Men's Gymnastic Notes
THIS WEEK: vs. No. 1 Michigan
Date: Saturday, Feb. 3
Time: 7 p.m.
Place: Rec Hall
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP REMATCH: The No. 6 Nittany Lions will compete in a rematch of sorts, hosting the No. 1 Michigan Wolverines. The Lions came from behind in the final rotation of the championships last April and squeezed by U-M to claim the national crown, the 10th in school history. The Wolverines are the defending Big Ten Champions and have been the top-ranked team in the nation all season and will be out for blood on Saturday night. The showdown will also include a dual meet between the Penn State women's team and Pittsburgh in the only double dual of the season.
ABOUT MICHIGAN: The Wolverines have been the top-ranked team in the nation in every poll this season. Michigan comes into today's meet undefeated, posting an 8-0 record. The team opened the 2001 slate winning the Windy City Invitational, which featured six Big Ten teams (including U-M) and Illinois-Chicago. U-M followed up that performance with easy wins over #3 Ohio State (215.500-210.400) and #4 Illinois (214.000-208.350). Michigan is home to the fourth-ranked all-arounder in the nation. Kevin Roulston is a senior from Lititz, Pa. and is the only Wolverine all-arounder ranked in the top 20. U-M has at least two gymnasts in the national top 20 in every event except the all-around. Five appear in the parallel bars ranking, including top-ranked Scott Vetere. The Wolverines are coached by Kurt Golder. He is in his fifth year at the U-M helm.
THE SERIES: The Lions lead the all-time series which dates back to 1959, 12-6. The most significant Penn State win over the Wolverines came at last season's national championship when the Lions came from behind in the last rotation to squeeze by the Wolverines and claim the national title by 0.125. Michigan defeated Penn State during the regular season last year in Ann Arbor, Mich., and at the Big Ten Championship to claim the conference crown.
THE BREAKDOWN: Both teams are ranked in the top 20 in every event. Below is a breakdown of how the teams compare:
Event Penn State Michigan Floor 6th (35.000) 2nd (35.500) Horse 4th (35.250) 1st (36.300) Rings 6th (35.550) 3rd (36.000) Vault 5th (36.050) 2nd (36.500) PBars 8th (34.000) 1st (35.550) HBar 8th (34.200) 1st (36.400) Total 6th (208.450) 1st (215.500)
LAST TIME OUT: The Nittany Lions hosted its first home meet of the season against Army. The Lions easily defeated the Cadets, 208.450. Penn State won every event and swept the top three spots on the floor, horse and rings. Senior Tobias Ekman won his first all-around competition of the season, notching a 50.450. Sophomore Kevin Donohue continues to be the go-to guy for the Lions as he led the team to the victory winning the floor for the fourth time this season and the vault for the third time. Junior Jose Palacios was the winner of the Gene Wettstone award. He recorded a meet-high and career-high 9.600 on the pommel horse to win the event. Senior Chris Lakeman continues to blow the competition away on his specialty, the rings. He won the apparatus with a routine that earned him a 9.200, +0.7 points better than the next competitor.
DONOHUE DOMINATES IN 2001: Sophomore Kevin Donohue has stepped up his performance during the 2001 campaign. Named Big Ten Athlete of the Week for the second week of the season, the Saddle River, N.J., native has won the floor event in every meet this season, making him the seventh-best gymnast on the event in the nation. He has also taken top honors in the last three meets on the vault and won the high bar title three times. He also won his one-and-only all-around competition at the West Point Open on January 19.
LAKEMAN, A RINGER ON RINGS: Senior Chris Lakeman has blown away his competitors on the rings apparatus. A winner in the event on both days of the West Point Open and against Army, he has recorded at least 9.200 each time, while winning by margins of +0.550, +0.200, and +0.700. The Rolling Meadow, Ill., native and rings specialist is the highest-ranked gymnast in the country on the apparatus.
ILLNESS AND INJURY STING THE LIONS: After not competing at Massachusetts and at the West Point Open because of the flu, senior captain Dominic Brindle took to the mats on Saturday against Army. Fully recovered from his illness, he went on to tie for the win on the high bar with an 8.650 while competing on the floor and parallel bars as well. Junior all-arounder Jose Palacios did not finish the all-around competition in the last two meets because of soreness in his back. He will see limited action again against the Wolverines. Senior Adam Benas is out for the year after an torn achilles suffered during the off season. A high bar all-American candidate, he was supposed to have battled for the individual title in that event at NCAA's.
STIFF COMPETITION: The Big Ten continues to dominate the national poll, with all seven teams making making the top 10 in the weekly national top 23. Michigan continues to occupy the top spot, followed by Ohio State in third, while Iowa climbed up to No. 4. Illinois slipped to No. 5, as have the Lions who are now sixth. Michigan State and Minnesota follow in the seventh and eighth slots. The Nittany Lions compete against 10 of the top 20 teams in the nation during the regular season. Besides the Big Ten teams, the Lions also face No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 10 Massachusetts, No. 12 Army, No. 15 Navy, No. 16 Temple, No. 19 Southern Connecticut and No. 20 Springfield.
Gyminfo GYMNASTICS POLL by high score (1/29/01) Rank Team Average 1 Michigan* 215.500 2 Oklahoma 213.600 3 Ohio State* 210.400 4 Iowa* 209.325 5 Illinois* 209.300 6 PENN STATE 208.450 7 Michigan State* 208.000 8 Minnesota* 205.600 9 California 205.550 10 Massachusetts 204.900 11 Nebraska 200.050 12 Army 199.900 13 Air Force 199.150 14 Illinois-Chicago 198.675 15 Navy 198.000 16 Temple 197.450 17 William & Mary 197.200 18 Stanford 194.900 19 Southern Conn. 189.250 20 Springfield 187.100 21 Santa Barbara 182.500 22 James Madison 176.400 23 Vermont 162.800 * indicates Big Ten team italics indicates 2001 opponent
WHO'S BACK: This year's Penn State gymnastics team is not lacking in experience. Seven retuning gymnasts are seniors and four are all-Americans. Senior captain Dominic Brindle leads the pack laden with talent and eager to defend its title. He earned all-America status on the high bar and rings last season, while classmates Rob Saliski (vault), Ted Johnson (floor) and Chris Lakeman (rings) earned all-America status as well. Head coach Randy Jepson will look to his seniors to lead the charge in 2001.
WHO'S NOT: Penn State will miss the contributions of two-time NCAA Pommel Horse Champion Brandon Stefaniak. Also gone because of graduation is vault all-American (1999) Eddie Seng. Senior Adam Benas will redshirt the 2001 campaign because of a torn achilles. He was expected to compete for the high bar national title. Despite the loss of these three gymnasts, the Lions return plenty of talent and experience.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Nittany Lions will take a break in the collegiate competition schedule to participate in the Winter Cup which will be held in Las Vegas, Nev. Some of the top gymnasts in the country will showcase their talents at the national team tryouts which sponsored by USA Gymnastics. The weekend after that, the Lions go to rival Temple on February 17.