Men's gymnastics advances to vie for national championship

April 20, 2012

NORMAN, Okla. -- Behind strong individual and team performances in the pommel horse and still rings, Penn State placed second in a qualifying session of the 2012 National Collegiate Men's Gymnastics Championships on Thursday (April 19) afternoon in Norman, Okla. With the top three teams advancing from the session, the Nittany Lions will vie for the program's NCAA-record 13th national championship on Friday evening.

Michigan placed first in the session, totaling a 353.450, followed by Penn State (353.000) and Stanford (348.500) in third. Ohio State finished in fourth (345.350) with Nebraska (340.550) and Iowa (336.650), taking fifth and sixth, respectively.

Penn State upheld its No. 1 national rankings in the pommel horse and still rings, recording the session's top team scores in each event. Freshman Craig Hernandez (Libertyville, Ill.) dominated the competition in the pommel horse, placing first with a 15.550, besting second place finisher and Big Ten co-champion Ty Echard of Ohio State by .5 of a point. Junior Scott Rosenthal (Clearfield, Pa.) and senior Miguel Pineda (Galloway, Ohio) far outdistanced the still rings field, finishing 1-2 in the event. Rosenthal won with a 15.550 while Pineda's runner-up score of 15.400 was . 5 of a point ahead of the third place competitor.

Penn State got off to a slow start, scoring below its season average in the parallel bars and high bar. Senior Warren Yang (Nepean, Ont.), competing for just the third time in the parallel bars this season, led the Nittany Lions, placing tied for seventh with a score of 14.500. Junior Felix Aronovich (Kiryat Bialik, Israel) highlighted Penn State's efforts in the high bar, recording a 14.750 to earn a third place finish.

However, the tide took a dramatic turn when the Nittany Lions rotated to floor exercise, an uneven event for the team throughout the 2012 season. Eschewing that trend, Penn State found its stride, scoring a 59.650. Yang, a late addition to the line-up stepped up at a pivotal time, scoring a team-best 15.100. Hernandez also came through, posting a season high score of 14.950.

"We got off to a really rough start," said Penn State head coach Randy Jepson. "We just weren't ourselves and were a little gun shy. But we finally got the ball rolling on floor and changed the momentum of the meet, which is really hard to do."

"Craig was clutch," continued Jepson. "He came through with a big floor routine when we needed it and his pommel horse was great. Warren wasn't scheduled to do floor and we were a little shaky, so I put him in. And he came through and did a great job for us."

After a bye, Penn State maintained that momentum in the pommel horse and still rings. Sophomore Adrian Evans (Boulder, Colo.) was key to the Nittany Lions' fortunes in the pommel horse, setting a career high (14.950) to finish in third place. Solid showings by Aronovich and redshirt sophomore Nihir Kothari (Malvern, Pa.) in the still rings helped Penn State rise to the top of the team standings.

Leading Michigan by over a point heading into the final rotation, Penn State faltered a bit in the vault and the Wolverines overtook the top spot with a solid outing on the floor exercise. Freshman Tristan Duverglas (West Orange, N.J.) continued to anchor the Nittany Lion vault line-up, scoring a team-high 15.150 to place seventh. Junior Parker Raque (Louisville, Ky.) tied for ninth with a score of 14.900.

The 2012 National Collegiate Men's Gymnastics Championships will continue on Friday, April 20 at Oklahoma's Lloyd Noble Center at 8 p.m. ET with the team and all-around finals. Performers that place in the top 10 in each event during the team finals competition advance to the individual event finals, set for Saturday, April 21 at 8 p.m ET.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 20, 2012