April 12, 2010
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.
- The eighth-ranked Penn State men's gymnastics team will look to add to its NCAA record by capturing the program's 13th national title when it travels to West Point, N.Y. and the host campus of the United States Military Academy to compete at the 2010 National Collegiate Championships. The 68th annual event will be held at the home of the Black Knights, Christl Arena.
Competition at the 2010 championships begins on Wed., April 15 with two qualifying sessions, scheduled for 1 and 7 p.m. Penn State, along with Illinois, Illinois-Chicago, Ohio State, Stanford and Temple will compete in Session I while California, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Oklahoma will comprise the Session II field.
The top three teams from each qualifier will then advance to contend for the national championship at 7 p.m. on Fri., April 16. The individual all-around champion will also be crowned that evening. The following night, on Sat., April 17, the individual event finals will be held at 7 p.m., with six national titles and All-America honors at stake.
PREVIEWING PENN STATE
A Penn State team that features nine true freshmen, seven of which have made significant contributions throughout the 2010 season, enters the National Collegiate Championships looking to make a name for itself against the nation's best gymnastics talent. In the floor exercise, senior Nick Virbitsky, an All-American in the event as a freshman in 2007 and a 2010 Second Team All-Big Ten honoree, and freshman Nick Grant own all of PSU's top scores this season. Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Year Felix Aronovich, who scored a team-high 15.100 versus Michigan, represents Penn State's best hope in the pommel horse. Sophomore Miguel Pineda and freshman Scott Rosenthal, who combined to collect six titles and 14 top three finishes, will headline the Nittany Lions on the still rings. Grant, who earned the program's top vault score since 2008 this year, a 16.050, Virbitsky, and senior Noam Shaham provide Penn State with a triple threat in the vault. Redshirt freshman Philip Harris has been Penn State's most consistent parallel bars competitor but Aronovich and Shaham will also be major factors. Senior Matt Greenfield recorded a season, career, and team season best score of 15.200 in the high bar in his final appearance at Rec Hall. He will form a formidable high bar trio with fellow seniors Virbitsky and Shaham.
PREVIEWING THE 2010 CHAMPIONSHIPS
The nation's elite men's gymnasts will converge upon Christl Arena on the host campus of the United States Military Academy to vie for team and individual glory from April 15-17 at the 2010 National Collegiate Championships. Penn State will strive to put together its best effort of the season to make a push for the program's 13th national championship but will face stiff competition in that quest.
Illinois, the No. 1 seed and newly crowned Big Ten champion, is loaded with talent, led by Paul Ruggeri and Daniel Ribeiro, the nation's top ranked performers in the high bar and pommel horse, respectively, Nissen-Emery Award candidate Luke Stannard, and Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Year Yoshi Mori. Second-seeded Oklahoma, winners of five of the previous eight national championships, could be poised to add another trophy to its collection. The Sooners boast the NCAA's top two ranked all-arounders in junior Steven Legendre and freshman phenom Jake Dalton and will get key contributions from standouts Alex Naddour, Bobby Shortle, and Ian Jackson.
Michigan, Stanford, Ohio State, and Cal will also challenge for the 2010 crown. Michigan, which posted the highest team score of the season (364.450), features a line-up that includes 2010 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year and conference all-around champion Chris Cameron, 2009 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year Thomas Kelley, and still rings specialist Philip Goldberg. Defending national champion Stanford, though seeded fourth, is considered a top contender thanks in part to Tim Gentry, the nation's No. 1-ranked vaulter, and Eddie Penev. Despite a disappointing showing at the Big Ten Championships, Ohio State will likely be in the thick of the race. The Buckeyes are fronted by Brandon Wynn, the No. 1-ranked still rings competitor. Cal, which has battled injuries throughout the season, remains a dangerous team with Kyle Bunthuwong and Glen Ishino in its arsenal. Penn State will counter with seniors Nick Virbitsky and Noam Shaham, sophomore Miguel Pineda, and a superb class of young up-and-comers including Felix Aronovich, the Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Year, Nick Grant, Mackenzie Dow, Tony Beck, Parker Raque, and Scott Rosenthal.
