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Jan. 30, 2016
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State men’s gymnastics team picked up its first Big Ten Conference victory of the 2016 campaign with a 430.200-429.200 win over Illinois. The Nittany Lions notched four season-best scores, including 2016-highs on the floor exercise (73.250), pommel horse (70.300), still rings (72.650) and parallel bars (72.050).
“We grew up today, stated Head Coach Randy Jepson. “We knew it would be a hard fought contest. After last weekends frustrations and sub-par performance I was really looking forward to the guys coming out within a week and having an opportunity to fight and show the kind of spirit they had. I think they did that today so I’m very pleased.”
Junior Dominic DiFulvio (Marietta, N.Y.) scored a career-best 85.500 to take the first all-around victory of his career, while Alexis Torres (Cantano, Puerto Rico) placed third with an 84.750.
Penn State took the early lead over the Illini, scoring a season-best 73.250 on the floor exercise to start the meet. Torres led the Nittany Lions on the floor, placing second with a season-high 15.300, while DiFulvio finished third with a 15.000. Junior Christian McSwain (Jamestown, N.C.) rounded out the top-five scorers on the floor exercise with a season-high 14.550 for the Blue and White.
Penn State posted a second season-best score on the pommel horse with a 70.300 as a team. Redshirt-junior Leroy Clarke, Jr. (Maplewood, N.J.) placed second for the Nittany Lions with a season-high 14.500, while Brandon Ngai of Illinois took the event title with a 15.250. Sophomore Colin Coates (Emmaus, Pa.) had a great routine for Penn State with a 14.450 to place fourth. McSwain capped off the top-three scorers for the Blue and White with a 14.200 for a sixth-place finish.
Jepson and his squad posted its third-straight season-best score, grabbing a 72.650 on the still rings. Despite the season-high score, Illinois’ Alex Diab earned the still rings title with a 15.300 to edge out Clarke, who placed second with a 15.200. DiFulvio nabbed a career-best performance for the Nittany Lions with a 14.900 to place third overall and freshman Chris Sands (Lancaster, Pa.) notched a fifth-place finish with a 14.350 for the Blue and White.
Illinois swept the first three spots on the vault, while Joshua Smith (Baton Rouge, La.) placed fourth with a 14.650 for the Nittany Lions. Junior Jeremy Munn (York, Maine) posted a career-best 14.500 to place fifth overall and Torres finished sixth with a 14.450. Finally, freshman Wyatt Tyndall (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) and DiFulvio placed seventh and eighth on the vault earning 14.400 and 14.350, respectively.
Penn State took the lead back for good in the fifth rotation, using a season-best 70.650 on the parallel bars and a first-place finish from Clarke and Torres. The two upperclassmen scored matching 15.050s to take a share of the title, while Franz Card (Nashua, N.H.) placed fourth for the Nittany Lions with a 14.450.
Leading by just over a point in the final rotation, Clarke came up big for the Blue and White with a second first-place finish, notching a 14.400 on the high bar. Illinois took the next two places, but freshman Michael Burns (Baltimore, Ohio) nabbed the fourth-place finish with a 14.200 to help Penn State to a Big Ten Conference victory over Illinois.
Penn State will take a weeklong break before heading to Columbus, Ohio for a meet against the Buckeyes of Ohio State. The Nittany Lions and the Buckeyes square off Saturday, Feb. 13 at 4 p.m.