No. 4 Nittany Lions to Meet No. 2 Ohio State in Showdown of Men's Gymnastics Powers
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; February 24, 2006 - Coming off a statement win over then-No. 4 Stanford last weekend, the fourth-ranked Penn State men's gymnastics will strive to equal that momentous performance when it takes on No. 2 Ohio State on Sat., Jan. 25 at 7:00 p.m. at historic St. John Arena in Columbus, Ohio. The meet will feature a double dual format with the Penn State and Ohio State women's gymnastics teams also competing.
Versus the Cardinal on Sun., Feb. 19, Penn State posted the highest team score in the nation thus far this season in a thrilling 216.800-216.750 victory over Stanford at the Bryce Jordan Center. The evening was one for the record books, as Nittany Lion gymnasts established or equaled 13 individual career bests. Penn State won two team events (pommel horse, parallel bars) and Nittany Lions finished in first place in three individual events (pommel horse, parallel bars, all-around) to edge Stanford.
With star freshman Casey Sandy (Brampton, Ont.) sidelined for the remainder of the season with a broken arm, sophomore Derek Helsby (Orlando, Fla.) rose to the forefront to win the pommel horse and the all-around titles. His pommel horse score of 9.400 was a season high, earning him the third title of his career in the event. Helsby's all-around score of 53.500 secured him his first all-around victory of the season and his third as a Nittany Lion. He also contributed a second place finish on the parallel bars ( 9.300) and a third on the high bar (9.350).
Sophomore Tommy Ramos (Guaynabo, P.R.) also played a key role in the team win, posting a score of 9.350 to secure the parallel bars title. He was also the runner-up on the rings, earning an impressive score of 9.650. Sophomore Vladi Klurman (North Miami Beach, Fla.) and freshman Shaun Antonio (Rio Rancho, N.M.) contributed clutch performances on the pommel horse, finishing second and third, respectively, behind only their teammate, Derek Helsby. Klurman's score of 9.250 was a career-best.
Led by nine-year head coach Miles Avery, Ohio State is currently ranked as the No. 2 in the nation, possessing an average team score of 213.633. As a team, the Buckeyes are slotted in the top four nationally in every event with the exception of the still rings. They occupy the No. 1 position on the parallel bars with an average score of 36.333 and the No. 2 spot in the floor exercise (35.983) and on the vault (36.667) and the high bar (36.483).
Individually, freshman Jimmy Wickham, junior Willie Ito, and sophomore DJ Bucher headline Ohio State. Wickham, who recently earned a place on the U.S. Men's Gymnastics Team by virtue of his outstanding performance at the Winter Cup, is ranked third in the country on the vault. Ito is the nation's top performer on the high bar thus far this season, boasting an impressive average score of 9.633. Bucher owns a 9.500 average on the parallel bars, good enough for second in the country.
Ohio State has defeated Illinois and Illinois-Chicago this season in dual meet competition and placed first in the Windy City Open, topping a field that included Big Ten opponents Iowa and Minnesota. Its only setback came in its last outing on Feb. 18 when it was defeated by No. 1 Oklahoma in a tri-meet, despite posting a season-high team score of 215.900.
In a rivalry that dates back to 1976, Penn State possesses a 22-23 record versus Ohio State. A year ago, the Nittany Lions fell to the Buckeyes in a dual meet at Rec Hall, 222.075-215.500. In 2004, Penn State topped OSU for the second straight time, downing the Buckeyes on their home floor, 218.800-218.750.
With four dual meets in the books, Penn State continues to hold a lofty position in the national rankings. As a team, the Lions are No. 1 in the nation on the pommel horse, No. 3 on the still rings, and No. 5 on the vault and the parallel bars. Individually, Tommy Ramos is ranked first on the rings while Casey Sandy, despite being out for the season, remains as the No. 1 competitor on the pommel horse and the No. 3 performer in the all-around. As a result of his outstanding effort versus Stanford, Derek Helsby moved up to fifth in the pommel horse and all-around rankings. Chad Buczek (Bridgewater, Mass.) (No. 7, floor exercise), Matt Cohen (Agoura Hills, Calif.) (No. 8, still rings), and Santiago Lopez (Cibola del Mar, Mex.) (No. 8, vault) also benefited from strong showings at the Stanford meet.
Penn State returns to University Park next week to take on No. 10 William & Mary in its final home meet of the 2006 season. The Nittany Lions and the Tribe will take center stage at Rec Hall on Sat., March 4 at 7:00 p.m. A special ceremony honoring the career of legendary Penn State men's gymnastics coach Gene Wettstone is scheduled. One week later, Penn State will travel coast-to-coast, making the trip to Berkeley, Calif. to compete against No. 8 Cal in the Lions' final dual meet before the Big Ten Championships at Iowa on March 24 and 25.