April 5, 2012
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.
- Top-ranked Penn State will seek the program's third conference title when it competes at the 2012 Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Championships from April 6-7 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa on the host campus of the University of Iowa. 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 in two weeks.
The team and all-around competition will take place on Friday, April 6 with the individual event finals set for Saturday, April 7. Competition on both days is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. ET.
LIVE ON THE BIG TEN NETWORK
The Big Ten Network will broadcast the 2012 Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Championships live to a national television audience for the fifth straight year. The championships will also be rebroadcast at the following times:
Saturday, April 7 (team finals - 1:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. ET)
Sunday, April 8 (individual finals - 9:30 a.m. ET)
Monday, April 9 (team finals - 5 p.m. ET)
Tuesday, April 10 (team finals - 2 a.m. ET)
Wednesday, April 11 (individual finals - 4:30 p.m. ET)
Thursday, April 12 (individual finals - 4:30 a.m. ET)
PREVIEWING PENN STATE
Penn State enters the postseason as one of collegiate men's gymnastics hottest teams after posting the nation's highest scores in each of the last two regular season meets, including a program-record 360.600 in the finale versus Temple. Penn State is getting significant contributions from every class, particularly its group of six juniors, each of which are ranked nationally in at least one event.
In the floor exercise, junior Parker Raque (Louisville, Ky.) is the Nittany Lions' anchor, placing in the top two in each of this season's 10 meets, including seven first place finishes. Craig Hernandez (Libertyville, Ill.), ranked No. 1 in the pommel horse, emerged as a force to be reckoned with in his freshman campaign, breaking the Penn State program record in the event this season. Sophomore Preston Gall (Columbus, Ohio) provides the Lions with a dual threat on horse. Junior Scott Rosenthal (Clearfield, Pa.) has dominated the still rings in 2012, surpassing the 16.000 threshold five times while holding the No. 1 ranking for nearly the entire season. Senior team captain Miguel Pineda (Galloway, Ohio) combines with Rosenthal to headline the nation's No. 1-ranked still rings team. Freshman Tristan Duverglas (West Orange, N.J.) owns three of Penn State's top three scores in the vault but Raque and junior Matt Chelberg (Athens, Ohio) will also be factors. Junior Felix Aronovich (Kiryat Bialik, Israel) represents Penn State's best hope in the parallel bars. Aronovich and sophomore Wasef Burbar (Arlington Heights, Ill.), an All-American in the event in 2011, will serve as the foundation of the high bar line-up. A late season surge by Aronovich has placed him among the nation's top all-arounders. He scored a career-high 89.400 and a 89.100 in the final two weeks of the regular season.
As a team, Penn State is ranked in the top six nationally in every event, including No. 1 in the pommel horse and still rings. Individually,15 different Nittany Lions or 88 percent of the roster (among those who have competed in 2012) own top 20 rankings. Penn State has at least one individual nationally ranked in each event, including its entire pommel horse line-up and five still rings competitors.
PREVIEWING THE BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIPS
Competition at the 2012 Big Ten Championships promises to be fierce, as six of the seven Big Ten members enter the annual conference postseason event ranked among the top 10 teams in the nation. Top-ranked Penn State, which has not experienced defeat since late January, owns the nation's overall top team score (360.600) this season. The Nittany Lions' key to success is its overall depth and its reliance on contributions from a variety of competitors rather than one or two headliners. Three-time defending Big Ten champion No. 4 Illinois' roster features one of the nation's top gymnasts in senior Paul Ruggeri and the conference's top freshmen in C.J. Maestas. Fifth-ranked Minnesota is a young team that has showed consistent improvement as the year has progressed. The Golden Gophers are ranked No. 1 in the nation in the vault. Ohio State will challenge the Big Ten field for the first time under the direction of rookie head coach Rustam Sharipov. The No. 6 Buckeyes possess the nation's top team score in the pommel horse in 2012, a 61.050. Michigan, ranked eighth nationally, will undoubtedly be a major factor in the chase for the conference crown. The Wolverines are fronted by 2011 all-around champion sophomore Sam Mikulak and freshman Adrian de los Angeles. Both standouts are members of the U.S. Senior National Team. Conference newcomer No. 9 Nebraska will look to make an impression in its first Big Ten Championships while host Iowa, ranked No. 11, will be motivated to perform well in front of its home crowd. In all, 48 gymnasts ranked nationally in the top 20 will compete. The meet will also showcase Nissen-Emery Award finalists Ty Echard (Ohio State), Miguel Pineda (Penn State), DJ Repp (Minnesota), and Paul Ruggeri (Illinois).
FOLLOW THE ACTION ONLINE
Fans can also follow all of the action of both days of competition at the 2012 Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Championships on the Internet with live scoring updates. Find links on the front page (click on Schedule/Results) of the official website of Nittany Lion athletics, www.GoPSUsports.com, and on the men's gymnastics schedule page.
PENN STATE AT THE BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIPS
The Nittany Lions will be aiming to claim their third overall conference title in program history this weekend. In 2003, led by head coach Randy Jepson and All-Big Ten performers Kevin Tan and Luis Vargas, the Lions attained their first team title. In 2008, Casey Sandy won the parallel bars and all-around championships while Tommy Ramos captured his second Big Ten title in the still rings, helping PSU to its second team title. Penn State has finished second at the Big Ten Championships on three occasions (1998, 2004, and 2007) and placed third six times (1994, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2002, and 2010) since joining the conference in 1992. Illinois has claimed the most Big Ten Championships with 25.
PENN STATE AT THE 2011 BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIPS
Penn State was in the hunt for its third conference crown heading into the last rotation of the team finals of the 2011 Big Ten Championships but faltered in the pommel horse, and slid to fourth place. The Nittany Lions finished with a team total of 349.000.
