By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While other college students attended classes, completed plentiful amounts of homework, and participated in various extracurricular activities, junior Alexis Torres and redshirt senior Nestor Rodriguez competed internationally for Puerto Rico this past fall semester.
"They had a great opportunity to represent their country at the world championship level," said head coach Randy Jepson.
Torres is from Catano, Puerto Rico and Rodríguez is from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. Rodriguez was part of the Puerto Rican National Team Gymnasium club team before he started to compete for Penn State. When the opportunity came for the two of them to represent their country, by no means could they turn down the chance.
"We were born and raised in Puerto Rico, so we're part of the team there," said Rodriguez. "Puerto Rico is a small country and they don't have many gymnasts compared to the United States or other countries, so we got to do our job to represent Puerto Rico. We got the opportunity, we're good enough, we made the team, and any athletes at this level is going to say, 'Yes.' This is a dream for everyone, as an athlete especially."
Competing for Puerto Rico against other countries in the world was vastly different than competing at the collegiate level.
"It was a great experience," said Torres. "We were mostly practicing whenever. We only competed once and that's it. It's just like a completion, but it's really different than competing here in the college competitions. It was a definitely a change practicing and trying to train for those competitions and then coming here and trying to practice and train for all the competitions because, here, we compete more consecutively and for those competitions, it's like one day, that's it, and then, we don't compete for months or weeks."
Even though the competitions were different, Torres and Rodriguez still bring a special element to the men's gymnastics team.
"We have the experience on top of every one [on the team]," said Rodriguez. "We've already seen people that went to the World Championship - these are world-class athletes in comparison to college athletes, so obviously, we have that experience on top of them, which is helpful for the team."
Coach Jepson adds that Torres and Rodriguez are great components to the team.
"They're really good," said coach Jepson. "They're just solid guys. They're very clean gymnasts in good difficulty and they're just really big pluses for us. It's great to see Néstor. He's had a career that's been kind of marked by injuries, and we just want to make sure that he's healthy this year and goes out with a strong finish. He's a former All-American and is a wonderful guy to have around as is Alexis. He's a light-hearted and a very talented kid. They bring a lot to the table for us."
With only three meets into the season, it is evident that Torres is making an impact on the team. He was named the Big Ten Co-Gymnast of the Week last week after the West Point Open. Torres has earned four individual titles, two in still rings, one in vault, and one in pummel horse, as well as a Big Ten Honor.
"I just competed," said Torres. "I didn't really win anything or a title. It was just something I saw in the paper, but it definitely motivated me. It made me see for myself that I was doing a good job and in that way, it motivated me to keep going and keep doing a good job."
Unfortunately, though Rodriguez was in Puerto Rico, he was unable to compete due to injury.
"I didn't compete personally," said Rodriguez. "I was recovering from a torn Achilles', but either way, it was a great experience for me just to go watch the team and especially other teams compete and see how they get prepared."
Rodriguez is currently a senior and could have graduated last year, but by competing internationally, he was given the ability to compete in one final season for Penn State.
"[It] worked out great for Nestor, too, because he was coming back from injury," said coach Jepson. "He could have graduated [last year], but this way, he gets the collegiate season now and he gets to help our team and it was a great situation, a great fit for us. We're really please that they had the chance to get those experiences."
Recently in Men's Gymnastics Category
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the only double dual meet of the season, the Nittany Lions built on their season's accolades by capturing all six team events to earn a 444.700-436.350 win over No. 5 Michigan.
"The double duals are always fun," said senior Craig Hernandez. "We get the larger crowds because we have the women's [gymnastics team] and the men's [gymnastics team] together and it just makes for a much better atmosphere and I think our team showed that we liked that."
Penn State's score of 444.700 was the fourth highest score in program history.
"We're just pleased that we made progress in terms of our competition," said head coach Randy Jepson. "Last week, we hit about 86%. We had 88% tonight, but we had way more stuck landings last week, so we only had three tonight and twelve last meet. That's something we will continue to focus on, but I'm seeing solid performances and that's huge."
