Fifth-Ranked Lion Men's Gymnasts Travel to No. 2 Illinois for Saturday Match-up
WHO: No. 5 Penn State Men's Gymnastics
Big Ten Opener: No. 5 Penn State travels to No. 2 Illinois Saturday, Feb. 12, for an 8 p.m. ET match-up. In what is sure to be a showdown, Penn State enters the competition as the defending national champion after winning it all at Illinois last year. Illinois can boast a title of its own- last year's Big Ten championship, a title the Lions were the runner-up for. That competition was also held in Champaign.
Who's Got Next?: Penn State returns home for a double dual Saturday, Feb. 19th, vs. Michigan at the Bryce Jordan Center. The meet begins at 7 p.m. and will also feature the women's team vs. George Washington. The meet will be aired live on CSTV and WSPX, as well as being rebroadcast twice on CSTV on Feb. 22 at 12:00 p.m. and 11:59 p.m.
Dishing It Out- Check Out the Upcoming Promotions: Fans will receive men's gymnastics team schedule posters at the Michigan meet, in addition to T-shirt giveaways and much, much more. Be sure not to miss the post-meet autograph session on the Bryce Jordan Center floor! For tickets, call 1-800-833-5533 or 814-863-1000 in the State College area. Adults get in for $5, while youth and senior citizen tickets cost only $3 for double dual meets. Penn State students get in free with their ID card, so don't miss it!
NCAA All-Around Champ Looks for Repeat after Olympic Appearance: Junior Luis Vargas (Rio Pedros, P.R.) earned All-American honors four times last year for his performances on the pommel horse, parallel bars, high bar and in the all-around. His appearance at last year's NCAA Championships produced career highs in each of four categories (floor, pommel horse, vault, parallel bars) as well as winning the all-around title, the first Lion to do so since Marshall Avener in 1973. Vargas, the Lions' 18th Olympian, placed 15th in overall this past summer in Athens competing for his native Puerto Rico. As the 2005 season goes forth, Vargas has maintained his position as a strong competitor. Ranking as high as seventh last year in the pommel horse, he has extended his girth this week with three Top 5 seedings.
Nittany Lion Individuals Ranked: Penn State has at least one individual ranked in the top 10 on four-out-of-six events heading into Saturday's meet. Luis Vargas is ranked first on the pommel horse (9.437), fifth on the vault (9.400) and first in the all-around (56.075) to lead the Lions while newcomer freshman Tommy Ramos sits in second on the high bar (9.450). Senior captain Steve Tobin is ranked third on the floor (9.425) and seventh on the vault (9.400). A 2004 all-Big Ten selection, Chad Buczek is ranked seventh on the floor (9.350) and ninth on the vault (9.375). Rounding out the Lions in the Top 10, freshman Derek Helsby ranks 10th on the pommel horse with a 9.206 average.
Lion Individuals in the Nation's Top 10 as of Feb. 7, 2005 Chad Buczek Floor- No. 7 (9.350) Vault- No. 9 (9.375) Derek Helsby Pommel Horse- No. 10 (9.206) Tommy Ramos High Bar- No. 2 (9.450) Steve Tobin Floor- No. 3 (9.425) Vault- No. 7 (9.400) Luis Vargas Pommel Horse- No. 1 (9.437) Vault- No. 5 (9.400) All-Around- No. 1 (56.075)
2005 Match-ups with Ranked Teams: Penn State is scheduled to meet seven ranked opponents this season accord to this week's GymInfo poll. Having already taken on Navy, Army, and Temple (currently No. 10, No. 11, and No. 13 respectively), the Lions have proved their ranking at the top well with wins of more than nine points over each. This week's match has Penn State facing last year's Big Ten champion, No. 2 Illinois, followed by back-to-back home meets with No. 3 Michigan (Feb. 19 at the Bryce Jordan Center) and No. 1 Ohio State (Feb. 26 in Rec Hall). Before finishing up the regular season against No. 15 William & Mary away on March 12, the Lions will host Japan in the first international meet in 21 years on March 1 in Rec Hall.
