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Feb. 3, 2016
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The Penn State men’s gymnastics suffered its first loss of the 2017 campaign in its first Big Ten Conference meet against the Fighting Illini of Illinois Friday, Feb. 3 at Huff Hall.
The Nittany Lions saw bright spots in freshman Stephen Nedoroscik (Worcester, Mass.), who won his second-straight pommel horse title with a 14.300, while freshman Favian Valdez (Kearny, N.J) notched the all-around title for the first time in his career with an 80.950. Nedoroscik’s win marks the fourth-straight match in which Penn State has come away with the pommel horse title as it has yet to be defeated in the event in the 2017 campaign.
“We had a rough night tonight,” commented head coach Randy Jepson. “We had two rough events to start the night and we could never really climb out of that. There were some bright spots with Stephen Nedoroscik hitting a great routine again and Favian Valdez being a warrior and hitting all his routines to win the all-around. I am pleased in that but it will be a short work week because we have a really good team in Ohio State coming in and we are going to have to get better to beat these teams. I am looking forward to the challenge next weekend.”
On what has been one of its strongest rotations in the 2017 season, the Nittany Lions struggled to get going on the pommel horse posting a 66.800. Nedoroscik led the Blue and White for the second-straight week, garnering a 14.300 and the second first-place finish in as many weeks. Valdez placed third overall with a 13.850, while Michael Burns (Baltimore, Ohio) rounded out Penn State’s top three with a 13.750 and a fourth-place finish.
Valdez paced Penn State on the floor exercise with a fifth-place finish and a 13.500 while Christian McSwain (Jamestown, N.C.) came in seventh overall, nabbing a 13.300. As a team, the Nittany Lions scored a 64.900 on the floor exercise and moved into the third rotation trailing Illinois, 133.750-131.700.
Earning a career-high 14.100, Burns notched a top three finish on the vault, placing third overall in the event, while Dominic DiFulvio (Marietta, N.Y.) came in fourth overall with a 14.050. Freshmen Brayden Borromeo (Littlestown, Pa.) and Valdez placed sixth and seventh with a 13.950 and 13.900 for the Blue and White on the vault, respectively. As a team, Penn State put together its highest score of the evening with a 69.900.
Moving to the fourth rotation trailing the Fighting Illini, DiFulvio put up a second-place finish for the Nittany Lions with a 14.200 on the still rings after a slight step on his dismount. Burns tied for fourth with Joey Peters of Illinois as both scored a 13.900 and Benjamin Cooperman (Southborough, Mass.) tied with Dennis Minton of Illinois with a 13.750.
Trailing 273.600-270.700 after four rotations, Penn State saw a second-place finish from Burns with a 14.300 on the high bar, while Franz Card (Nashua, N.H.) came in second for the Nittany Lions and eighth overall with a 13.400.
In the final rotation of the evening, the Blue and White were unable to gain any ground on the Fighting Illini after posting a 67.050 on the parallel bars. Freshmen Sam Zakutney (Ottawa, Ontario) and Valdez placed in the top three for Penn State with Zakutney earning a 14.150 and a second-place finish and Valdez coming in third with a 14.100.
After hitting all six of his routines, Valdez captured his first all-around title as a Nittany Lion with an 80.950, while Zakutney finished third overall with a 76.950.
Penn State will return to Rec Hall Saturday, Feb. 11 for a dual with Ohio State. The Nittany Lions will host a double dual with the women’s gymnastics team starting at 4 p.m.