In addition to the Blue and White achieving its third consecutive team title of the season, four individual titles were awarded.
Hernandez placed first in pommel horse to receive his second title of the season as well as a school-record score of 15.950. Junior Trevor Howard was first in still rings with a score of 15.350, junior Alexis Torres finished first in parallel bars with a score of 15.700, and senior Matthew Felleman finished high bars with a score of 15.100.
"I don't really know if I was expecting to break the school record, but I know that with the judging that I saw previously and how well I did, I knew that I would at least be close," said Hernandez.
This meet against Michigan was the first Big Ten matchup of the season for Penn State and it brought up a stronger will to win.
"[Michigan] is a conference rival and they're a very solid program," said coach Jepson. "They just won two national championships. They're a good team. They aren't quite in shape as we are yet, but they will be, we know that, but I'm just glad that we're in a spot where we don't have to push. We can be methodical in how we prepare and there will be no surprises. We'll just go day-after-day and try to get better."
Hernandez builds on coach Jepson's statement about the conference clash.
"Since it is Michigan and our Big Ten rival, you know, we do like to try to do better at least," said Hernandez.
Penn State men's gymnastics hope to continue their success for the rest of the season by improving throughout practices.
"We still have some upgrades we can make," said coach Jepson. "We have some routines aren't on the floor yet and that's a factor of health. Our vaults can improve as well. We aren't doing nearly what we can do on the vault. We can upgrade on vaults pretty dramatically. We're training other vaults that are higher difficulty, but we want to be confident and secure every season and be safe and as the guys go through the season, we'll continue to add and hopefully by mid-season, we'll have what we need to make a run."
Even with daily practices, not all routines are perfect during meets.
"[Doing what you do in the gym and doing it in the meet] is the best feeling in the world," said Hernandez.
Hernandez and the rest of the men's gymnastics team will face-off against Ohio State at Rec Hall on Feb. 6 at 7 p.m.
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNVIERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 4 Penn State men's gymnastics team is off to a prominent start this season as they have clutched two consecutive team titles as well as 11 individual titles in only two meets.
Despite having a young roster for this season due to the addition of six freshmen to the team, the upperclassmen's guidance is leading the team to success.
"The first weekend was a bit of a nerve-wracking experience, but I felt like just concentrating on the things that I do best, just staying confident, and I tried my best," said freshman Joshua Smith. "My team tried to support me the best way they could and after that, the results just came naturally."
The Nittany Lions started the season with a 426.700-403.000 win over Army nearly two weeks ago at Rec Hall. They won all six events that Sunday to earn the victory.
The team has continued to build on their momentum by capturing their 16th West Point Open team title with a score of 439.400 last Saturday. The Nittany Lions captured the seventh-best team score in school history with their performance.
Thirteen Nittany Lions recorded qualifying performances for the individual finals on Saturday night. Freshman Thad Lawson, senior Matthew Felleman, senior Craig Hernandez, junior Alexis Torres, and senior Tristan Duverglas all went home with an individual title.
Freshman Thad Lawson earned his first collegiate title by securing first place in the floor exercise event.
"[The meet] was fun," said Lawson. "I've never really been in that big of an exciting team environment. A lot of team support and it was really fun and exciting and a big adrenaline rush."
Lawson built on his accomplishment this week by receiving
the Big Ten Freshman of the Week award.
"It's really exciting," said Lawson. "It was pretty unexpected, you know, being my first competition. I've had some adversity with concussions and some minor injuries, but it was a really pleasant surprise."
Even with the success, Lawson couldn't have done it without his teammates.
"[The upperclassmen] have been really supportive," said Lawson. "Giving me some helpful hints with competing and dealing with the pressure, just staying calm, and focusing in on every small detail."
Teammate and fellow freshman Benjamin Cooperman echoes his teammate about the support from the juniors and seniors.
"All the upperclassmen really help me out," said Cooperman. "Any of the seniors and juniors are role-models and I definitely look up to them."
With such a young roster, the young athletes are bringing something new to the team.
