Men's gymnastics captures third Big Ten title

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State men's gymnastics team won the 2015 Big Ten Championship in thrilling fashion Friday night in front of 1,060 fans inside Rec Hall. Penn State won its title with a team score of 436.700, edging out Illinois (436.100) and Michigan (434.750). Along with Penn State's third Big Ten title, senior Matthew Felleman (Medway, Mass.) won Penn State's third all-around title with his career-best score of 87.200. At Saturday's individual finals junior Trevor Howard (Columbus, Ohio) claimed his second straight Big Ten title on the still rings to account for the Penn State's lone individual event title

Going into the final rotation on Friday, it was a close matchup between Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Penn State. Heading into the seventh and final rotation, Michigan led the competition with its score of 434.750. Michigan, though, would be done for the evening as they had a bye in the final rotation.

With six rotations in the books, Michigan held a 71.350 point lead over Illinois, a 71.550 point lead over Minnesota and a 72.850 point over Penn State.

In the seventh rotation, Illinois went to the parallel bars, Minnesota competed on the pommel horse, Michigan was on its bye and Penn State took to the floor exercise.

Minnesota was the first team out of three to finish; in the end they tallied a score of 70.350 to finish with a score of 433.750, leaving the meet down to Illinois, Michigan and Penn State.

Illinois and Penn State gymnasts went back and forth finishing their respective routines vying for the Big Ten crown.

Due to an injury earlier in the meet to Alexis Torres (Catano, Puerto Rico), Christian McSwain (Jamestown, N.C.) found himself leading off for the Nittany Lions in the floor exercise. In his first event of the meet, McSwain posted a mark of 14.800 to give the Nittany Lions an energetic start. Following McSwain was Dominic DiFulvio (Marietta, N.Y.). DiFulvio recorded a score of 14.750 to continue the momentum for Penn State and next up for the Nittany Lions was three-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week Thad Lawson (Chesapeake, Va.).

Lawson built off the success from the first two Nittany Lion performances and recorded the third-best score (15.250) overall on the evening. Felleman was the fourth Nittany Lion gymnast to compete and he scored 14.900. The final Nittany Lion to compete was Trevor Howard (Columbus, Ohio), who two years earlier won the NCAA floor exercise title at Rec Hall. Howard posted a score of 15.100 to give the Nittany Lions a team score of 74.800 on the floor exercise and the top score overall in the competition. Penn State would have to wait to see if its score would hold with Illinois' final competitor about to take to the parallel bars.

On the parallel bars, Illinois recorded scores of 13.750, 14.650, 15.050, 14.100 and 15.150 giving them a team total of 72.700 and an overall score of 436.100. With Illinois' score in the books, Penn State claimed its third Big Ten title (2003, 08)

Penn State opened the meet with a bye in rotation one and then started competing on the pommel horse in rotation two.

On the pommel horse, the Nittany Lions posted an overall score of 69.250. Two-time Big Ten pommel horse champion Craig Hernandez (Libertyville, Ill.) tallied the top score on the evening (15.200). Following the pommel horse, Penn State went onto the still rings.

In the still rings, Penn State posted the top score in the competition (74.950). Individually, the Nittany Lions recorded three of the top five scores. Howard led all gymnasts with a career-best score of 16.100. Tristan Duverglas (West Orange, N.J.) and Alexis Torres (Catano, Puerto Rico) both posted scores of 15.100 to tie for fifth. Penn State's score of 74.950 ranks third all-time and Howard moved into a tie for third with his mark of 16.100.

In rotation four, the vault, Penn State finished third with a score of 73.750. Lawson and Howard both posted scores of 15.050 to tie for fourth and they advanced to the individual finals Saturday night; Lawson's score of 15.050 is a career-best.

The Nittany Lions would then head to the parallel bars. In rotation five, Torres was not able to complete his routine and freshman Quest Hayden (Harrisburg, Pa.) made his Big Ten Championships debut. With Hayden waiting to compete, Howard tallied a score of 14.850. Hayden then took to the parallel bars and recorded a mark of 14.300. As a team, Penn State posted a score of 72.600 to tie for third.

With Torres done for the evening, Lawson took his spot on the high bar.

Felleman and Leroy Clarke, Jr., (Maplewood, N.J.) led the Nittany Lions on the high bar with their top-five performances. Felleman posted the second-best score (15.100) and Clarke, Jr., recorded the fifth-best mark (14.750). As a team, Penn State tallied the second-best score in the competition and a season-best mark of 72.350. Penn State's score of 72.350 ranks tenth all-time in the Nittany Lion record books.

Felleman captured Penn State's third all-around title with his score of 87.200, edging out Illinois' Bobby Baker (87.100) and C.J. Maestas (87.050). Casey Sandy (2008) and Mike Dutka (1998) both won Big Ten all-around titles for Penn State.

In the all-around, Felleman recorded scores of 14.900 (floor exercise), 13.800 (pommel horse), 14.200 (still rings), 14.700 (vault), 14.500 (parallel bars) and 15.100 (high bar).

The Nittany Lions received a one point deduction for the injury substitution.

With the Big Ten title Friday, Penn State has won 91 Big Ten titles and 18 in the past three years.

Overall, Penn State had seven gymnasts perform 10 different routines at the individual event finals on Saturday. The Blue and White placed three gymnasts among the top-three on the podium, including two appearances by Howard.

The Nittany Lions will have an 11 day break between competitions, as they prepare for the NCAA Championships in Norman, Okla. Penn State will look to capture its first team national championship since 2007, as they enter the event ranked No. 2 nationally behind host Oklahoma. 

Final Results
1. Penn State -- 436.700
2. Illinois -- 436.100
3. Michigan -- 434.750
4. Minnesota -- 433.750
5. Ohio State -- 429.350
6. Iowa -- 427.600
7. Nebraska -- 420.100

Last Updated March 29, 2015