Last Time Out... Winter Cup Feb. 4-5: Las Vegas, Nev.; February 4, 2005 - Junior Chad Buczek (Bridgewater, Mass.) was the lone Lion gymnast to make it through to the Winter Cup event finals, tallying an 8.85 to earn a tie for sixth on the floor exercise on the first day of competition. Alumni Kevin Tan finished second on the rings on Friday night with a 9.283 and seventh on the parallel bars with an 8.633 to make the event finals in both.
In addition to Buczek and Tan's performances that qualified them for the event finals, sophomore Matt Cohen (Cohoes, N.Y.) finished 31st in the all-around, the highest of any Lion. Freshman Derek Helsby (Orlando, Fla.) ended the day with a new career high on the high bar, while senior captain Steve Tobin (Cherry Hill, N.J.) finished tied for 18th with a 9.100 on the vault to highlight the Lions' performances at the Winter Cup.
In the second day of competition, Buczek placed sixth on the floor exercise in the event finals. Buczek's 8.450 earned him the runner-up spot while Tan finished second on the rings with a 9.400. Last year's Winter Cup champion on the rings, and the 2003 and 2004 NCAA champion on the apparatus, Tan was bested by an unattached Eric LaMorte, who earned a 9.525 on the apparatus.
PSU to Host National Championship Meet... Penn State University will be the host of the 2007 NCAA Championships, which will be held on April 12-14, 2007, as announced today in a press conference on campus. The 2007 championships will mark the seventh time in school history that the Nittany Lions have hosted the NCAA championships for men's gymnastics. The last time Penn State hosted the NCAA men's gymnastics championships was in 1998.
"My staff and my team are thrilled to be able to host the NCAA championships in 2007," said head coach Randy Jepson. "Having won it most recently last year, in 2004, and then back in 2000, those were wonderful events for us, but to have an athlete be able to win a championship on his own floor is certainly a life-long dream.
"We're very excited to have the event here at Penn State in 2007," continued Jepson. "I know that the people that we recruited as well as young individuals that will still be on the team at that point are very thrilled and certainly excited about the possibility of winning a championship on our home floor in front of home fans."
The NCAA championships for men's gymnastics consists of a three-day competition. Twelve teams qualify for the NCAA men's gymnastics championships, with six making it through to the final round on day two and competing for the NCAA title. On the third day, the individual event finals are contested.
"Your biggest goal is that you want to make this the best possible experience for the student-athletes that are participating and there's a lot that goes into that," said Athletic Director Tim Curley. "I know that one of the things that our staff has worked very, very hard on is to try and make these events something that all participants, whether you win or lose, walk away and say, 'that was a great venue, great event, great fans that understand the sport and we were treated really well and it was something special. We want to give them what we call a first-class NCAA championship experience."
It is undetermined at this time because of a scheduled construction project at Rec Hall whether or not the championships will be held in Rec Hall or in the Bryce Jordan Center. Previous to 1998, all five of the championships Penn State hosted were contested in Rec Hall. Penn State will also be the host site for the 2006 NCAA men's volleyball championship and the NCAA women's basketball first and second rounds next spring.
"Honestly, just finding out for sure about it today, it's an incredible opportunity," said Nittany Lion all-around competitor Matt Cohen, who will be a senior when Penn State hosts the championships. "Winning last year was amazing and the experience was incredible, but getting to experience that at home in front of our friends and family here in Rec Hall or the Bryce Jordan Center would just be more than anything we could describe."
Penn State captured last year's championship, its NCAA-record 11th. In addition, Nittany Lion men's gymnasts have garnered 48 total NCAA national championship titles, more than any other institution, including two last year. The championship announcement comes just one day before the 2004 national championship banner will be raised in a ceremony in conjunction with the Nittany Lions' home opener on Friday, Jan. 21, at 7 p.m. in Rec Hall vs. Navy and Temple.