Howard's heroics carry men's gymnastics to NCAA team finals

April 09, 2015

NORMAN, Okla. -- Behind a pair of career performances from junior Trevor Howard (Columbus, Ohio), the No. 3 Nittany Lion men's gymnastics team advanced to Friday's NCAA team finals at the Lloyd Noble Center. Penn State finished third with its score of 432.900, two-tenths over Big Ten foe Minnesota (432.700).

As a team, the Nittany Lions posted the top score on the still rings (76.400), the second-best score on the floor exercise (75.250) and they finished third on the parallel bars (71.700).

Two weeks ago inside Rec Hall, Howard sealed Penn State's third Big Ten title with his score of 15.100 on the floor exercise. Thursday, the Nittany Lions put Howard into position to capture a spot in Friday's team finals.

Heading into the final rotation, Stanford led the competition (363.750) followed by Minnesota (360.850), California (360.500) and Penn State (357.650).

In the final rotation, California went to the vault, Minnesota took to the high bar and, just like at the Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Championships, two weeks ago, Penn State made its way to the floor.

The floor exercise began with Christian McSwain (Jamestown, N.C.) hitting 15.250, his second-best score of the year. Sophomore Dominic DiFulvio (Marietta, N.Y.) followed McSwain's 15.250 with a score of 14.250. Three-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week Thad Lawson (Chesapeake, Va.) was the third Nittany Lion to compete on the floor and his score of 14.700 kept the Nittany Lions in the competition for the team finals.

The final two Nittany Lions on the floor exercise, Matthew Felleman (Medway, Mass.) and Howard both posted career-best performances.

Felleman hit a career-best 15.250 and Howard tied his career-best (15.800) to move the Nittany Lions into third with their event score of 75.250 and an overall score of 432.900. Penn State score on the floor exercise is the third-best in school history. With Howard's routine in the books, Penn State had to wait for Minnesota's Steve Jaciuk to complete his high bar routine.

With all the events completed, California finished second on the vault with its score of 73.200 leaving the final spot down to Minnesota and Penn State. The high bar score came in and Jaciuk earned a 14.600 giving the Golden Gophers a final score of 432.700.

The Nittany Lions began the day with a score of 68.900 on the pommel horse. On the pommel horse, Craig Hernandez (Libertyville, Ill.) posted the top score for the Nittany Lions as he finished sixth overall with a score of 14.700.

After a tough start on the pommel horse, the Nittany Lions rebounded with a season-best score of 76.400 on the still rings. All five Penn State gymnasts found their stride on the still rings. Leading off for the Nittany Lions, freshman Greg Tamargo (Kennett Square, Pa.) tied his career-best (14.550) and then Leroy Clarke, Jr. (Maplewood, N.J.) recorded a top-10 finish (eighth, 14.900).

Following Clarke, Jr., senior captain Tristan Duverglas (West Orange, N.J.) posted a score of 15.400, which tied his second-best score of the year and it was the third-best score in session one.

Juniors Alexis Torres (Catano, Puerto Rico) and Howard were the final two gymnasts for Penn State and they posted the top-two scores on the afternoon. Torres claimed a score of 15.550 and Howard capped off the still rings for Penn State with the second-best score of his career (16.000). His score moves into a tie for seventh all-time at Penn State.

Penn State posted a season-best score of 76.400 on the still rings, which is also third-best score all-time in the school record books. The Nittany Lions also recorded the second-highest team score on the still rings this year in the NCAA.

With the first two rotations in the books, Penn State went to the vault. On the vault, the Nittany Lions were led by Howard and Duverglas. Howard finished fifth on the afternoon with his third-best score of the season (14.900) and Duverglas finished ninth (14.650). As a team, Penn State tallied a score of 72.100. After three rotations, the Nittany Lions were in fourth with their score of 217.400.

On the parallel bars, Penn State tallied a pair of top-five finishes. Howard recorded a mark of 14.850 for fourth and Clarke, Jr. tied for fifth (14.800). As a team, the Nittany Lions posted a score of 71.700.

Penn State then made its way to the high bar for rotation five. Freshmen Quest Hayden (Harrisburg, Pa.) and Lawson led the Nittany Lions on the high bar. Hayden tied for 16th (14.150) and Lawson tied for 22nd (13.900). On the high bar, Penn State finished with a score of 68.550.

In all, Howard led the Nittany Lions in four events (floor, still rings, parallel bars and the vault).

Penn State joins Stanford and California in Friday's team finals. The top three teams in Thursday night's session two will also advance to the team finals (8 p.m. ET).

Final Results:

1. Stanford -- 435.850

2. California -- 433.700 

3. Penn State -- 432.900 

4. Minnesota -- 432.700 

5. Nebraska -- 424.600 

6. Air Force -- 416.700

Last Updated April 17, 2015