No. 3 Nittany Lions to Host No. 2 Oklahoma in Showdown of Men's Gymnastics Powerhouses
March 21, 2008
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Third-ranked Penn State and No. 2 Oklahoma, two traditional powerhouse programs that have combined to win the last six national championships, will clash in a much-anticipated dual meet on Sat., March 22 at historic Rec Hall. Competition is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. The Nittany Lions are undefeated at home this season, boasting a 5-0 record.
Five seniors, Derek Helsby (Orlando, Fla.), Vladi Klurman (North Miami Beach, Fla.), Santiago Lopez (Cibola del Mar, Mex.), Tommy Ramos (Guaynabo, P.R.), and Brad Spicer (Fairfax, Va.), who have combined for 11 All-American honors and were instrumental factors in Penn State's 2007 national championship win, will be making their final regular season appearance in Rec Hall. The class will be honored in a special ceremony following the meet.
Penn State enters Saturday's meet on a down note after a disappointing showing in last weekend's 360.400-351.300 road loss to No. 4 Cal. The Nittany Lions won the floor exercise (61.400) outright and tied Cal in the vault (63.050) but their team total was the lowest of the season.
Team captain Santiago Lopez added another standout performance to his stellar season, winning the floor exercise with a personal season best score of 15.550. He also placed third in the vault (15.900). Freshman Warren Yang (Nepean, Ont.) and junior Casey Sandy (Brampton, Ont.) helped complete a Penn State top three sweep in the floor exercise, finishing tied for second place (15.500). Sandy tied an individual season high score of 16.000 in winning his second vault title of the year. He placed second in the all-around (88.650), also finishing third in the pommel horse, sixth in the high bar, and eighth in the rings and parallel bars.
Oklahoma is coming off the nation's top team performance of the 2008 season, a 364.600-350.650 victory at home over Minnesota on senior night. Highly decorated senior co-captains Jonathan Horton and Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons lead the Sooners. Horton, a 15-time All-American, and Simmons, an eight-time All-American, have won the last two NCAA all-around championships. Freshman Steven Legendre, who is ranked No. 3 in the nation in the floor exercise and No. 4 in the vault, is the future of Sooner gymnastics. In total, Oklahoma has eight different gymnasts appear 18 times in the top 20 individual event national rankings.
Penn State has not historically had success versus Oklahoma in regular season meetings, possessing a 2-10 record in the all-time series. The Sooners' last trip to University Park took place a year ago at the 2007 National Collegiate Championships. The Nittany Lions edged Oklahoma for its NCAA-record 12th national championship in thrilling, come-from-behind fashion.
Fans can also follow all of the action from Penn State's match-up with Oklahoma on the Internet with live scoring updates or with live video through a webcast from Rec Hall. Click on the "gametrack PSU" link on the official website of Nittany Lion athletics, www.GoPSUsports.com, to gain access.
The Nittany Lions will return to action in two weeks when six of the nation's top nine teams descend upon Happy Valley and Rec Hall from April 4-5 for the 2008 Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Championships. Penn State, which has hosted the postseason event twice previously, will be seeking its second conference title. On Friday, the 2008 team and all-around champions will be crowned while Saturday's action will feature the individual event finals. Both nights of competition are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m and will be broadcast live by the Big Ten Network.