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Feb. 23, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; February 23, 2013-- When you start talking about student-athletes ranking among the all-time NCAA leaders, you know that you've witnessed something special. On Saturday night inside Rec Hall, the No. 1 Penn State men's gymnastics squad witnessed junior Wasef Burbar post the four the fourth highest score in NCAA history on the high bar during the team's 446.850-403.300 victory over Springfield College.
It was the final event of the evening and Penn State (5-0) had already seen two competitors slip up on their high bar routines, but Burbar erased all memories of that when he executed a near perfect routine and stuck the landing to set a new school record, move into fourth on the all-time NCAA list and win the individual title vs. the Pride. The junior had initially set the school record last weekend at Temple with a 15.800, but topped that effort in front of a packed house on Saturday when the judges awarded him a 16.000.
"Wasef's routine was great," said Penn State head coach Randy Jepson. "He has struggled a little bit during his time and I know he hasn't met his expectations yet. Tonight it was great to see him having fun and enjoying gymnastics. He has worked very hard and is loving gymnastics. He really knows his routines and I think it showed tonight."
The top performance came from Burbar, but the Nittany Lions had solid routines from a variety of student-athletes in every event. The Blue and White won all six individual event titles, three wins coming from freshman Trevor Howard (Columbus, Ohio), and senior Felix Aronovich (Kiryat Bialik, Israel) collected his second straight all around competition. Overall, the Nittany Lions had 15 different student-athletes compete vs. Springfield College and five of them set career-highs in at least one event.
"We had to fill in some spots tonight as we were resting some people," said Jepson. "We exceeded what I had hoped to see today, so I am pleased with that. We had some goals we wanted to meet tonight and we met some of them, but we are making forward progress and that is what we want to see.
"Our depth is huge. With depth you can try and not be tough on everyone, every weekend and you're building confidence for everyone throughout the process. Getting guys developed now is what you are looking to do."
Aronovich edged a pair of Springfield College competitors in the all around and posted a score of 15.000 or better on two events to post a final score of 87.950. The senior finished among the top-five on five of the six apparatus and was among the top-three on three of those. It was the second straight all around crown for Aronovich and he owns two of the top three scores on the event for Penn State this season.
Parker Raque (Louisville, Ky.) kicked the meet off with a season-best showing of 15.050 to claim the individual crown in the event and sophomore Craig Hernandez (Libertyville, Ill.) followed close behind with a season-best 15.000 to claim the runner-up spot on the podium.
On the pommel horse, junior Adrian Evans (Boulder, Colo.) rocked to his first individual title on the season with a score of 14.950, just ahead of fellow junior Preston Gall (Columbus, Ohio) and his score of 14.900. Aronovich and Hernandez tied for the third spot on the pommel horse with identical scores of 14.800 to sweep the top spots for the Nittany Lions.
Howard took over the show on the still rings, vault and parallel bars to continue his impressive rookie campaign and claim all three titles. The freshman set career-best scores on the still rings and parallel bars, scoring 15.800 and 15.350, respectively. He narrowly edged teammate Tristan Duverglas (West Orange, N.J.) on the vault with a mark of 15.100 to Duverglas' 15.000.
The Nittany Lions will return to action on Saturday, March 2 when they travel to take on defending Big Ten Champion Illinois at 4 p.m.