Vargas Defends NCAA All-Around Title
WEST POINT, N.Y.; April 8, 2005 ¡ª In his final NCAA championships, junior Luis Vargas (Rio Pedros, P.R.) did what he came to do, successfully defending his all-around championship with a 57.175 despite not fully training for three weeks because of a torn ligament in his thumb. He tallied an NCAA record under the newest scoring system and is the first NCAA back-to-back all-around champion since Jamie Natalie from Ohio State in 2000 and ¡®01. He is Penn State's first back-to-back champion in the all-around since Steve Cohen in 1966 and ¡®67.
Penn State¡¯s title defense fell short, however, and the Lions finished fourth with a 222.400. Oklahoma captured the championship with a 225.675.
Penn State began its title defense on one of its stronger events, the still rings. Freshman Derek Helsby (Orlando, Fla.) set the pace with a career-high 9.225, that wouldn¡¯t end up counting towards the Lions¡¯ team score, but provided a spark to start the day off. Sophomore Matt Cohen (Agoura Hills, Calif.) stepped up with a big performance worth a team-high 9.600. Defending all-around champion Luis Vargas (Rio Pedros, P.R.) added a 9.550, with a 9.425 from senior captain Steve Tobin (Cherry Hill, N.J.) and a 9.350 from freshman Tommy Ramos (Guayanabo, P.R.) also counting for the Lions. Penn State¡¯s 37.925 ended up to be a .450-point improvement for the Lions from yesterday¡¯s qualifier, giving the team a solid start on the night.
The Lions earned a 37.175 on the vault after all performers hit for more than 9.000 each, led by a 9.475 from Lopez and a 9.325 from Vargas. Junior Chad Buczek (Bridgewater, Mass.) scored a 9.250 and Tobin and senior Ludwig Kern (Annapolis, Md.), a 2003 All-American on vault, both got 9.125s to finish the scoring.
Entering the two events that were the weakest for the Lions yesterday, the parallel bars and high bar, the Lions had a team score of 75.100. Penn State rose to the occasion on the parallel bars, however, scoring a season-high 37.125. With a then-session leading 9.650 from Vargas, a returning All-American on the apparatus, and a 9.250 from Tobin, who is competing in his last NCAA championship along with Kern, the Lions got key contributions from early in the line-up as well. After leading PSU on the rings with a 9.600, Cohen came up big for the Lions again and posted a 9.175, besting his previous score of 8.800. Ramos¡¯ 9.050 also counted towards the Lions¡¯ new team total of 112.225.
On the high bar, Penn State posted a 37.425, one of its highest totals of the season, improving on yesterday¡¯s qualifier mark of 36.600 by .825 points. Vargas performed well again, despite a torn ligament in his thumb, scoring a 9.525 on the apparatus to lead the Nits. Kern pitched in a career-high 9.500, with a pair of 9.200s coming from Tobin and sophomore Matt Bowman (Houston, Texas), who was competing in his first team finals.
After four events, Penn State took a seat for its bye and then continued in rotation six on the floor exercise with a team score of 149.650 and their roughest events in yesterday¡¯s team qualifier behind them. If the title defense was to succeed, it rested on the team¡¯s performances on the floor exercise and pommel horse. A somewhat disappointing outcome on the Lions¡¯ first of the two events, the floor exercise, sealed Penn State¡¯s fate. The Lions managed only a 36.100, despite a career-high score of 9.300 from Lopez, shattering his previous high of 9.100. Vargas did his part with a 9.450, with the Lions also counted scores from Buczek (8.700) and Cohen (8.650).
Entering the final rotation, where real comparison was actually possible with every team¡¯s bye completed, the Lions sat in third place with a team score of 185.750 and six routines left on pommel horse. Oklahoma led the pack at that point with a 188.400 while Ohio State was second with a 187.075. Defending champ Vargas led the all-around by a .575 point margin.
Senior Jerker Taudien (Eskilstuna, Sweden), competing in his only event of the night, came through when the Lions needed a good score, posting the second-highest score of his career on the horse, a 9.200. Two falls in the Lion¡¯s early line-up made the final three competitors on the apparatus that much more crucial. Junior Brad Spicer (Fairfax, Va.), a pommel horse specialist, Helsby and Vargas were all that remained for the Lions to hinge their championship hopes on. Spicer delivered with a 9.025 and Vargas capped-off another all-around title with a session-leading 9.675 on the apparatus.
In the end, it was not enough as the Lions placed fourth, finishing with a 222.400 score.
In the post-meet press conference, Vargas commented on his second-straight all-around performance, ¡°This one was sweeter (then last year) since I hadn¡¯t trained in three weeks and didn¡¯t know what I could do.¡±
Head coach Randy Jepson sighted Vargas¡¯ overwhelmingly large heart, which he used to compete despite pain throughout his Penn State career, as the key to his success. His distinguished PSU career, in which he has already earned seven All-American citations, will end tomorrow after just three years. Vargas will graduate in May and return to his native Puerto Rico, which he represented in this past Olympics, finishing in the top 15.
Individuals finishing in the top 10 advance to the NCAA event finals tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Hollender Center at the United States Military Academy. A complete list of Penn State¡¯s individual qualifiers will be released shortly after the results are fully tabulated.
Live results throughout the NCAA championship weekend can be found by going to www.GoPSUsports.com.
Finals Results- NCAA Team Finals Team/Finish FX PH SR V PB HB Total 1. Oklahoma 37.475 37.150 38.700 37.275 37.250 37.825 225.675 2. Ohio State 37.450 37.225 38.375 36.875 36.675 38.850 225.400 3. Illinois 37.025 35.975 37.800 37.400 37.325 38.250 223.750 4. Penn State 36.100 36.100 37.925 37.175 37.125 37.425 222.400 5. California 36.850 36.475 38.100 36.800 36.025 37.825 222.075 6. Michigan 37.525 35.475 37.050 37.100 36.325 36.300 219.775 Penn State Individual Highs and Team Final Session Highs By Event Event PSU High Score Session High, School Score Floor Luis Vargas 9.450 G. Alvarez, Minn. 9.950 Pommel Luis Vargas 9.675 Luis Vargas, Penn State 9.675 Rings Matt Cohen 9.600 Nyika White, Temple 9.850 Vault Santiago Lopez 9.475 Luke Bottke, Michigan 9.550 P. Bars Luis Vargas 9.650 Adam Pummer, Illinois 9.775 H. Bar Luis Vargas 9.525 Randy Monahan, Ohio Stat 9.900 Justin Spring, Illinois 9.900 Willie Ito, Ohio State 9.900 All-Around Luis Vargas 57.175 Luis Vargas 57.175