UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – It was a back-and-forth tilt on Saturday that No. 1 Penn State came out on top of inside Huff Hall on the campus of Illinois. The Nittany Lions (11-0) won four of the six events under the new scoring system and eventually claimed a 438.900-436.250 decision against host No. 7 Illinois (7-5) to remain undefeated on the season.
Illinois and Penn State exchanged the lead throughout every rotation, but the Nittany Lions were able to squeak out the victory by just over two points. It was the smallest margin of victory of the season for Penn State, but the Nittany Lions were able to claim wins on the pommel horse, vault and high bar as a team, while boasting a season-high team score on the still rings.
Illinois led after the first rotation when Penn State posted its lowest pommel horse score of the season, but falters on the pommel horse for Illinois and another strong showing on floor exercise pushed the Nittany Lions ahead after two rotations. Illinois pushed back in front after a solid showing on rings, but PSU pushed through on the fourth rotation and had a season-high score of 77.250 to slip back in front. An good performance on high bar allowed Illinois to take over a one-point lead into the final rotation, but the Lions finished strong on the parallel bars to account for a three-point swing to claim the victory.
Only two individuals won events, along with Felix Aronovich claiming the all-around. Sophomore Matthew Felleman tied with Illinois’ Joey Peters for the top spot on the high bar at 14.800, while rookie Trevor Howard topped the field on the parallel bars with a score of 15.250. Aronovich finished the all-around with a score of 87.100 to edge Illini all-arounder Yoshi Mori’s score of 86.800.
Aronovich walked away with four top-five finishes on the evening, including career-best showings on the floor exercise and still rings. He marked 15.100 on the floor exercise and 15.550 on the still rings, while also collecting a 15.200 on the parallel bars to tie for second in the event.
After his breakout performance on the high bar last weekend against Springfield, junior Wasef Burbar came through with two more career-best efforts; coming on the floor exercise and parallel bars. Burbar was seventh on the floor with a final mark of 14.700 and came through with a fourth-place showing on parallel bars with a final score of 15.100.
Howard had another solid showing against a quality opponent as he was among the top-three finishers in each of the events he touched. Along with topping the charts on the parallel bars, he finished second on the vault (15.100) and third on the still rings (15.600).
Senior Scott Rosenthal competed for just the second time in 2013 on the still rings against the Illini and finished second with a season-best score of 15.640.