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March 16, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.-- There was a lot of emotion inside Rec Hall on Saturday night as they No. 1 Penn State men's gymnastics team used it to their advantage in a 437.300-430.400 over No. 2 Michigan on Senior Day. The Nittany Lions won five of the six events on the evening to complete their home season with an unblemished 4-0 record and send their seven seniors out in style.
Penn State took the momentum from the start and led after every rotation. On the night, the Lions owned the top team score on the floor exercise, 73.800-73.650, the pommel horse, 71.300-67.650, the still rings, 74.500-73.050, and the high bar, 72.450-69.900. They dropped a slim decision on the parallel bars (71.300-71.050) and were bested on the vault for just the second time this season (74.850-74.200).
"The thing I am most happy about is that they shut the door at the end of the meet. They didn't let Michigan get back into it. We have had years during my career when things have gotten away from us and we have lost meets like this that we were leading late. Each week we talk about one principle and this week our guys got the message; they shut the door. We have to carry that over. We have to continue to improve."
The door was closed on the high bar when the Nittany Lions posted their fourth highest score on the season and claimed three of the top five spots in the final standings. Junior Wasef Burbar (Arlington Heights, Ill.) won the event going away for his third title of the season when he boasted a 15.300 mark. Matthew Felleman (Medway, Mass.) claimed third place with a score of 14.750 and Mackenzie Dow (Cranford, N.J.) closed out his dual meet career at Rec Hall with a solid showing and a 14.750 tally.
"We were solid on high bar tonight," said Jepson, "we didn't give anything away on the high bar tonight. That was good to see, but we were pretty sloppy in a lot of places and I feel we can do much better. Every routine counts now, so we have to focus and be ready."
Senior Felix Aronovich (Kiryat Bialik, Israel) was uncontested in the all-around and won his fourth straight title in the event with a tally of 86.700. He closed out his Rec Hall career by winning the parallel bars with a score of 15.200 and boasted scores of better than 14.000 on the floor exercises (14.750), pommel horse (14.400) and still rings (14.700).
Trevor Howard (Columbus, Ohio) continues his impressive freshman campaign with two more top-two finishes and a team-best showing on the vault vs. the Wolverines. On the vault, Howard posted the winning score on the event when he landed a 15.400 score on the event, which included the only stick bonus of the night on the vault, to mark the best score on the team this season. The win gives him at least one individual event victory in all seven NCAA meets this season. He also claimed runner-up honors on the parallel bars when he notched a 14.900 score and finished seventh on the still rings at 14.650.
Freshman Alexis Torres (Catano, Puerto Rico) also touted a solid evening inside Rec Hall as he won his first career individual title and posted a pair of career-best performances. After returning home to Puerto Rico to compete last weekend, Torres claimed his first career victory when he set a new career-best on the 15.350 on the still rings. He also set a new personal-best on the floor exercise at 15.000 to finish fourth. He also owned a 14.100 on the vault and an 11.700 score on the parallel bars.
Adrian Evans (Boulder, Colo.) won his second title of the season on the pommel horse with a winning score of 14.700, while Michigan's Stacey Ervin won the floor exercise at 15.300.
It was the final home dual meet for the seven members of the senior class, which were all honors after the meet. Aronovich, Tony Beck (Catasauqua, Pa.), Matt Chelberg (Athens, Ohio), Dow, Nihir Kothari (Malvern, Pa.), Parker Raque (Louisville, Ky.) and Scott Rosenthal (Clearfield, Pa.). The group posted an unblemished 4-0 record inside Rec Hall and will look to cap just the 18th undefeated regular season in school history and first since 2003 when they travel to Minnesota next weekend.
"Our seniors have been an incredible group," "The heart, attitude and work ethic from every one of them has been tremendous. They have done everything they have been asked to do and I am a pretty demanding guy. They have been rewarded with an undefeated home dual meet season and those don't happen often. What really stands out is that they have been able to finish well, now we have to finish the rest."
The Nittany Lions will venture north to tangle with the University of Minnesota on Saturday, March 23 with the festivities getting underway at 6 p.m. Eastern time.