Penn State sat in second place with just one rotation remaining but a season low score of 52.100 in the pommel horse, an event that has been their nemesis in recent years, ended their title hopes. Highlighting Penn State's showing at the conference championships were strong efforts in the floor exercise (59.300), still rings (60.650), and vault (63.200).
Eleven different Nittany Lions advanced to seek individual titles in each of the six events - Felix Aronovich (still rings, parallel bars), Wasef Burbar (parallel bars, high bar), Matt Chelberg (floor exercise, still rings), Mackenzie Dow (vault, high bar), Adrian Evans (pommel horse), Miguel Pineda (still rings, parallel bars), Parker Raque (floor exercise), Nestor Rodriguez (high bar), Scott Rosenthal (still rings), Francisco Vazquez (floor exercise, vault), and Warren Yang (floor exercise).
In the individual event finals, Rosenthal earned Second Team All-Big Ten honors, contributing Penn State's top performance by placing second in the still rings with a score 15.850. Pineda and Yang medaled, placing third in the still rings and floor exercise, respectively.
PENN STATE VS. THE BIG TEN IN 2012
Penn State posted a 3-1 record versus Big Ten opponents during the 2012 regular season. At home in historic Rec Hall, the Nittany Lions defeated three-time defending Big Ten champion Illinois (347.800-346.500), Ohio State (355.500-347.200), and Minnesota (359.300-347.900). Penn State's lone loss of the season was to a Big Ten opponent, a 340.300-338.450 setback at Michigan nearly three months ago on January 21.
Penn State has experienced a record-breaking season in 2012, both as a team and individually. In the regular season finale win over Temple, the Nittany Lions set the program record for team score, posting a 360.600, besting the previous high of 360.550 established in 2008 at Ohio State. That accomplishment is even more impressive in light of the fact that, prior to the season, the NCAA rules committee lowered the vault start values by a full point.
Penn State also broke the program record in the still rings (62.400) and the pommel horse (60.300) this season.
Individually, junior Scott Rosenthal smashed the Penn State record in the still rings, previously held by three-time All-American Tommy Ramos (16.000), when he scored a 16.300 versus Army on January 13. Rosenthal would go on to score a 16.000 or above five times in the still rings in 2012. Freshman Craig Hernandez tied and then set the program record in the pommel horse, first equaling two-time All-American Casey Sandy's mark (15.650) at the West Point Open on January 28 and then breaking it with a 15.700 versus Temple on March 24.
PENN STATE HONORS
Several Nittany Lions received honors for standout performances throughout the 2012 season. Junior Felix Aronovich was named Big Ten Gymnast of the Week three times, including back-to-back weeks to end the regular season, while junior Scott Rosenthal earned the conference honor twice. Aronovich was also recognized as CGA National Gymnast of the Week for his efforts in Penn State's record-breaking win over Temple on March 24.
In addition, Craig Hernandez and Tristan Duverglas earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week accolades in 2012. Hernandez, the nation's No. 1-ranked pommel horse competitor, received the honor twice while Duverglas, one of NCAA's top vaulters, won once.
NISSEN-EMERY AWARD FINALIST
Penn State senior team captain Miguel Pineda is a finalist for the prestigious Nissen-Emery Award. Bestowed in recognition of outstanding athletic achievement, academic excellence, and sportsmanship, it is the highest honor presented in men's collegiate gymnastics.
A cornerstone of one of collegiate gymnastics' top still rings line-ups, Pineda is ranked No. 4 in the event and has recorded five top two finishes, including two title wins, thus far this season. He has also been a consistent contributor in the vault and parallel bars. As a junior, at the 2011 National Collegiate Championships, Pineda set a career high in the rings, scoring a 15.900, to place first in the national qualifier and then followed it up by a second place finish in the individual event finals, earning his first All-America honor. He also medaled in the still rings at the Big Ten Championships, placing third.
A two-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar recipient and three-time CGA First Team All-American Scholar Athlete, Pineda is completing his biology degree through the Eberly College of Science at Penn State. He is among the top one-half percent of his class with a 3.98 grade point average. In 2011, he was also recognized on the Capital One Academic All-America® Men's At-Large First Team and received the prestigious NCAA Elite 88 Award at the National Collegiate Championships. Pineda was also recently announced as a recipient of the 2012 Wayne Duke Postgraduate Award and Penn State's Ernest B. McCoy Award.
ARONOVICH QUALIFIES FOR OLYMPICS
Penn State junior Felix Aronovich qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics based on his performance at a test event in January in London, England. One of 98 of the world's top men's gymnasts who earned the right to vie for team and individual honors at the 30th Games of the Olympiad, Aronovich would compete as an individual, representing his native country of Israel.
However, the Israeli Olympic Committee has informed Aronovich that he must qualify in an event or finish in the top 12 in the all-around at the European Championships in May in order to compete at the Olympics. Aronovich's coaches and representatives from the Israeli Gymnastics Federation are working to convince the Olympic Committee to remove the criteria.
NEXT UP FOR THE NITTANY LIONS
In two weeks, the Nittany Lions will seek their NCAA-record 13th national title when they travel to Norman, Okla. for the 2012 National Collegiate Men's Gymnastics Championships. From April 19-21, the nation's elite collegiate gymnastics competitors will descend upon the Lloyd Noble Center and the campus of the University of Oklahoma to vie for team and individual glory. The competition begins on Thursday, April 19 with two qualifying sessions, scheduled for 2 p.m. 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 Friday, April 20. The nation's top all-around performer will also be crowned that evening. On Saturday, April 21, the individual event finals will be held at 8 p.m. ET, with six national titles and All-American status at stake.