No. 6 Men's Gymnastics Set to Defend Conference Title at the 2009 Big Ten Championships
March 31, 2009
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The defending Big Ten champion and No. 6-ranked Penn State men's gymnastics team will seek the program's third conference title at the 2009 Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Championships from April 3-4 at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich. on the host campus of the University of Michigan. Penn State will battle the other members of the nation's elite men's gymnastics conference for team and individual titles over the course of the two-day event and strive to gain momentum as it pursues its NCAA-record 13th national championship.
The team and all-around competition will take place on Fri., April 3 with the individual event finals set for Sat., April 4. Competition on both days is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET.
LIVE ON THE BIG TEN NETWORK
PREVIEWING PENN STATE
Competition at the 2009 Big Ten Championships is sure to be fierce, as all six Big Ten members are ranked among the top 10 teams in the nation. There is no clear-cut favorite for the 2009 title but, as hosts of the event, No. 5 Michigan will have a decided advantage. Illinois is ranked one spot higher than the Wolverines and has defeated every conference opponent in head-to-head dual meet competition this season. Defending Big Ten champion Penn State (No. 6) and preseason conference favorite Ohio State (No. 7) are young teams that have had up and down seasons. Eighth-ranked Minnesota is an up-and-coming dangerous squad with a home win over Penn State highlighting its season thus far. Iowa, ranked No. 10, has struggled this year but has shown improvement in recent weeks. The meet will also showcase Nissen-Emery Award finalists Jake Bateman (Ohio State), Kit Beikmann (Minnesota), Philip Goldberg (Michigan), and Casey Sandy (Penn State).
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PENN STATE AT THE BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIPS
PENN STATE AT THE 2008 BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIPS
Casey Sandy anchored the Nittany Lions, dominating the tough conference competition to become Penn State's first Big Ten all-around champion since Mike Dutka in 1998. The junior placed first in the parallel bars (tie, 15.250), second in the pommel horse (15.350), third in the floor exercise (tie, 15.450), fourth in the rings (15.350), fifth in the high bar (tie, 14.200), and seventh in the vault (15.900) on his way to the 2008 all-around crown. Senior Derek Helsby placed fourth in the all-around, earning All-Big Ten honors for the third consecutive year; a feat only current Penn State assistant coach Kevin Tan has accomplished.
In the individual event finals, Sandy shined again, capturing the parallel bars crown with a score of 15.300. Reflective of his Big Ten Gymnast of the Year accolade, he also placed second in the floor (15.350), third in the pommel horse (14.750), and sixth in the vault (tie, 15.400). Tommy Ramos, competing for just the fifth time on the still rings all season, claimed the Big Ten title in the event with a score of 15.500, giving him two in three years after winning the crown in 2006.
PENN STATE VS. THE BIG TEN IN 2009
In two weeks, the Nittany Lions will seek their NCAA-record 13th national title when they travel to Minneapolis, Minn. for the 2009 National Collegiate Men's Gymnastics Championships. From April 16-18, the nation's elite collegiate gymnastics competitors will descend upon the Sports Pavilion on the campus of the University of Minnesota to vie for team and individual glory. The competition begins on Thurs., April 16 with two qualifying sessions, scheduled for 2 and 8 p.m. ET. The top three teams from each qualifier then advance to vie for the national championship at 8 p.m. ET on Fri., April 17. The nation's top all-around performer will also be crowned that evening. On Sat., April 18, the individual event finals will be held at 8 p.m. ET, with six national titles and All-American status at stake.
SANDY, NISSEN-EMERY FINALIST
In addition to providing outstanding leadership in the gym, representing his team and university with class and honor in all endeavors, and fulfilling the role of a dedicated and diligent student, Sandy has had an excellent and historic competitive senior season. The defending NCAA all-around champion has captured 29 titles in 2009, including sweeping first place in the pommel horse for the year. Sandy tied the single season conference record by earning five Big Ten Gymnast of the Week awards and shattered the career mark for winning a total of 11 league honors. The reigning Big Ten Gymnast of the Year has also been named CGA National Gymnast of the Week three times. Following the completion of the regular season, the seven-time All-American is ranked in the top six in the nation in five of six events and holds the No. 1 position in the all-around. He also owns the team's top score in four events and has set career-highs in the pommel horse (15.650) and high bar (15.450) this season.