"I think [the freshmen] bring depth to the table," said Cooperman. "We got a lot of really good upperclassmen who help out the team a lot, but I think we can really help them out by stepping up when they need rest and really just adding a lot of depth into the team, so we can go deeper into the season."
Though there has been much accomplished this season already, the team still hopes to improve.
"I think there are definitely some little areas that we need to improve in...Hitting as many routines as possible, keep cleaning up, tightness, just really cleaning up the little things, definitely focus on sticking out dismounts, just little things, but I think we're off to a great start," said Cooperman. "I'm really confident and excited to go forward with the team and see what we do. I think we have a really great shot at doing really well this year."
Penn State will meet Michigan at 4 p.m. this Saturday at Rec Hall.
"This weekend, I definitely want to beat Michigan and just want to show improvement from our last meet," said Cooperman.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 18th of August cannot come soon enough for Sandy Barbour.
Introduced as Penn State Director of Athletics on Saturday afternoon, Barbour is thrilled to begin her tenure as the leader of an athletic program that aspires to continue its long history of excellence on and off the field of play.
"When you spend a professional lifetime serving institutions and most importantly students, you dream about coming to a place like Penn State," Barbour said. "You dream about the opportunity to lead a program like Penn State athletics. Why? Because it represents the opportunity to have it all: Athletic excellence, academic achievement, community engagement and fiscal responsibility. So thank you, Eric [Barron]. I am absolutely thrilled, over the top excited about this opportunity and about being the athletic director at Penn State."
A graduate of Wake Forest where she was field hockey team captain, Barbour grew up on the East Coast and has always had a deep passion for Penn State University and its athletic department. That's what drew her to the position when she originally spoke with President Barron about the opportunity.
Immediately, Barbour felt a connection with the people, pride and remarkable accomplishments of Penn State University and its athletic department.
"I love the 'We Are Penn State.' I particularly love what it stands for. It stands for family," Barbour said.
Barbour desires to see national titles in all 31 sports on campus. But first and foremost, she will strive to lead a department with student-athletes who are elite performers in the classroom.
"We are athletic programs again that are all part of a university," Barbour said. "Our student-athletes will be students first, Penn State is incredibly proud of the academic performance of their students and we will continue to be."
Eager to hit the ground running when she begins her duties as athletic director in 23 days, Barbour wants to learn from everyone in the department, especially the head coaches leading Penn State's 31 athletic teams.
"Unity doesn't mean one opinion, and I actually embrace that, embrace the diversity of opinion, diversity in a variety of different ways, and I actually think that will make us stronger in our ability to move forward," Barbour said. "As I said before, I have something to learn from everybody, and I'll be doing a lot of listening."
Numerous head coaches were in attendance at Saturday's introductory press conference. The coaches and athletic department staff then had a chance to mingle with Barbour at a private reception before she boarded a flight to Chicago for Big Ten meetings. The head coaches in attendance exuded great confidence in the future direction of the athletic department.
"There is a culture, history and tradition of tremendous academic achievement at Penn State and that will continue," said head football coach James Franklin. "I know it's important to our president, athletic director and all of our coaches. That will continue. I know we'll spend as much time as we need to so we can start building."
"I am truly thrilled that Sandy Barbour will serve as the next athletic director for Penn State," Lady Lions head coach Coquese Washington said. "Sandy is a strong, dynamic and passionate leader. She is also an incredibly smart visionary and strategic thinker. It is exciting to imagine all the ways Penn State University, and Penn State athletics in particular, will be positively impacted by her leadership."
"I loved everything I heard today," head women's hockey coach Josh Brandwene said. "She has passion, vision and just a great understanding of the Penn State community. Both as a head coach and as an alumnus, I am really excited to start working with her."
Barbour will return to California in the coming days to prepare for her full-time return to Happy Valley on Aug. 18, and the new leader of Penn State Athletics is fired up to get started.
"We are Penn State. I'm all in. I'm ready to get going," said Barbour.
