No. 2 Men's Gymnastics Seeks 13th National Title at 2012 National Collegiate Championships
April 16, 2012
Competition at the 2012 championships begins on Thursday, April 19 with two qualifying sessions, scheduled for 2 and 8 p.m. ET. Penn State, along with Stanford, Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, and Iowa will compete in Session I while Oklahoma, Illinois, Minnesota, California, Temple, and Air Force will comprise the Session II field.
The top three teams from each qualifier will then advance to contend for the national championship at 8 p.m. ET on Friday, April 20. The individual all-around champion will also be crowned that evening. The following night, on Saturday, April 21, the individual event finals will be held at 8 p.m. ET, with six national titles and All-America honors at stake.
PREVIEWING PENN STATE
Penn State is getting significant contributions from every class, particularly its group of juniors, five of which are ranked nationally in at least one event. Twenty-one year head coach Randy Jepson is also relying on youth, with freshmen anchoring the Nittany Lion line-up in two events.
In the floor exercise, junior Parker Raque is the Nittany Lions' anchor, placing in the top two in 10 meets this season, including seven first place finishes.
Craig Hernandez, 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 and capturing a share of the Big Ten title. Sophomore Preston Gall and junior Felix Aronovich provide the Lions with a triple threat on horse.
Junior Scott Rosenthal 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. He was crowned a Big Ten champion at the 2012 event, earning the program's eighth conference still rings title. Senior team captain Miguel Pineda and redshirt sophomore, a 2012 Big Ten medalist in the event, combines with Rosenthal to headline the nation's No. 1-ranked still rings team.
Aronovich, ranked No. 4 in the nation, represents Penn State's best hope in the parallel bars.
Aronovich and sophomore Wasef Burbar, 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 and earned First Team All-Big Ten honors with a fourth place finish at the 2012 conference championships.
As a team, Penn State is ranked in the top five nationally in five of six events, including No. 1 in the pommel horse and still rings. Individually,12 different Nittany Lions own top 20 rankings. Penn State has at least one individual nationally ranked in each event, including five still rings competitors and four from its pommel horse line-up.
The nation's elite men's gymnasts will converge upon the Lloyd Noble Center on the host campus of the University of Oklahoma to vie for team and individual glory from April 19-21 at the 2012 National Collegiate Championships.
Penn State, the No. 2 seed, 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.
Top-seeded and 2012 MPSF champion Oklahoma, which spent most of the season as the No. 1-ranked team, has won five of the previous 10 national championships and could be poised to add another trophy to its collection. The host Sooners boast the nation's top all-arounder in Jake Dalton, who is also the No. 1-ranked competitor in the floor exercise and parallel bars.
Third-seeded Stanford, which placed second at the MPSF Championships, is the nation's top team in the vault and the parallel bars. Highly nationally ranked competitors Eddie Penev, Gabe Alvarado, James Fosco, Sean Senters, Cameron Foreman, and John Martin provide the Cardinal with a formidable line-up.
Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and California will also challenge for the 2012 crown. Four-time defending Big Ten champion Illinois is led by Nissen-Emery Award favorite Paul Ruggeri and freshman phenom C.J. Maestas. Ruggeri, a three-time NCAA champion and U.S. Senior National Team member, is ranked No. 1 in the nation in the vault and high bar while Maestas earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors following his all-around title win at the conference championships. Michigan has momentum after an impressive second place showing at the Big Ten Championships. Sophomore Sam Mikulak, the 2011 NCAA all-around champion, and freshman Adrian de los Angeles are the cornerstone competitors for the Wolverines. Minnesota, headlined by senior Russell Dabritz and sophomore Zack Chase, has demonstrated steady improvement throughout the season and could surge into contention. California, a program that was brought back from the brink of elimination last spring, is a dangerous team, whose roster features Nissen-Emery candidate Glen Ishino and solid all-arounder Donothan Bailey. Penn State, the nation's No. 1-ranked team in the pommel horse and still rings, will counter with veterans Miguel Pineda and Warren Yang, a group of standout juniors headlined by Felix Aronovich, Parker Raque, and Scott Rosenthal, and talented freshmen Craig Hernandez and Tristan Duverglas.
FOLLOW THE ACTION ONLINE
Fans can also keep up-to-date as Penn State pursues its 13th national championship on Twitter. Get timely news, notes, and scores by following @GoPSUMGym.
PENN STATE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
Penn State shares with Illinois the NCAA record for individual titles (51).
PENN STATE AT THE 2011 CHAMPIONSHIPS
In the team finals, Penn State finished in sixth place, recording a team score of 355.700. Advancing to vie for national title in five events were Raque (floor exercise, still rings, vault), Pineda (still rings), Rosenthal (still rings), Wasef Burbar (high bar), and Tony Beck (pommel horse).
In the individual event finals, Raque (T5th in floor exercise, 4th in vault), Pineda (2nd in still rings), Rosenthal (8th in still rings), and Burbar (6th in high bar), earned All-America honors with top eight finishes.
Penn State had its share of success against national championship qualifying teams during the regular season, compiling a 5-1 record. At home in historic Rec Hall, the Nittany Lions defeated Big Ten champion Illinois (347.800-346.500), Ohio State (355.500-347.200), Minnesota (359.300-347.900), and Temple (360.600-342.200). Penn State also topped Temple to open the 2012 campaign at the West Point Open (352.000-342.300). The Nittany Lions' lone regular season loss came early on, a 340.300-338.450 setback at Michigan on January 21. Penn State did not meet Air Force, California, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Stanford in the regular season.
2012 BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIPS REVIEW
Junior Felix Aronovich placed fourth in the all-around (86.450), earning First Team All-Big Ten honors. Freshman Craig Hernandez anchored Penn State's pommel horse line-up, dominating the competition with a score of 15.500. Junior Scott Rosenthal scored a team finals-high 15.900 in the still rings.
In the individual event finals, Rosenthal and Hernandez were crowned Big Ten champions. The duo's title wins highlighted solid overall performances by a group of 10 Nittany Lions that competed on day two.
Rosenthal won the still rings (15.900) while Hernandez tied for first place in the pommel horse (14.850), sharing the title with Ohio State's Ty Echard. The pair became Penn State's first conference champions since 2008 when Tommy Ramos claimed his second still rings title and Casey Sandy won the all-around and parallel bars. Rosenthal secured Penn State's eighth still rings title while Hernandez is the program's first pommel horse champion since Mike Dutka in 1998.
Aronovich and redshirt sophomore Nihir Kothari medaled in the still rings, tying for third place (15.250).
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
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
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
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.
ROSENTHAL HONORED WITH BIG TEN SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD
ELEVEN NITTANY LIONS NAMED ACADEMIC ALL-BIG TEN
Seniors Miguel Pineda (biology), Logan Wyman (Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies), and Warren Yang (marketing), juniors Felix Aronovich (engineering science), Matt Chelberg (civil engineering), Mackenzie Dow (biology), Parker Raque (marketing), and Scott Rosenthal (kinesiology), and sophomores Adrian Evans (DUS), Preston Gall (DUS), and Ingvar Jochumsson (engineering) 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.