FOLLOW THE ACTION ONLINE
Fans can follow all of the action of every day of competition at the 2010 National Collegiate Men's Gymnastics Championships on the Internet with scoring updates after every rotation. Find a link on the official website of Nittany Lion athletics, www.GoPSUsports.com.
Penn State men's gymnastics backers can also follow along on Twitter as assistant director of athletic communications John Regenfuss "tweets" live updates from the championships. Visit www.twitter.com/psusportsjr to get instant news, notes, and scores.
CHAMPIONSHIP TV COVERAGE
The team and all-around finals of the 2010 National Collegiate Men's Gymnastics Championships will be broadcast tape delayed on ESPN2 on Fri., April 23 at 1:30 p.m. ET.
PENN STATE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
Penn State owns an NCAA record 12 national championships, beginning with its first title in 1948. The Nittany Lions have captured the title 11 additional times since: 1953, 1954, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1965, 1976, 2000, 2004, and 2007.
An NCAA record 51 individual titles have been won by Nittany Lions. Second on the all-time list is Illinois with 50.
PENN STATE AT THE 2009 CHAMPIONSHIPS
Newly-crowned Nissen-Emery Award winner and injury-hobbled Casey Sandy won the all-around in session one of the national qualifier with a score of 90.500, but Penn State finished fourth as a team with a score of 352.150, failing to advance to vie for the national championship for the first time since 2002.
During the team finals, Sandy, who severely injured his toe during the Big Ten Championships, fell short is his defense of his 2008 NCAA all-around title, placing seventh but did advance to the individual event finals in the vault.
Sandy brought to a close one of the most distinguished careers in Penn State men's gymnastics history the following evening by placing seventh in the vault, earning his ninth All-America honor.
PENN STATE VS. THE CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD IN 2010
Penn State, for the most part, struggled against national championship qualifying teams in the regular season, compiling a 3-5 record. The Nittany Lions downed Temple (349.850-338.700) at the West Point Open in the second week of the season and then went on to gain wins against Minnesota (350.150-348.250) and Temple (350.150-330.900) in a tri-meet at Rec Hall on March 6. Penn State dropped all three of its dual meets versus Big Ten opponents, falling at Michigan (355.650-344.750) on Jan. 24, at home against Illlinois (354.600-345.950) on Feb. 20, and at Ohio State (353.600-347.100) one week later. The Lions ended the regular with back-to-back losses to MPSF opponents Cal (354.650-344.400) and Oklahoma (359.250-354.450). Penn State did not meet Stanford, Nebraska, Illinois-Chicago, and Iowa in the regular season.
2010 BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIPS REVIEW
Penn State overtook two higher nationally ranked teams, including host Ohio State, to place a surprise third at the 2010 Big Ten Championships. The Nittany Lions tied a season-high in the still rings, totaling a 59.550, and posted totals above its season average in the parallel bars (56.600) and high bar (57.700) but had their struggles in the floor exercise (58.800), pommel horse (53.450), and vault (61.700). For the second consecutive year, Nick Virbitsky earned PSU's top finish in the team finals, finishing in a tie for third place in the floor exercise. His score of 15.300 was the third-best by a Nittany Lion this year. Scott Rosenthal headlined Penn State's efforts on the still rings, finishing fifth with a score of 15.050 while Miguel Pineda (T7th, 14.950), Noam Shaham (Kfar Saba, Israel) (10th, 14.800), and Matt Chelberg (11th, 14.750) also contributed key routines.
In the individual event finals, Virbitsky placed second in the floor exercise, earning Second Team All-Big Ten honors. Pineda also medaled, finishing in a tie for third place in the still rings. Freshmen Tony Beck and Nick Grant had solid performances in their first Big Ten Championships, placing fourth in the parallel bars and fifth in the vault, respectively.