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By Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's gymnastics team made its way to the NCAA Gymnastics Championships in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Tuesday morning. The No. 6 Nittany Lions will compete in the second session of the NCAA qualifying round Thursday at 7 p.m. and the team championship rounds Friday and Saturday.
Head coach Randy Jepson and his team are looking to capture the program's 13th national title, something he says they have been "working toward since the end of last season."
"This tournament is three days long," Jepson said. "Anything can happen."
The 2013-'14 Season
Since the December 12 Blue-White Showcase, the men's gymnastics team has only lost one scheduled meet and has placed in the top three of every tournament they have competed in.
With stellar performances from seniors Adrian Evans, Wasef Burbar, Preston Gall, and Ingvar Jochumsson, juniors Tristan Duverglas. Matt Felleman and Craig Hernandez, and sophomores Alexis Torres and Trevor Howard, the team has been able to overcome minor setbacks. The Nittany Lions have remained steadfast despite pre-season injuries, making changes to the starting roster along the way.
"It is very rewarding to see the guys do such a great job," Jepson said. "Our seniors have done a great job of teaching the younger guys and showing them what Penn State gymnastics is all about."
The Nittany Lions placed third at the Big Ten Championships, trailing behind Ohio State and Michigan. The team placed in the top five in all events. Duverglas led the team in scoring, tying for first on vault. Howard led the team's individual performance with a first place finish on rings, the first Penn State gymnast to win the title since 2012.
Hernandez closed out the team's individual competition with a runner-up finish on pommel horse, an event he has dominated all season. His performance on pommel horse earned him second team All-Big Ten honors.
"I am looking forward to competing in pommel horse the most at NCAAs," Hernandez said. "We have a lot of potential at this tournament as a team."
With this championship competition, the men's gymnastics team is in pursuit of their 13th NCAA Championship. If successful, this will be the fourth NCAA Championship under coach Jepson.
Among the anticipated performances of the Nittany Lions' seniors, the power lies within the junior and sophomore classes, a promising component of seasons yet to come. Juniors Duverglas and Hernandez are vying for their first NCAA titles. The duo is ranked in the top five in two events. Hernandez is ranked third on pommel horse and Duverglas is ranked second on vault.
Sophomores Torres and Howard have competed consistently throughout the season, earning Torres a top 20 ranking.
"If we can hit 100 percent of our routines we can do a lot of damage," Jepson said. "The guys have to trust in this training and preparation. We have to focus on the first day, it is all about the first day."
By Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- When seven seniors on the Penn State men's gymnastics team graduated in 2013, the rest of the country didn't have very high expectations for the Nittany Lions for the upcoming season. But head coach Randy Jepson saw the potential and knew the team could make it to the NCAA Championships.
Having lost seven seniors last year, the team is rather inexperienced in terms of competing in NCAA Championship events. But after a strong showing at the Big Ten Championships, Jepson expects the team to perform well this weekend.
Jepson's expectation for the NCAA Championships this weekend in Ann Arbor, Mich., is for the team to go into the meet and hit as many routines as they can. At the Big Ten Championships, the Nittany Lions hit 90 percent of their routines.
"We're trying to build on the momentum from Big Tens. Anything can happen. We just need to put pressure on people. We want to do the best job we can and be as consistent as we can," Jepson said.
Craig Hernandez, an NCAA Championships veteran, earned second-team All-Big Ten honors last weekend for his performance on the pommel horse this season. This season he has worked hard to improve all of his skills.
"Last season I didn't do as well as I could have. This season I have been building up and trying to meet my own expectations and the team's expectations," Hernandez said.
He has high expectations for both the team and himself for the competition this weekend.
"My expectations for the team are to go out there and hit all the routines the best we can. And to make team finals and have a good showering for Penn State," Hernandez said. "My expectation for myself is to make event finals on pommel horse."
Hernandez and many of the other veteran gymnasts have guided the freshmen through this season. Now, for NCAA Regionals, they have given the younger players some insight on what to expect this weekend.
"They all say it's one of the most exciting events they have ever been to. [They told us] that the team needs to do what we have practiced and it could be the greatest experience of our lives," freshman Dominic DiFulvio said. "And I'm going to try to make it that."
