No. 2 Men¡¯s Gymnastics Heads West for Tri-Meet with No. 5 Stanford and No. 9 Iowa
The Nittany Lions¡¯ coast-to-coast trek comes a week after claiming victories over host No. 15 William & Mary and No. 13 Navy in a tri-meet in Williamsburg, Va. Penn State dominated the competition as a team and individually, winning all six events. Derek Helsby (Orlando, Fla.) demonstrated the form that made him a four-time All-American a year ago, capturing the high bar title with a career-high and season team-high score of 9.700. The junior also tied teammate Casey Sandy (Brampton, Ont.) for first place in the pommel horse (9.050) and took second in the still rings (9.350). Santiago Lopez (Cibola del Mar, Mexico) turned in an impressive performance on the floor exercise, taking the event with a career-high score of 9.600 while Tommy Ramos (Guaynabo, P.R.) secured his sixth still rings title of the season.
Saturday¡¯s meet promises to be one of the most competitive of the season, as it will pit head-to-head the nation¡¯s No. 1 and No. 2 performers in three events. Tommy Ramos, who has been top-ranked on the rings for most of the season, will have extra motivation, as he was knocked from his No. 1 position last week by Stanford¡¯s Alex Schorsch. The Nittany Lion junior will also challenge the Cardinal¡¯s Dylan Carney for the No. 1 ranking on the high bar. In the vault, junior Vladi Klurman (North Miami Beach, Fla.) will try to fend off the nation¡¯s No. 2 competitor in the event, David Sender of Stanford. Sender is also ranked second in the country in the all-around.
Adding more intrigue to the meet, Stanford¡¯s top team events are the pommel horse (No. 3), the still rings (No. 4), and the high bar (No. 4); three events at which Penn State also excels and is ranked either No. 1 or 2 in the nation.
Penn State holds a 5-1-0 all-time record versus Stanford. Its lone loss took place in the teams¡¯ first meeting in 1991. A year ago, the Nittany Lions used a season-high team score to narrowly defeat the Cardinal, 216.800-216.750, in a dual meet held at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Despite scoring a team season best score of 209.5 last week at Illinois, Iowa fell to the Fighting Illini, 214.950-209.500, dropping its season mark to 3-7. Sophomore Geoff Reins, who is ranked in the top 10 in the floor exercise and vault, leads the Hawkeyes. Senior Jacques Bouchard, who shares the same hometown as Nittany Lion Shaun Antonio (Rio Rancho, N.M.), is Iowa¡¯s top rings performer, ranking ninth in the country. Junior Jacob Becker (No. 15, pommel horse) and freshman Jon Buese (No. 9, all-around) are also key contributors.
The Lions are 11-8-1 in their all-time series with Big Ten rival Iowa. Penn State has not faced the Hawkeyes outside of open and postseason competition since 2003, a 217.250-213.750 Penn State victory in a tri-meet at Illinois.
The Nittany Lions return to Rec Hall next weekend, hosting No. 8 California in their 2007 home and regular season finale. Last year, in just the second all-time meeting of the programs, Penn State was dealt a 219.100-216.575 loss by the Golden Bears in Berkeley, Calif. The postseason will begin two weeks later when the Lions travel to Minneapolis for the 2007 Big Ten Championships on March 30-31.