ARONOVICH NAMED BIG TEN FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Felix Aronovich was recognized as Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Year following the Big Ten Championships, becoming Penn State's second recipient of the award and its first since Mike Dutka in 1997. Aronovich was spectacular in his rookie season, claiming 13 top three finishes, including six titles, and earning Big Freshman of the Week honors twice. At the team finals of the Big Ten Championships, Aronovich finished seventh in the all-around with a season-high score of 84.800. He shared the 2010 award with Illinois' Yoshi Mori.
SHAHAM HONORED WITH BIG TEN SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD
Senior Noam Shaham was named Penn State's recipient of the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award following competition at the 2010 Big Ten Championships. The honor is given to the one gymnast from each team in the conference who best reflects the principles of sportsmanship and fair play established by the Big Ten.
EIGHT NITTANY LIONS NAMED ACADEMIC ALL-BIG TEN
The Big Ten Conference office recently announced its Academic All-Big Ten teams for the Winter term and eight Penn State men's gymnasts were recognized for their achievements in the classroom. Seniors Matt Greenfield (Psychology), Allen Harris (Kinesiology) and Noam Shaham (Engineering Science), junior Warren Yang (Marketing), redshirt sophomore Logan Wyman (Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies), sophomores Matt Albecht (Health and Human Development) and Miguel Pineda (Science), and redshirt freshman Philip Harris (Health and Human Development) earned the honor. To be eligible for Academic All-Big Ten selection, student-athletes must be letter winners in at least their second academic year and carry a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher.
BIG TEN FRESHMEN HONORS
With a multitude of injuries of varying degrees to a host of veterans including seniors Allen Harris (biceps), Matt Greenfield (concussion), and Noam Shaham (shoulders) and juniors Warren Yang (shoulder) and Matt Albrecht (concussion, thumb), Penn State has been forced to rely heavily on its talented freshman class in 2010. Of the 407 total routines performed by Nittany Lion gymnasts this season, 216 have been contributed by true freshmen or 53 percent. If sophomores (or gymnasts with two years or fewer of competitive collegiate experience) are included, that number jumps to 303, meaning underclassmen have accounted for a remarkable 74 percent of Penn State routines.
Nittany Lions captured five of the 11 Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors bestowed by the conference this season. Nick Grant
won the award for standout performances at the West Point (Jan. 18), a win against William & Mary at Rec Hall (Jan. 31), and a home loss to Oklahoma (March 20). The Butler, Pa. native has been one of Penn State's most consistent and strongest competitors in 2010, claiming a combined eight first place finishes in the floor exercise and vault. Felix Aronovich
earned recognition following strong efforts versus Army (Jan. 11) and Michigan (Jan. 25). The former Israeli Army soldier has secured a total of 12 top three finishes in the pommel horse, still rings, and parallel bars and owns the teams top scores for the season in pommel horse (15.100) and parallel bars (14.850).
VETERAN VIRBITSKY KEY IN 2010
On the team laden with freshmen, senior Nick Virbitsky has lent a veteran presence and been a steadying force for Penn State in 2010. One of the few upperclassmen to remain healthy throughout the year, he has been a critical contributor in his three signature events, the floor exercise, vault, and high bar. Virbitsky has won three floor exercise and two high bar titles this season, compiling 15 top three finishes overall. At the Big Ten Championships, he placed second in the floor exercise in the individual event finals, earning Second Team All-Big Ten honors. Virbitsky owns PSU's top floor exercise score of the season (15.450) and the second best score in the vault (15.950) and the high bar (15.050).
ALBRECHT FINISHES STRONG
After being hampered by a concussion and a thumb injury over the course of the season, junior Matt Albrecht returned strong to have an impressive showing in the regular season finale versus Oklahoma. The native Canadian set career highs in three events, the floor exercise (15.100), pommel horse (14.300), and parallel bars (14.550), and established a season best in the vault (15.450). Albrecht went on to set a career high in the high bar during the team finals of the Big Ten Championships, scoring a 14.550.