DiFulvio, who has competed six times this season, says he's excited to cheer on his teammates as they compete. Having never been to an NCAA Championship event, DiFulvio's expectations differ from Hernandez.
Gymnasts who have competed in the NCAA Championships before have expectations for their own routines and also have expectations for the team. As a freshman, DiFulvio's expectations are more team oriented.
"We've done a lot to prepare for this competition. I expect the team to put together our routines, make it to the second day and then see how we do in the finals," DiFulvio said.
"I'm most excited about the atmosphere this weekend. It's really competitive but it should be a lot of fun. If we continue building on what we did at Big Tens, it should be even more fun," Hernandez said.
By Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- About four years ago, Néstor Rodriguez left his home in Puerto Rico to begin his career as a Penn State gymnast. In the next two years after that, Puerto Rico natives-Ismael Sanabria and Alexis Torres joined him. Rodriguez, Sanabria and Torres grew up together, practicing their gymnastics in the same gym. Years later, they still continue to practice together in the same gym as Penn State gymnasts.
"[Having Sanabria and Torres on the team is] amazing. It's like two of my little brothers came here with me," Rodriguez said. "I've known them since we were really little. And for them to be here with me, to motivate each other, is just great."
This weekend, the No. 5 Penn State men's gymnastics team is traveling to Puerto Rico to compete against the team that taught Rodriguez, Sanabria and Torres everything they know about gymnastics - the Puerto Rican National Team.
The gymnasts on the Puerto Rican National Team were all teammates of Rodriguez, Torres and Sanabria and they are looking forward to seeing old friends.
"They're all my teammates. I know all of them, so it should be fun for them and fun for us," Rodriguez said.
The Nittany Lions will compete against the team, but not in their usual gym. The meet is set in an air-conditioned, better environment that resembles the White Building, the Nittany Lions' practice facility.
Sanabria said he is looking forward to competing in Puerto Rico.
"[I am looking forward to] going home, doing work, and doing a good job at the meet," Sanabria said.
But most of all, Rodriguez, Sanabria and Torres are excited to be back home to see their families and friends.
"I'm pretty excited. Last weekend, even in the meet, I was thinking of [going back to Puerto Rico]. All of my family is going to be there," Rodriguez said.
Torres said he is more focused on seeing his family rather than on the meet because gymnastics is what he does everyday. Seeing family is something new.
"I don't really focus on meets because doing the routines, doing gymnastics is what I do everyday. But seeing my family and seeing my friends, being home, is not something I do everyday," Torres said. "I know that when I get there I am going to go crazy when I see my friends and family."
By Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It took the Penn State men's gymnastics team only five minutes to achieve a new season-high on the floor exercise on Saturday night. Each routine, about a minute long each, showcased different skills to help the Nittany Lions defeat No. 5 Minnesota with a season-high final score of 440.200.
The difference in the floor exercise from the team's previous meet against Illinois to the meet against Minnesota was not the two-week long break in between the meets, but the landings. Head coach Randy Jepson said the floor is an event where the gymnasts must exhibit great landings. And sophomore Alexis Torres did just that.
"Alexis only took one hop in his whole routine. It was outstanding. That's what you look for," Jepson said. "We have been focusing a lot on those landings. We started to see [sticking landings] tonight. Floor all around is much better in terms of our landings."
Torres, who placed first in the floor exercise, hit his season-high on the floor with a 15.650.
"I was just trying to stick everything. I wanted to do my best. Tonight, I did my best score. I just go out there and do it and have fun," Torres said.
Torres said he feels comfortable with his current routine. For now, he wants to work on being consistent with is routine; not changing anything and continuing what he did in the meet against Minnesota.
"The routine that I have and the score that I'm scoring is pretty clean and is pretty high, the highest I've been. In the future, I am going to work on it, but now, where we are, it is about constant routines and nothing about changing," Torres said.
As the fourth man in the five-man line up, Torres' has the opportunity to watch his teammates before competing in the floor exercise. He chooses not to. Instead, he tries to focus what he is going to do in his routine.
