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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; April 5, 2006 - The Penn State men's gymnastics team, along with 11 of the nation's other elite collegiate programs, will converge on Norman, Okla. and the University of Oklahoma's Lloyd Noble Center for the 2006 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships from April 6-8.
Competition begins on Thurs., April 6 with two team qualifiers, with the three highest scoring teams in each session advancing to the team finals. At 2:00 p.m. ET, Penn State will vie with Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio State, Stanford, and William & Mary for the right to advance. The Nittany Lions defeated Stanford and William & Mary head-to-head in dual meets this season but suffered one of their two losses to Ohio State. They have faced Iowa and Minnesota in 2006 only at the Big Ten Championships two weekends ago, at which the Lions placed fourth.
"We're thrilled to be in the first session," said Penn State head coach Randy Jepson. "It's where we wanted to be as it allows our guys more recovery time and we have a good starting event. It is similar to Big Tens, but we need to be a lot better than we were two weeks ago."
"We'll have to be our very best. If we don't perform well tomorrow (Thursday), we'll be just watching the rest of the competition. I know we can get it done but it is not an easy task for us."
In the 8:00 pm. session, host and No. 1-ranked Oklahoma, Illinois, California, Michigan, Nebraska, and Temple will compete.
The championships will continue on Fri., April 7 at 8:00 p.m. ET with the team finals. The nation's all-around champion will also be crowned that evening. Penn State will look to capture its third consecutive all-around title after former Nittany Lion Luis Vargas won the last two. Performers that place in the top 10 in each event during the team finals competition advance to the event finals.
On Sat, April 8 at 8:00 p.m. ET, the competition will conclude with the individual event finals.
Nittany Lion men's gymnastics fans will be able to follow every performance and every rotation each of the three days, as live scoring will be available. Find a link on the homepage of the official website of Penn State athletics, www.GoPSUsports.com. The 2006 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships will also be shown tape-delayed on ESPN2 on April 11 at 2:30 ET.
Penn State heads to the nation's heartland and the 2006 NCAA Championships seeking to add a 12th national team title and increase its 50 individual titles total, but the Nittany Lions will face stiff competition in those quests.
Oklahoma, the No. 1 seed, is the defending national champion and will have the advantage of competing on its home floor. Jonathan Horton, the nation's top competitor on the still rings and in the all-around, leads the Sooners. Second-seeded Stanford, a team the Nittany Lions beat on Feb. 19 in University Park, features the country's No. 1 performer on the vault, David Sender. Big Ten rivals Ohio State (No. 3) and Illinois (No. 5) will also challenge for the 2006 crown. The Buckeyes, headlined by freshman phenom Jimmy Wickham, are coming off their second consecutive Big Ten title. The Illini is fronted by seven-time All-American Justin Spring. California, the No. 5 seed, posted one of the highest scores of the season, a 219.100, to defeat Penn State in Berkeley Calif. in the Lions' regular season finale. Seventh-seeded Iowa and Nissen-Emery nominee Michael Reavis (No. 1 in the floor exercise) could also be a factor.
Penn State will counter with its own formidable line-up that includes Nissen-Emery candidate Chad Buczek (Bridgewater, Mass.), Big Ten rings champion Tommy Ramos (Guaynabo, P.R.), 2005 All-American Santiago Lopez (Cibola del Mar, Mex.), and pommel horse and all-around contender Derek Helsby (Orlando, Fla.).
Senior captain Chad Buczek, a member of the 2004 Penn State national championship squad, will compete collegiately for the final time at the 2006 NCAA Championships. Over his four years at Penn State, he progressed from walk-on to Nissen-Emery Award candidate, an honor presented annually to the nation's most outstanding gymnast. This season, Buczek has posted Penn State's highest score on the floor exercise, a 9.600. He also owns the team's second and third best scores on the vault, marks of 9.450 and 9.400.
Sophomore Tommy Ramos is coming off a title-winning rings performance at the Big Ten Championships. Ranked fourth in the nation on the rings, Ramos' top score this season was a 9.800. Consistency has been his strong suit, as he placed either first or second on the apparatus in every meet this season, with one exception. Ramos will also be relied upon for contributions on the parallel bars and high bar.
Santiago Lopez, an All-American last year on vault, enters the 2006 championships as the nation's No. 6-ranked performer and the team's highest season scorer (9.500) on the apparatus. The sophomore is also ranked nationally in the floor exercise (No. 8) and owns Penn State's best season average in the event (9.103).
Derek Helsby stepped up to fill the void left by injured freshman Casey Sandy (Brampton, Ont.) to become highly ranked nationally on the pommel horse (No. 3) and in the all-around (No. 5). Helsby will also be counted on for a solid effort on the rings.
Juniors Matt Cohen (Agoura Hills, Calif.) and Justin Miklos (Flemington, N.J.), sophomore Vladi Klurman (N. Miami Beach, Fla.), and freshman Shaun Antonio (Rio Rancho, N.M.) will also play a major role in deciding Penn State's championship fortunes.
Penn State University will be the host of the 2007 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships, to be held April 12-14 on the University Park campus. The 2007 championships will mark the seventh time in school history that Penn State has hosted the annual competition.