GREENFIELD SHINES ON SENIOR NIGHT
Senior Matt Greenfield made the most of his final appearance in a Nittany Lion uniform in Penn State's Senior Night match-up with Oklahoma at Rec Hall. Competing in just one event, the high bar, Greenfield gave a standout performance, earning a career and team season high score of 15.200 to claim first place.
LATE SEASON IMPROVEMENT
As the regular season winded down, Penn State did what all coaches hope a young team does - show improvement. As a team, the Nittany Lions established new season highs in all six events in the last four weeks of the regular season, including three in the finale versus Oklahoma. Individually, PSU gymnasts set highs in four of the six events (still rings, vault, parallel bars, and high bar) in the same time span.
ARONOVICH'S FAST ADJUSTMENT
Freshman Felix Aronovich had to make a quick adjustment upon arriving in State College, not just to college life but also to living in a foreign country and competing at the NCAA level. In late December, Aronovich completed his compulsory stint in the Israeli Army and after his discharge, found himself in Happy Valley enrolled at Penn State one week later. Less than two weeks following his arrival in the U.S., on Jan. 9, Aronovich was in the starting line-up, competing in three events as the Nittany Lions took on, ironically, Army.
RAQUE ROCKS ON RINGS
Freshman Parker Raque performed on the still rings just six times in his rookie season but his effort in one meet was enough to raise some eyebrows and offer a glimpse of future greatness. In a meet at Ohio State on Feb. 27, he scored a team season-high 15.200, a mark that bested the previous high by .15. Raque placed second in the event, behind only Buckeye Brandon Wynn, a member of the U.S. Men's Senior National Team. Earlier in the season, Raque earned his first rings crown as a collegiate gymnast, tying for the top spot in a home meet against William & Mary.
HARRIS MAKES MOST OF OPPORTUNITY
After redshirting his freshman season, Philip Harris, younger brother of 2010 team captain Allen Harris, emerged as Penn State's most consistent parallel bars performer in his second collegiate season. Harris provided stability to the p-bars line-up, competing in the event in eight of nine meets, earning four top three finishes, including two title wins.
Penn State boasts an NCAA-record six Nissen-Emery Award winners in the storied history of the program. Nittany Lion recipients include Steve Cohen (1967), Bob Emery (1969), for whom the award is partially named, Gene Whelan (1976), Spider Maxwell (1987), Matt Cohen (2007), and, most recently, Casey Sandy (2009). This season marks the first time since 2002 that Penn State does not have a finalist for the Nissen-Emery Award.
HARRIS CAPTAINS THE LIONS
Senior Allen Harris is Penn State's team captain for the 2010 season. The two-time All-Big Ten Academic honoree and 2009 CGA First Team All-American Scholar Athlete has been forced to lead from the sidelines for much of the year while recovering from a torn biceps suffered in the offseason. Excelling in the floor exercise and the vault throughout his career, while also contributing in the still rings and parallel bars, Harris has competed just four times this season but has provided sound leadership to a very young Nittany Lion squad.
TAN ON NATIONAL TEAM
Penn State assistant coach and 2008 bronze Olympic medalist Kevin Tan secured a roster spot on the U.S. Men's Senior National Team based on his performance at the 2010 Winter Cup Challenge. Tan, who is still attempting to regain his top form following post-Olympic shoulder surgery, had a strong showing in his signature event, the still rings. The five-time Winter Cup still rings champion finished fourth with a score of 14.900. He also posted finals scores of 11.700 in the pommel horse, 13.200 in the parallel bars, and 14.400 in the high bar, a .450 improvement over his preliminary effort. Combining his scores from the two-day event, Tan tied for sixth in the high bar, seventh in the still rings, 13th in the parallel bars, and 27th in the pommel horse.