Nittany Lions Capture 2008 Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Championship
April 4, 2008
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the second consecutive year, the Penn State men's gymnastics team thrilled a partisan, blue-and-white clad crowd by winning a title on its home floor, as the Nittany Lions captured the 2008 Big Ten Championship on Friday evening at Rec Hall. Almost a year to the date after Penn State won its NCAA record 12th national championship in its historic home venue, the Nittany Lions won five of six events, posting a team score of 360.450, to claim the program's second conference title.
Illinois took second place with a score of 357.300, followed by Ohio State (354.350), Michigan (353.000), Minnesota (351.450), and Iowa (344.500).
As he has all season, Casey Sandy (Brampton, Ont.) anchored the Nittany Lion line-up, dominating the tough conference competition to become Penn State's first Big Ten all-around champion since Mike Dutka in 1998. The junior placed first in the parallel bars (tie, 15.250), second in the pommel horse (15.350), third in the floor exercise (tie, 15.450), fourth in the rings (15.350), fifth in the high bar (tie, 14.200), and seventh in the vault (15.900) on his way to the 2008 all-around crown.
Senior Derek Helsby (Orlando, Fla.) placed fourth in the all-around, earning All-Big Ten honors for the third consecutive year; a feat only current Penn State assistant coach Kevin Tan has accomplished. His top efforts came in the pommel horse (7th, 14.400) and the parallel bars (tie for 7th, 14.800).
Senior Tommy Ramos (Guaynabo, P.R.) displayed the form that has made him a two-time All-American in the still rings, winning the event with a score of 15.650. He will get his shot at a second conference rings title on Saturday when he competes in the individual events finals. Ramos also placed eighth (tie, 14.150) in high bar.
Making a loud statement on Friday night, alerting the nation to his entrance into the elite level of collegiate gymnasts, was sophomore Noam Shaham (Kfar Saba, Israel). He won the high bar with a score of 15.000, outdueling two nationally top 5 ranked performers for the title. A surprising effort on the vault also highlighted his evening. Competing in the event for the first time this season, Shaham scored a 15.850, good enough for a tie for eighth place and second best on the team.
Sophomore Allen Harris (Lancaster, Pa.) also turned in a surprising performance in his leadoff position in the floor exercise. He set the tone by earning a season high score of 15.450 from the judges to tie teammate Casey Sandy and one other competitor for third place.
With the top eight finishers from tonight's team event advancing to Saturday's individual event finals, Penn State will have eight different gymnasts seeking titles in all six events, including four with a chance to garner the still rings title. Casey Sandy will compete in all six events while Noam Shaham will perform in three. Derek Helsby and Tommy Ramos will aim for titles in two events with Nick Virbitsky (Harrisburg, Pa.) (floor exercise), Josh Borromeo (Littlestown, Pa.) (rings), Santiago Lopez (Cibola del Mar, Mex.) (parallel bars), and Allen Harris (floor exercise) advancing in one event.
The individual event finals portion of the 2008 Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Championships is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday evening in Rec Hall. The competition will be broadcast live by the Big Ten Network.