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March 6, 2014
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the fourth consecutive year, the No. 5 Penn State men's gymnastics team will head to Puerto Rico for the Puerto Rican Gymnastics Challenge. The Nittany Lions will compete against members of the Puerto Rican national team as well as gymnasts from Mexico, Argentina and top-ranked Big Ten foe, Michigan Friday March 7 at the Pedrin Zorilla Coliseum in San Juan.
The Nittany Lions enter this week fresh off of recording their highest team score of the 2014 season. Last weekend, Penn State knocked off then-No. 5 Minnesota 440.200-431.500 on senior night, sweeping the Golden Gophers in five-of-six events. Sophomore Trevor Howard (Columbus, Ohio) led the way with a pair of top finishes, securing titles on the rings and the parallel bars with two season-high performances.
With three Puerto Rican natives on the roster, Penn State's trip to San Juan will be a homecoming for sophomore Alexis Torres (Catano, Puerto Rico), junior Ismael Sanabria (Caguas, Puerto Rico) and redshirt junior Nestor Rodriguez (Guaynabo, Puerto Rico).
Former Nittany Lion Luis Vargas will also be honored at the start of competition, as he recently announced his retirement from professional gymnastics. Vargas graduated from Penn State in 2005, capping off a stellar intercollegiate career with five All-America honors at the 2005 NCAA national championship, securing his second all-around crown as well as capturing the pommel horse title. In 2004, Vargas became Penn State gymnastics' 18th Olympic athlete after competing with his native country at the games in Athens, Greece.
As a team, Penn State heads into competition ranked within the top 10 nationally in six events. The Nittany Lions are currently slated within the top five in three different events, ranked No. 3 in the floor exercise and No. 4 and No. 5 on the rings and pommel horse, respectively. Last weekend,PSU posted a season-high score of 74.550 in the floor exercise to move to third place in the NCAA standings behind the top-ranked Wolverines who are presently slotted second on the floor (75.633).
Howard is at the helm of the squad in the national rankings as he is currently ranked within the top 20 in four events. After earning individual titles on the rings and the parallel bars against the Golden Gophers, he moved up to fifth nationally on both apparatuses.
Torres is close behind ranked within the top 10 in two different events. In his last performance on the floor, he tumbled to a season-high score of 15.640 to secure his third individual title in the floor exercise this season. Swinging to a score of 15.400 on the rings against Minnesota, he matched a season-high mark, which moved him into a tie for ninth in the latest NCAA standings.
Despite a week off from competition, junior Tristan Duverglas (West Orange, N.J.) is still ranked No. 1 nationally on the vault for the second consecutive week. In his last performance, Duverglas registered a top score of 15.350 on the vault against Illinois (2/15) to earn the Gene Wettstone award.
After returning home from Puerto Rico, the Nittany Lions will hit the road for their last regular season dual meet of the season. In final preparation for post-season competition, Penn State travels to Michigan to square off against the Wolverines Friday, March 14 at 3:30 p.m. in Cliff Keen Arena.