Jan. 25, 2009

 

Courtesy of Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – After two consecutive heartbreaking regular season losses to Michigan, the No. 3 Penn State men’s gymnastics finally got the better of its conference rival on Saturday night at Rec Hall, knocking off the No. 2-ranked Wolverines, 348.900-348.350, in a back-and-forth, down-to-the-wire, thrilling match-up of Big Ten and national powers.
 
In the final rotation with only a few competitors remaining and with the Nittany Lions facing a seemingly insurmountable deficit, prospects for a Penn State victory looked bleak. However, season-high high bar scores from junior Noam Shaham (Kfar Saba, Israel) (14.700) and senior Casey Sandy (Brampton, Ont.) (15.450) fueled an unlikely Penn State comeback and propelled the Lions to the upset win.
 
For Sandy, his career-best performance on the high bar was the icing on the cake of an overall exceptional effort. The defending NCAA All-Around Champion willed Penn State to victory with his clutch performances, winning the vault (15.950), parallel bars (14.700), and high bar titles on his way to capturing the all-around crown with a score of 90.000, the highest in the nation thus far this season.
 
Shaham also played a major role in the win, placing second in the floor exercise (tie, 14.900) and third in the rings (tie, 14.800) and the high bar. For his contributions, he was honored as the meet’s Gene Wettstone Award recipient.
 
Also key for Penn State was its team effort on the still rings, an event in which the Lions have struggled through the first two weeks of the 2009 season. Five competitors set season-high marks, helping PSU amass a score of 59.000, a total that was two full points highest than its previous best. Emerging freshman Miguel Pineda (Galloway, Ohio) took the rings with a score of 15.100, his third title-win in the event this season.
 
The Nittany Lions were also dominant on the vault, taking the top six spots in the event. Title-winner Sandy was followed in the standings by Matt Greenfield (Villanova, Pa.) (15.650), Nick Virbitsky (Harrisburg, Pa.) (15.550), Allen Harris (Lancaster, Pa.) (15.500), Matt Albrecht (Guelph, Ont.) (15.450), and Noam Shaham (tie, 15.350).
 
The Nittany Lions return to road action next weekend when they visit Minneapolis, Minn. for a dual meet with No. 5 Minnesota on Sat., Jan. 31. The clash of Big Ten foes is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the home of the Golden Gophers, the Sports Pavilion. The journey to the Twin Cities will be the first of two this season for the Nittany Lions, as the National Collegiate Championships will be hosted by Minnesota from April 16-18. A year ago, Penn State dominated Minnesota in a dual at Rec Hall, 354.200-343.350 thanks to event wins by Casey Sandy (floor exercise, parallel bars, high bar) and Vladi Klurman (vault).