is staying determined.

 

"One of my biggest things is I always want to be better than the day before," he said. "Gymnastics is unlike any other sport, it's both an individual and team process and that's why I love it so much. I not only want to improve for myself but to help Penn State."

 

Up next for the Blue and White is an away meet at Arizona State University on Friday, March 4 at 9:00 p.m. EST.

 

 

 

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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Being a Division I student-athlete is no easy task. A person has to be dedicated to their sport while making time to maintain their personal grades in the classroom on top of trying to make the most of their limited college career. However, redshirt-freshman Noah Roberson of Penn State men's gymnastic is succeeding in all aspects of being a Division I student-athlete.

 

The Williamsville, N.Y. native is accomplishing his goals both in the gym and in the classroom. In addition to competing for the Blue and White he also is a biomedical engineer major and a member of Schreyer Honors College with a 4.0 GPA.

 

"Noah is a very dedicated person in all aspects of his life," said Head Coach Randy Jepson. "He's extremely hard working and even though he redshirted his first year he's made an incredible amount of progress already."

 

"I have a lot of respect for him as a person. It's not everyday you come across a person who is just that dedicated to both their sport and their academics," Jepson continued.

 

Roberson has become a solid competitor for the Nittany Lions. Currently he competes on the still rings with a career high of 14.700.

 

"Noah is just a bright kid, you tell him something he understands and does the work he needs to get done to improve," said coach Jepson.

 

Roberson is making the most of his time in Happy Valley and explains that the university's academic reputation combined with athletics is what attracted him to Penn State.

 

"My whole life my family taught me how important hard work is," said Roberson. "I think it's really important to be both a good athlete and a good student."

 

Currently Roberson is focusing on prosthetics and is beginning to do research with the kinesiology department to help develop his honors thesis. To compliment his biomedical degree, he also wants to achieve a second degree in mechanical engineering.

 

After college, Roberson wants to get his masters within five years.

 

"It's been a great experience being on the team, being on a strict schedule really motivates me to make sure I get all my school work done on time.

 

Coming from a family of engineers and physical therapist, Roberson has always had big dreams for his future.

 

"I've learned that you need to set priorities to get everything done. I always try and get to bed on time since I don't want to be too tired for practice and can focus while studying," said Roberson.

 

Roberson credits his family and teammates for always motivating him to keep up the hard work ethics.

 

He also explains how his siblings are how he got started in gymnastics when he was a young boy.

 

"My brother and I were doing karate and got bored of that so decided to join my sister in gymnastics when I was a kid," said Roberson. "Eventually I realized how much I loved the sport and the coach saw a lot of potential in me and it just kind of went off from there."

 

Today, Roberson is continuing to prove that his work ethic is going to take him far in both gymnastics and his engineering career.

 

Up next for the Lions is an away meet at Iowa on Saturday, February 27 at 2 p.m.

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