Penn State has won five Nissen-Emery Awards in the storied history of the program, one shy of Oklahoma for the most by one program. In 2007, Matt Cohen became Penn State's latest honoree after a brilliant career. The 2009 recipient will be announced at the CGA Annual Awards Presentation banquet at Minnesota on Wed., April 15.
SANDY CLAIMS CONFERENCE AND NATIONAL HONORS
SANDY HONORED WITH HOMETOWN AWARD
Sandy was the eighth winner of the award, which is named in honor of legendary Brampton Guardian sports editor Ken Giles, who covered the area for 50 years before his retirement in 2000. A committee of five selected Sandy from a field of 18 nominees. Sandy is the second Nittany Lion to receive the Ken Giles Award after golfer Mark Leon was recognized in 2006.
SANDY RECOGNIZED BY SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
Sandy was the second Nittany Lion in the last three years to be recognized in Sports Illustrated's Faces in the Crowd, after Matt Cohen made an appearance in 2007 in his senior season during his run to the Nissen-Emery Award.
The reigning Big Ten Gymnast of the Year, Sandy gained acclaim from Sports Illustrated for capturing a single meet career five individual events titles and the all-around versus Minnesota on Jan. 31. For his efforts, he was honored as the Big Ten Gymnast of the Week for a conference record eighth time in his career.
SANDY CROWNED CANADIAN NATIONAL ALL-AROUND CHAMPION
Sandy never relinquished his grip on first place throughout the competition, scoring 87.150 on day one and 88.150 on day two. He also won the still rings (14.450/14.500) and the high bar (14.850/14.150) and placed second in the floor exercise (14.300/14.750), pommel horse (14.450/15.100), and vault (15.900/15.900).
Less than 48 hours later and following a grueling cross-continent flight from British Columbia to University Park, Sandy was superb in leading No. 7 Penn State to a 347.600-346.500 victory over No. 8 Ohio State.
Inserted into the line-up for just three events due to his rigorous travel and competitive schedule, Sandy proceeded to win all three, placing first in the pommel horse (14.800), parallel bars (15.050), and high bar (14.500). The seven-time All-American was particularly dominant in the pommel horse, scoring .7 of a point higher than the second place finisher. Sandy's parallel bars score was also a personal season high and team best for 2009.
SANDY: BY THE NUMBERS
Junior Noam Shaham has emerged over the course of the season as one of Penn State's most consistent and clutch performers. The Kfar Saba, Israel native has recorded top three finishes in four different events (floor exercise, rings, vault, high bar) and has placed second and third in the all-around two times.
In total, he has earned 20 top three finishes, won one title in the high bar, and set career highs in four events plus the all-around in 2009. Shaham is tied with Casey Sandy for the team season high score in the vault (15.950) and owns Penn State's second best score in the high bar this year, a 15.050.
BORROMEO CAPTAINS THE LIONS
ANTONIO ON THE RISE
YANG STRENGTHENS LINE-UP
FRESHMEN MAKING AN IMPACT
Albrecht, one of three Canadians on the team, has earned five top three finishes in three different events (floor exercise, vault, parallel bars). His vault score of 15.900 recorded on Jan. 16 at the West Point Open ranks second on the team this season.
Bruns, one of seven Pennsylvania natives on the Penn State roster, competed in the pommel horse in every meet and in the still rings four times, showing steady improvement throughout the season.
Klurman qualified for the finals, placing 37th overall with 30 points. The Odessa, Ukraine-born North Miami Beach, Fla. native performed well in the pommel horse, placing third in Session II and eighth overall with a score of 14.200. He also had a solid showing in the still rings, finishing in 10th place in the evening qualifier (14.050). However, a shoulder injury suffered during his parallel bars routine prevented the 2007 All-American from competing in the finals.
Pineda earned a 19th place, Session II preliminary finish in the all-around with a six-event total of 77.150. His top performance came in the still rings, as he tied for seventh with a score of 14.200.
Three-time defending Winter Cup rings champion and Penn State assistant coach Kevin Tan is recovering from shoulder surgery and did not compete at this year's event. Nevertheless, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist was named to the U.S. Men's Senior National Team for the third consecutive year.