Junior Matt Felleman, however, does the opposite. As the third gymnast in the lineup, he watches the teammates that compete before him.
"After they hit a good set I get pretty excited. If they mess up, I know I have to set up and put a good performance on," Felleman said.
Felleman, who tied for second place on the floor routine, said he felt his routine was the cleanest set he has hit all season. He recorded a season-high score of 15.150, but noted that there is room for improvement.
"[I want to fix] the landings. I'm going to make sure I don't take any silly hops here and there," Felleman said.
The meet was the final competition in Rec Hall for the seniors on the team. Although it is an emotional moment for the four seniors, they know that there is more work to be done.
"For me, [the fact that is what the last time competing in Rec Hall] hasn't really sunk in. We still have a job to do," senior Wasef Burbar said. "We still have a lot of meets left and most importantly, Big Tens and NCAAs, so it definitely has not sunk in. I'm just trying to stay focused on what's to come."
Jepson was pleased with the performance by the team and glad that it was a great final home meet for the seniors. The team has faced two "solid" teams back-to-back, Illinois and Minnesota, and Jepson said the team has stepped up and responded well to adversity.
Good health helped the team beat Minnesota 440.200 to 431.500, as well. Many of the gymnasts who have suffered from injuries this season made an appearance on Saturday.
"I like the heart I see and I was happy to see us get a little healthier and get most of our line up to what it needed to be," Jepson said.
This weekend, the Nittany Lions will travel to Puerto Rico to compete in the home country of Torres, Néstor Rodriguez and Ismael Sanabria.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The postseason push for Penn State teams in March is on.
The first weekend of the month kicked off in fine fashion with two teams tallying Big Ten championships to go along with an individual being named the top performer at the Big Ten Men's Swimming & Diving Championships.
In dramatic fashion, the Nittany Lion women's track & field team notched its third conference crown at the Big Ten Indoor Championships on Saturday afternoon. It all came down to the 4x400-meter relay with the Lions leading Michigan by just half a point heading into the final event. The Lions stormed to a victory in the relay to seal the title.
"The women were outstanding today," said Director of Track & Field and Head Coach Beth Alford-Sullivan. "Michigan pressed us hard throughout the weekend, but we kept our composure and competed great. This is a championship win to remember."
Roughly 45 minutes after the women's track & field team was crowned champion, the Lady Lion basketball team finished off a 77-62 triumph over Michigan to clinch a share of its third-straight Big Ten regular season title. The Lady Lions join Ohio State and Iowa as the only programs to win three or more consecutive Big Ten titles.
"It's the first time in program history that we have won three Big Ten Championships in a row," head coach Coquese Washington said. "When this program has such a storied legacy, to be able to do something that this program hasn't done before, it's pretty hard. The program has accomplished so much and for this class and team to do something that sets them apart, that's really cool."
In the pool, sophomore Shane Ryan capped off a strong outing for the Nittany Lion men's swimming team by becoming the first Penn State men's swimmer to be named Swimmer of the Big Ten Championships on Saturday. Ryan broke the Big Ten record in the 100m freestyle, topping a mark set by former Northwestern Wildcat and 2012 London Olympics medalist Matt Grevers. Ryan is the first Nittany Lion to win two individual gold medals at the Big Ten Championships. His efforts powered the men's team to fifth in the team standings. The men's team's performance came one week after the Nittany Lion women's swimming & diving team took third at the Big Ten Women's Championships.
With a standout weekend in the books, the Nittany Lions are full steam ahead in postseason mode beginning on Friday when the Lady Lions kick off play as the No. 1 seed at the Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis. Penn State will meet either Northwestern or Ohio State at noon (BTN) on Friday. The semifinals take place on Saturday, with the tournament final on Sunday in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
On Saturday, the three-time defending NCAA champion Penn State wrestling team will begin its Big Ten title defense at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis. Head coach Cael Sanderson and the Nittany Lions will look for their fourth-straight Big Ten title over the weekend. Additionally, seniors Ed Ruth and David Taylor have an opportunity to become Penn State's first four-time Big Ten individual champions. Junior Matt Brown is the third Nittany Lion in the lineup with a Big Ten individual title. The Big Ten finals will air live on BTN Sunday at 2 p.m.
