No. 5 Penn State Hosts No. 4 Michigan in Men's Gymnastics Showdown Saturday
Big Ten Home Opener: Penn State returns to Happy Valley for a double dual Saturday, Feb. 19th, vs. Michigan at the Bryce Jordan Center for its first home meeting with a Big Ten team this season. The meet begins at 7 p.m. and will also feature the women's team vs. George Washington. Saturday's 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.
Nittany Lion Individuals Ranked: Penn State has at least one individual ranked in the top 10 on five-out-of-six events heading into Saturday's meet. Luis Vargas (Rio Pedros, P.R.)is ranked first on the pommel horse (9.495), eighth on the rings (9.575), 10th on the high bar (9.170) as well as first in the all-around (56.225) to lead the Lions. A 2004 all-Big Ten selection, Chad Buczek (Bridgewater, Mass.) is ranked sixth on the floor (9.400) and fourth on the vault (9.417) while teammate freshman Santiago Lopez (Cibola del Mar, Mexico) ranked eighth in the same event (9.333). Rounding out the Lions in the Top 10, sophomore Matt Bowman (Houston, Texas) is ranked ninth on the high bar with a 9.200 average.
Lion Individuals in the Nation's Top 10 as of Feb. 14, 2005
2005 Matchups with Ranked Teams: Penn State is scheduled to meet 11 ranked opponents this season, including No. 4 Michigan on Saturday. Having already taken on Illinois, Army, Temple and Navy (currently No. 1, No. 10, No. 12 and No. 13 respectively), the Lions have proved their ranking at the top well with wins of more than nine points over each except for a loss to Illinois this past week in a match decided by .475 . This week's match has Penn State facing the first of back-to-back home meets with No. 4 Michigan (Feb. 19 at the Bryce Jordan Center) and No. 1 Ohio State on Feb. 26. Before finishing up the regular season against No. 15 William & Mary away on Mar. 12, the Lions will host Japan in the first international meet in 21 years.
NCAA All-Around Champ Looks for Repeat after Olympic Appearance: Junior Luis Vargas earned All-American honors four times last year for his performances on the pommel horse, parallel bars and high bar and in the all-around. His appearance at last year's NCAA Championships produced a 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 the 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. Currently, Vargas is ranked first nationally in two events the, the all-around and the pommel horse.
Last Time Out: Champaign, Ill., February 12, 2005 - Whenever the Nittany Lions travel to Champaign, Ill., a challenge is always presented. Last spring, the Nittany Lions traveled to Champaign on two different occasions, one time coming up short in the Big Ten Championships, and the last time they were being crowned the 2004 NCAA Champions. This trip to Champaign, would present the same type of challenges as it has in the past when the defending NCAA Champion and the defending Big Ten Champion collided.
With the score close throughout the entire match, No. 5 Penn State fell in its Big Ten opener to Illinois by the score 221.825-221.350. A returning All-American on the pommel horse, Luis Vargas (Rio Pedros, P.R.) scored a 9.725 in that event to give the Nittany Lions the early lead.
Boosted by a 37.650 team score on pommel horse, the Illini regained the lead in the second rotation. Senior Ben Newman took first-place with a 9.750, while junior Ted Brown and freshman Tyler Yamauchi both notched a 9.550 to tie for second-place.
The Orange and Blue followed up with an impressive 38.000 team ring score, with Newman once again leading the pack with a career-high 9.700, good enough for third-place overall. Rookie Jon Drollinger also enjoyed a career-high on rings with a 9.300, while senior Nick Hand tied his career-best of 9.100.
With a rocky showing on parallel bars by the Illini, Penn State was able to charge back into contention for the win with a strong showing on vault. Heading into the final rotation, the Nittany Lions held a 0.35 lead. However, the high bar awaited Illinois, and led by junior Justin Spring, who is the defending NCAA champion and reigning 2005 Winter Cup gold medalist on the event, the Illini had what it took to pull out the victory in the end. Spring tied for first on high bar with Vargas with a 9.650.
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.
Next up: Penn State hosts No. 1 Ohio State next weekend at 7 p.m. on Feb. 26 back in Rec Hall. The meet will be senior night despite one final appearance at home by the defending national champions on March 1 vs. Japan.