No. 2 Mení»s Gymnastics Welcomes No. 5 Illinois to Rec Hall for Conference Dual Meet
Penn State will be looking to rebound strong after suffering its first setback of the season, a narrow 216.750-215.800 loss to No. 1 Michigan two weekends ago on Feb. 3. Junior Tommy Ramos (Guaynabo, P.R.) won the still rings and high bar titles versus the Wolverines, each with season-high scores, to earn Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honors for the first time in his career. Also, sophomore Casey Sandy (Brampton, Ont.) captured his fourth-straight pommel horse crown and junior Vladi Klurman (North Miami Beach, Fla.) used a career-high score of 9.250 to take the vault.
Last weekend, a Penn State contingent composed of current Nittany Lions Matt Cohen (Agoura Hills, Calif.), Derek Helsby (Orlando, Fla.), Vladi Klurman, Cody Carnahan (East Brady, Pa.), and Nick Virbitsky (Harrisburg, Pa.) in addition to assistant coach Kevin Tan competed as individuals at the prestigious 2007 Winter Cup Challenge in Las Vegas, Nev. Tan captured the still rings crown, giving him titles in the event in back-to-back years and reinforcing his already-secured spot on the U.S. Mení»s Senior National Team. Klurman also advanced to the finals, competing in the pommel horse, rings, vault, and parallel bars.
Entering the sixth week of the season, Penn State continues to maintain a prominent position in the both the team and individual national rankings. The Nittany Lions, as a team, are ranked among the top four in the nation in each event and hold the No. 1 spot in the rings and the No. 2 position in the pommel horse and vault.
Individually, Casey Sandy remains the dominant force in the nation on the pommel horse, claiming the No. 1 ranking with a 9.320 average. He is also ranked No. 2 in the all-around, thanks to his career-high score of 54.400 attained in the dual meet with Michigan. With his brilliant 9.700 performance versus the Wolverines, Tommy Ramos jumped into the nationí»s top spot on the rings (9.585). Matt Cohen is not far behind Ramos, possessing the No. 3 rings ranking with a 9.460 average. Freshman Nick Virbitsky, who placed an impressive seventh in the Winter Cup preliminaries in the vault, is ranked No. 4 in the nation in the event (8.890).
Led by 31-year head coach, Yoshi Hayasaki, Illinois brings a 4-3 record to Happy Valley for its showdown with Penn State. The Fighting Illini have lost two straight dual meets, falling in consecutive weeks to No. 7 Minnesota and No. 3 Ohio State. Illinois opened the season by placing second in the Windy City Invite. Its high score of 211.050 was attained in its loss to Ohio State on Jan. 27.
The Illini are led by juniors Wes Haagensen and Tyler Yamauchi and freshman Chad Wiest. Haagensen won the all-around at the Windy City Invite and is ranked fourth nationally with a 51.883 average. Wiestí»s top event is the floor exercise. He is tied for the No. 6 ranking in the event (9.317). Yamauchi is nationally ranked in the rings (9.300), vault (8.733), and parallel bars (8.833).
Penn State possesses a 20-6-0 all-time record versus Illinois in a series that dates back to 1936. The Nittany Lions are 9-2 under Randy Jepson, including a perfect 5-0 mark at Rec Hall. The teams have not met in the regular season since 2005, a 221.825-221.350 victory by the Illini in Champaign.
Fans attending the meet will receive Penn State cheer cards. Special promotions such as the Damoní»s Lucky Program and a National Collegiate Championships Ticket Trivia Contest are also planned.
The Nittany Lions remain at home next weekend, hosting Big Ten rival No. 3 Ohio State on Sat., Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. in Rec Hall. The meet, which will be televised live by WPSU, will feature a double dual format with the Penn State and Ohio State women's gymnastics teams also competing.