There are several marquee events on the horizon following the action this weekend. The 2014 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament is slated to begin on March 13 in Indianapolis. The Nittany Lion men's hoops team will finish off its regular season this week with games at Northwestern and Minnesota. The Lions will learn their seed for the tournament on Sunday.
The track and field squads will also be in action during the third weekend in March. Penn State will travel to Albaquerque for the NCAA Indoor Championships on March 14-15.
Head coach James Franklin and the Nittany Lion football team will wrap up winter conditioning this week in preparation for the start of spring practice on March 17. The Nittany Lions will practice 15 times before the Blue-White Game on April 12 (1:30 p.m.).
The fourth weekend of March will feature no fewer than six postseason events for Penn State teams. The No. 1 wrestling team will begin its NCAA title defense on March 20 in Oklahoma City at the 2014 NCAA Wrestling Championships. The finals will take place on March 22. The ESPN family of networks will televise all six of the NCAA Wrestling Championships sessions.
In Happy Valley, the women's gymnastics team plays host to the Big Ten Championships in Rec Hall on March 22. Across campus, the Bryce Jordan Center is slated to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship. Games are slated for 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. on March 23 and 7 p.m. on March 25.
Out of town, the first Big Ten Hockey Tournament will take place in Saint Paul, Minn., beginning on March 20. The NCAA Women's Swimming & Diving Championships begin on March 20 in Minneapolis, as well. The Penn State fencing teams also kick of NCAA Championships competition in Columbus on March 20.
The month will wrap up with a weekend featuring the NCAA Men's Swimming & Diving Championships, which begin on March 27 in Austin, Texas. The Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Championships begin on March 28 in Lincoln, Neb.
With two titles already in hand, it will be a busy month ahead for Penn State teams competing in postseason competition. Stay tuned for complete coverage of the postseason push on GoPSUsports.com.
Key Dates Ahead in March
March 7 - Noon (BTN) - Lady Lions vs. Ohio State/Northwestern (Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals - Indianapolis)
March 8 - 11 a.m./6 p.m. - Big Ten Wrestling Championships (Madison, Wis.)
March 9 - 12/2 p.m. (BTN) - Big Ten Wrestling Championships (Madison, Wis.)
March 13-16 - Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament (Indianapolis)
March 14-15 - NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships (Albuquerque, N.M.)
March 17 - First Day of Spring Football
March 20-22 - NCAA Wrestling Championships (Oklahoma City, Okla.); NCAA Fencing Championships (Columbus, Ohio); NCAA Women's Swimming & Diving Championships (Minneapolis, Minn.); Big Ten Men's Hockey Tournament (Saint Paul, Minn.)
March 22 - 12/5 p.m. - Big Ten Women's Gymnastics Championships (University Park, Pa.)
March 23 - 12:30/3 p.m. - NCAA Women's Basketball First Round (University Park, Pa.)
March 25 - 7 p.m. - NCAA Women's Basketball Second Round (University Park, Pa.)
March 27-29 - NCAA Men's Swimming & Diving Championships (Austin, Texas)
March 28-29 - Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Championships (Lincoln, Neb.)
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By Samantha DelRosso, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- For the seniors on the men's gymnastics team, only one home meet is left in their Penn State career. On Saturday, the No. 7 Nittany Lions will host the No. 5 Minnesota Golden Gophers for their annual senior night meet to honor the four seniors.
This meet will be bittersweet for these gymnasts, who started the sport at very young ages. Take a look at each senior's journey as a Penn State gymnast.
"Welcome to Rec Hall."
Those are the four words that senior Preston Gall will never forget. After Gall's first time competing at home his freshman year, he shook head coach Randy Jepson's hand, and Jepson welcome him to the gym that he would competing in for the next four years.
