No. 6 Men's Gymnastics Hosts No. 7 Minnesota and No. 11 Temple in Saturday Tri-Meet
March 4, 2010
On Saturday, Penn State will also strive to establish momentum as the regular season winds down and the postseason approaches. Despite suffering losses in back-to-back meets, the Nittany Lions have set season highs in four events (still rings, vault, parallel bars, and high bar) over the past two weeks. Versus Ohio State last weekend, Penn State won the floor exercise and vault and established season bests in the still rings (59.550) and vault (62.500) while three Nittany Lions captured individual event titles but it was not enough to overcome a Buckeyes season high score that was over six points higher than its previous best.
Freshman Nick Grant (Butler, Pa.) won his fourth floor exercise and vault titles of the season to pace Penn State and garner his second Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor. His vault score of 15.850 tied the Penn State season high previously solely owned by senior Noam Shaham (Kfar Saba, Israel). Senior Nick Virbitsky (Harrisburg, Pa.) placed first in the high bar with a team season high and career best score of 15.050. He also finished second in the floor exercise (14.700) and third in the vault (15.650). Freshman Parker Raque (Louisville, Ky.) placed second in the still rings with a score of 15.200, a mark .150 higher than the previous Penn State team high for the season.
Penn State, which has a three-score average of 347.633, is nationally ranked in the top 10 in each event as a team. Its highest team event ranking comes in the floor exercise and still rings, in which it ranks fifth. Individually, 11 different Nittany Lions are ranked in the top 20 in six events, led by freshman Felix Aronovich (Kiryat Bialik, Israel) who is slotted at No. 4 in the pommel horse.
Minnesota is coming off consecutive road losses to powerhouses Illinois (350.650-342.150) and Oklahoma (359.450-344.850). The Gophers are led by a standout senior class which includes Aaron Fortunato, a First Team All-Big Ten performer and Minnesota's Most Valuable Gymnast in 2009, Cole Storer, Colin McGuire, and Adam Reichow. Possessing a three score average of 346.217 and a season high score of 350.550, Minnesota is nationally ranked as high as No. 4 (floor exercise and vault) and as low as No. 10 (still rings) as a team. Individually, Fortunato is ranked in the floor exercise (T16th), high bar (T7th), and all-around (7th) while McGuire is ranked in two events (floor exercise and vault). Penn State owns a 10-2 all-time record versus Minnesota. A year ago, the Nittany Lions posted one of their lowest scores of the season resulting in a narrow 345.850-344.500 loss to the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis. When it last hosted Minnesota in the regular season, in 2008, Penn State came away with a commanding 354.200-343.450 win.
Temple is the top rated team in the EIGL, owning a three score average of 339.050 and a season high mark of 343.750. Senior Patrick McLaughlin, a team co-captain, is coming off a strong performance at the New England Invitational, winning the floor exercise, pommel horse, and high bar en route to earning a season high score of 87.000 in the all-around. Sophomore Chris Mooney and freshman Allan Malone are the only two other Owls that are nationally ranked, positioned at No. 17 and No. 20 in the all-around. Temple's top event as a team is the high bar, ranking No. 6 in the nation.
Penn State has more wins against Temple than any other opponent in program history (75), including a 349.850-338.700 victory earlier this year at the West Point Open. The Owls last visited University Park in 2008, with the Nittany Lions claiming a 353.350-337.350 triumph.
Fans can follow all of Saturday's Penn State men's gymnastics action on the Internet with live scoring updates from Rec Hall. Find links on the official website of Nittany Lion athletics, www.GoPSUsports.com.
Next weekend, the Nittany Lions will make their longest road trip of the 2010 season, trekking coast to coast from Happy Valley to Berkeley, Calif. for a tri-meet with a pair of MPSF foes in host No. 8 Cal and No. 9 Nebraska. Scheduled for a 7 p.m. ET start on Sat., March 13, the meet will be held at the home of the Golden Bears, Haas Pavilion. A year ago, Penn State suffered a close loss to Cal, 355.150-353.800, at Rec Hall. The Lions and the Cornhuskers have not met in the regular season since 2005 at the West Point Open.