Penn State Gymnastics to Host Double Dual Against Ohio State
STATE COLLEGE, Pa., Feb. 21, 2003 - For the first time this season, both the men's and women's gymnastics teams will be competing together. The top-ranked Penn State men take on the second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes while the 18th-ranked Penn State women battle the 21st-ranked Buckeyes.
The Nittany Lion men are undefeated heading into the meet, while the Buckeyes are making their first regular season trip to State College since the 2000 season. This will be the first conference action for the Penn State women while the Buckeyes are 2-1 in the Big Ten.
Penn State has been the top team in the nation the last five weeks of the season, recording a two-score average of 218.325. The Lions scored a season-high 219.400 in the win over Michigan (210.350) at Rec Hall in the home opener on Jan. 25 and have scored at least a 216.950 in their last three meets. The Lions are also No. 1 on parallel bars and high bar, while rating in the top 10 on the other four events.
Looking to post their first win over the Buckeyes since a 229.025-228.500 victory in 2000 in State College, Penn State is lead by a couple of seniors. Senior captain Jose Palacios (Gijon, Spain) had an outstanding outing against the Wolverines. In his first meet in front of the home crowd since the 2001 campaign, he scored a 55.050 to win the all-around and was the top all-arounder in the nation Jan. 27-Feb. 3. This week, he is second nationally on parallel bars and ninth on high bar.
All-American Kevin Donohue (Saddle River, N.J.) was the No. 1 all-arounder in the country the week of Jan. 20 and is second in this week's GymInfo poll. He has won two all-around titles this season, placing in the top three at every meet. The reigning Big Ten High Bar Champion, Donohue has been No. 1 on the apparatus for five straight weeks.
Junior Kevin Tan (Fremont, Calif.) has continued to dominate on rings this season. The 2002 NCAA runner-up and two-time All-American on the event, he ranks second in the nation with a two-score average of 9.700. Tan has not been beaten on the apparatus this season, posting impressive victories on both nights of the Winter Cup Challenge where he was competing against 80 of the country's top male gymnasts.
Freshman Luis Vargas (San Piedras, P.R.) as also impressed in his first collegiate season. He has ranked as high as second in the all-around and this week is fifth on pommel horse, 10th on high bar and sixth in the all-around.
Two-time Big Ten Champion Ohio State recorded the highest score in the nation since 2001, earning a 220.500 in a win over Nebraska last weekend, moving the team up to No. 2 in the national rankings. The Buckeyes are the No. 1 team on floor and are in the top four on the five other events.
NCAA and Big Ten All-Around Champion Raj Bhavsar competed in his first dual meet of the season at Nebraska. A member of the US National Team, he has been struggling through a shoulder injury through most of the season.
Buckeye Randy Monahan is fourth nationally in the all-around with a two-score average of 53.925, while teammate Dick Huntwork is 15th overall. At least two Buckeyes are ranked in the top 20 on every event.
The 18th-ranked women are coming off two wins last weekend over West Virginia and Rutgers to improve their overall record to 7-5. Penn State posted a season-high score of 195.450 to claim the crown. The Nittany Lions have won seven of their last eight contests and this will be their first Big Ten action of the season.
Senior Katie Rowland (Georgetown, Ontario) comes into the meet as the reining Big Ten Gymnast of the Week. She earned the honor after she set a Penn State school record and equaled a Big Ten-best by scoring a perfect 10.000 on the vault on her way to claiming the all-around title against Rutgers and West Virginia. The senior tallied an all-around score of 39.675, just .050 shy of her school record set last season. She placed among the top two in each of the remaining events, winning the vault and floor exercise (9.950), tying for first on the balance beam (9.900) and tying for second on the uneven bars (9.825).
In addition to her vault title, Rowland also earned the top score on the floor and beam while senior Katie McAvoy (Winnipeg, Manitoba) also claimed the top spot on the beam with a season-high 9.900. McAvoy, who finished third in the all-around with a season-high 39.475, also set season-highs on the beam and floor (9.850).
Several freshman have also been making an impact for the Lions as all have competed this season. Erin Clayton (Louisville, Ky.) saw her first collegiate action last weekend, scoring a 9.200 on the beam. Meredith Hoover (Dublin, Ohio) has competed on the beam and floor in every meet, posting an average score of 9.621 and 9.779, respectively, in the events. Michelle Ilg (Colonia, N.J.) also has seen action in every meet, posting an average score of 9.483 on the vault while Jennifer Orlando (Herndon, Va.) posted a career-high 9.800 last weekend on the vault.
The Nittany Lions are ranked 18th in this week's GymInfo Women's National Ranking, also ranking second behind Michigan in the Northeast Regional rankings. As a team, Penn State ranks 17th in the nation on the vault with an average of 48.840. The Nittany Lions also rank 17th in the nation on the bars with a team average score of 48.740. Individually, senior Katie Rowland is fourth in the nation with a vault average of 9.929 and is 11th on the floor with a 9.904 average. She ranks 31st in the nation in the all-around with an average score of 39.187 average.
With Ohio State's 5-3 overall record, the Buckeyes, No. 21 in the country, have already surpassed their total number of victories last year when they went an uncharacteristic 3-15. The Buckeyes started the year with a loss at then-No. 6 Michigan and have since reeled off five wins against their last seven opponents and four of their last five in dual meet competition. Last week they set their highest point total of the season in a win at Pittsburgh by recording a score of 196.050 and are ranked 15th on the beam with an average of 48.596.
Senior Rickee Wirtzberger found a way to leave her mark in Ohio State history against Ball State (Feb. 8) after she posted a career-high perfect 10 on floor exercise, which also set the Buckeyes school record. Freshman Shelby Warner has scored a 9.900 twice already in her young career on floor exercise and recorded a season-high 39.075 in the all-around against Michigan State Jan. 25.
Penn State leads the series with Ohio State, 28-15. The last dual-meet meeting was a 195.350 to 194.700 Buckeye win in Columbus, Ohio, on Jan. 27, 2001. The two schools also met at the 2001 Big Ten Championships, where Ohio State placed fourth with a score of 194.725 and Penn State finished seventh with a score of 192.550.
The Penn State men's and women's gymnastics teams are competing in the Bryce Jordan Center for this meet due to a conflict with Rec Hall. The 31st-annual Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) will be held all weekend at Rec Hall. The largest student-run philanthropy in the world, THON raises money for the Four Diamonds Fund to help families and children with cancer. Dancers begin Friday night at 7:00 p.m. and end Sunday night at 7:00 p.m.
Visit Penn State's official athletics website, www.GoPSUsports.com for more information on the Nittany Lion gymnastics teams.