Before coming to Penn State, as a junior in high school, Gall attended a Penn State gymnastics camp. It left a lasting impression, and while going through the recruitment process, although never taking a recruiting trip to State College, he could never shake the feeling that it just felt right at Penn State.
Like the other seniors, the team aspect is what Gall loves most.
"[My favorite part about being on the team is being with] a group of guys that you can just be goofy with and share your Penn State experience with," Gall said.
It hasn't hit Gall that his time as a Penn State gymnast is coming to a close. But he knows after the season is complete, he'll miss many things about the Penn State gymnastics program.
"Right now, you're sore all the time, so there's a lot of things that you look forward to missing. I'm sure after, I'll miss all the little things most," Gall said.
At 2 years old, Burbar started gymnastics because his mom was a coach at the gym. He would hang out at the gym because he did not have a babysitter. He became known as the "gym rat". Twenty years later, he is still the same gym rat, in a much larger gym.
When going through the recruiting process, he felt that Penn State was the best fit for him both athletically and academically. Burbar knew after talking to Coach Jepson that he wanted to be a part of Jepson's program.
Burbar's favorite part about being on the team is training with his "brothers".
"Day in and day out, [we are] training all of the time. And just for one goal; to win NCAA's. It's my favorite part; coming in here and busting our butts together," Burbar said.
Last year, the men's team was able to host the NCAA Championships in Rec Hall. When looking back on his time at Penn State, Burbar said that is his favorite memory.
"I don't think many gymnasts get the opportunity to have it at home and have your home fans and your friends here."
Burbar said this weekend's senior meet would be bittersweet. Coming off an injury, this will be his first full meet back. He is expected to compete in the floor exercise, parallel bars, and high bar.
After the season ends, Burbar says he'll miss "the entire experience".
"[I will miss] everything that comes along with [Penn State gymnastics]. Everyone you meet, everything you have to go through, the competitions, the whole experience," Burbar said.
Jochumsson, who started gymnastics at 7 years old, came to Penn State from Iceland. He said there was not much happening in Iceland, so he decided to look at schools in the United States.
"Penn State just stood out. Great school and a good gymnastics program," Jochumsson said.
His favorite part about being on the team is his teammates. Although he is almost 3,000 miles from his hometown, he has found a home in Penn State gymnastics. He also has been welcomed into the homes of many of his teammates.
"During Thanksgiving and winter break, they invite me to their houses. That makes [being far away] a lot easier," Jochumsson said.
Jochumsson's favorite memory as a Penn State gymnast is competing for the first time freshman year.
"I was very nervous. Everyone could tell I was so nervous, but people tried to calm me down," he said. "I didn't have a very good set, but I fought through it. It was a lot of fun."
He said he will miss his teammates, training, and competing as a Penn State gymnast. Next up for Jochumsson after graduation is going back to Iceland and applying graduate schools.
At 4 years old, Adrian Evans and his sister Darcy, who is four years older, were a lot to handle for Evans' mother. She decided to put them both in gymnastics to get them out of the house at the same time for a couple of times a week. And for Adrian, it stuck.
Sixteen years later, Evans began his college search. He visited a lot of Big Ten schools, but when he stepped foot on Penn State's campus, the choice was "obvious".
Evans has enjoyed his time as a Penn State gymnast, but what he loves most is getting to spend time with his teammates and coaches.
"It's an awesome family to be a part of, I will miss them a lot," Evans said.
Like Burbar, his favorite memory as a Penn State gymnast is attending the NCAA Championships in Rec Hall last year. He said has never been in an atmosphere like the one inside of Rec Hall during the NCAA Championships.
With senior night quickly approaching, Evans said it hasn't sunk in that it his last meet in Rec Hall.
"I haven't really thought about it much as senior night yet, I'm more worried about doing a good job against Minnesota. They are a really good team," Evans said. "I'm sure once the meet is over it'll actually sink in. I'll probably embarrass myself and cry or something. But right now, I'm just worried about putting in a good performance."
Watch the men's gymnastics team take on the Golden Gophers in Rec Hall on Saturday evening at 7.
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