No. 2 Men's Gymnastics Travels to West Coast to Face No. 5 Cal
March 14, 2008
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 2-ranked Penn State men's gymnastics team will travel coast-to-coast this weekend, venturing to the Golden State to challenge No. 5 California in a dual meet at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, Calif. on Sat., March 15. Competition is scheduled to begin at 10:30 p.m. ET. The Nittany Lions are 2-1 on the road this season.
Last weekend at Rec Hall, a season high team vault total propelled Penn State to victories over No. 9 William & Mary (338.900) and No. 13 Navy (336.700) and a team score of 357.700. Competing without junior Casey Sandy (Brampton, Ont.), the Nittany Lions won every event as a team and individually and recorded their third highest team score of the season.
Penn State was dominant on the vault, claiming the top four places in the event. Senior Vladi Klurman (North Miami Beach, Fla.) won his third vault title of the year by drawing a season high score of 16.400 from the judges. Team captain Santiago Lopez (Cibola del Mar, Mex.) placed second with a 16.100 followed by sophomores Allen Harris (Lancaster, Pa.) (15.950) and Nick Virbitsky (Harrisburg, Pa.) (15.750).
Senior Derek Helsby (Orlando, Fla.) won the pommel horse (14.950) en route to capturing his first all-around crown of 2008 with a season-best score of 89.050. Senior Tommy Ramos (Guaynabo, P.R.) continued his comeback from injury by winning his second straight rings title (15.200). Jason Chu (Los Angeles) earned the first parallel bars title (14.800) of his career while Noam Shaham (Kfar Saba, Israel) claimed his first high bar crown as a Nittany Lion (14.700). Sophomore Nick Virbitsky (Harrisburg, Pa.) secured Penn State's other title, winning the floor exercise (15.550).
Cal enters Saturday's competition coming off a narrow 356.150-355.650 loss to archrival and top-ranked Stanford. The Golden Bears are led by two-time NCAA champion Tim McNeill and 2007 All-American Kyson Bunthuwong. McNeill, the reigning MPSF Gymnast of the Week, is the nation's No. 1 ranked parallel bars competitor and is ranked No. 2 in the pommel horse while Bunthuwong holds top 10 positions in the pommel horse, parallel bars, and high bar. Kyle Bunthuwong, Kyson's younger brother, is Cal's top all-around competitor, averaging a score of 86.233. The Bears' top events are the parallel bars and the high bar, as they occupy the No. 1 and No. 2 national rankings, respectively.
Penn State has split its only two meetings in program history with Cal. The Nittany Lions last made the trek to the Berkeley campus in 2006, falling to the Bears, 219.100-216.525, in a dual meet. Cal was scheduled to make the trip to Happy Valley for a dual meet on Senior Night last season but a snowstorm that paralyzed central Pennsylvania forced its cancellation.
The Nittany Lions will conclude their 2008 home regular season schedule on Sat., March 22 when No. 3 Oklahoma visits Happy Valley for a 7 p.m. Senior Night match-up at Rec Hall. The dual meet will feature the winners of the last five national championships. In 2007, Penn State thrilled the Rec Hall faithful by edging the Sooners for its NCAA-record 12th national championship in come-from-behind fashion.