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Oct. 23, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA.; September 6, 2012 -- As it does every season the Penn State men's gymnastics squad will compete against some of the best programs in the country during the 2013 slate. Head coach Randy Jepson's roster will face off with seven teams that are ranked in the College Gymnastics Association's preseason top-15 and the University Park campus will play host to the NCAA Championships for the eighth time in program history from April 19-21.
"Hosting the NCAA is huge for our program," said Penn State head coach Randy Jepson. "We bid on this meet four years ago without any idea of what type of team we'd have. We'd brought in eight freshmen in hopes that they'd be a group that would be ready to challenge for a championship, but there are no guarantees. As things have progressed, it's developed to where we are now in a spot where we can say that they are ready to challenge for a championship. So the stage is set. We need to stay healthy and do our jobs for the season. It's nice to have a group that's prepared to step into that arena and compete."
The general public will get their first glimpse of the men's gymnastics program on Dec. 14 when the Nittany Lions hold their annual Gymnastics Showcase in conjunction with the women's squad. This event will feature the entire men's and women's rosters competing against one and other to kick off the season in Rec Hall. The tune-up for the season opener will leave just 126 days for the men's squad to get ready to host the nation's elite college gymnasts.
The Blue and White will open the season with a pair of service academies, hosting Army in a dual meet at Rec Hall on Jan. 12 before heading to Annapolis, Md. to compete in the Navy Open. Along with the Nittany Lions, Navy will welcome William & Mary, Temple and Springfield College to Macdonough Hall for the one-day competition on Jan. 19. The Navy open closes out a light month before Penn State heads into a five-meet month in February.
"We generally try to (schedule) teams from the east to test our guys early in the season," said Jepson. "You look at the preseason rankings, and there are some very strong teams throughout the east and, as always, in the Big Ten. With Michigan being No. 1 and Illinois at No. 2 (in the preseason polls), there are going to be some challenging meets ahead of us. When it comes down to it, at the end you want to have guys that are battle hardened and ready, and those types of meets throughout the season are going to help us at the championship meets. It should be a good set up for us."
Big Ten foe Ohio State begins the second month of the year with a double-dual meet on Feb. 2 at 7:00 as the Nittany Lions look to continue their five-meet winning streak versus the Buckeyes. Penn State took a 355.5-348.2 decision last year in Columbus and Ohio State will venture to Happy Valley for the 2013 meeting. Next on the schedule will be a trip to Las Vegas to compete in the two-day Winter Cup Challenge. The USA Gymnastics-sponsored event will take place on Thursday, Feb. 7 and Saturday, Feb. 9 at The LV Sports Center. A trip to Temple on Feb. 16 and a home meet versus Springfield College on Feb. 23 will close out the shortest month of the calendar year.
March will feature three road trips and one home meet for Penn State, starting the month at defending National Champion Illinois on March 2. The Nittany Lions and Fighting Illini have meet during each of the past five seasons, with Penn State winning four of those matchups in the regular season. Illinois enters the season as the No. 2 ranked team in the College Gymnastics Association poll, while Penn State sits fourth nationally entering the 2013 campaign.
For the third straight year, Penn State will travel to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to face off with the Caribbean island's national team on March 8. The meet has been a success for the program during the past two seasons - winning each of the team competitions - but also allows the three members of the PSU squad from Puerto Rico to compete in front of their family and friends. The lone home meet of the month will take place on March 16 when Michigan, who is the top ranked team in the preseason poll, travels to Happy Valley before the Nittany Lions head to Minnesota for their final dual of the season on March 23.
The Championship portion of the schedule will begin on April 5-6 when the squad returns to Minneapolis to compete in the Big Ten Championships. The Nittany Lions captured the Big Ten title last in 2008 and will look to improve on their third place showing from a year ago.
For the seventh time in Rec Hall and eighth time in program history, the University Park campus will be taken over by the nation's top collegiate gymnasts when the NCAA Championships return to the historic venue from April 19-21. The Nittany Lions will look to build on their third place finish from last season and add to their nations-best 12 NCAA titles when they host the championships. The last time the championships were held at Rec Hall the Nittany Lions won it all in front of their home crowd in 2007.
"There's nothing like performing on your home turf," said Jepson, "and we hope to have a great crowd, a very supportive crowd, with the Blue-White (football) game being the same weekend."