Dec. 3, 2002
Coming off a second-consecutive Big Ten Championship, the Ohio State men’s gymnastics team has enormous potential for the 2002-03 season. Coach Miles Avery feels he has another championship team on his hands this year. The Buckeyes will return 33 out of 36 routines performed at the NCAA championship last year where they placed second to Oklahoma by less than one point. In addition, five All-American will return to compete this season. The NCAA and Big Ten individual champion, senior Raj Bhavsar, will help lead the team as it strives for a Big Ten and NCAA championship.
Last season, the freshman class was called upon often and performed well. In the NCAA championships, the class performed 11 of 36 routines. Kerry Adderly was an All-American on floor and Randy Monahan was an All-American on high bar. With one year of experience and the off-season to improve, the class should be ready to move into the spotlight.
Last year, floor was the best event for Ohio State. Senior Dick Huntwork, junior Jamey Houle and Adderly were All-Americans in the event last year and return this year. Over the summer, Monahan finished fourth in the country at the USA Championships. Senior Michel Evens has three yeas experience of competing in the event and freshman Ronald Ferris will add to the already strong floor team.
Another strong event for the Buckeyes is pommel horse, where all six routines performed at the NCAA championships return. Senior Ryan Schwartzkopf, who was a staple in the pommel horse lineup last season, is one of most improved in the event and carries a career high of 9.925 points into the season. Bhavsar will strive to be the best in the country this year. Junior Jamie Shepard and Monahan improved tremendously over the summer and Houle has competed well in the event over the last three years. Pommel horse is Ferris’ best event and he will compete throughout the season.
Although Ohio State historically has competed well on rings, it was not the strongest event for the team last year. Avery has been working to improve his team in the event. Senior Matt Smith improved since last year and will be one of the strongest in the country. Bhavsar ranked No. 2 in the nation last year and will look to be the best in the country. Monahan has shown improvement and will add to the unique group of competitors. Junior Eric Van Sickle and Huntwork will help out over the duration of the season. Adderly has made the most improvements on the event, however, sophomore Cody Trobaugh and Shepard continue to improve as well. Rings will be a deep event for the team.
They Buckeyes typically are one of the best teams in the nation on vault and they do not plan on deviating from that reputation this season. One of the team’s goals is to be the best on vault in the country. With the new Steelwood Facility, the team has the opportunity to vault every day, an opportunity that was unavailable before. This will improve the team, which already has proven to be one of the best in the nation.
Monahan improved by learning one of the hardest vaults in the country over the summer. Adderly already is one of the best in the country; Bhavsar will rival him to be among the best. Huntwork and Van Sickle will be a part of the line up for this event. Shepard and Evans have shown vast improvements and should solidify the event as the second deepest, allowing the squad time to rest and try new things over the course of the season.
As one of the most crucial and lowest scoring events in competition, Ohio State will return all routines from a squad that was second in the country last year. This season, the team will strive to be the top team in the nation; however, some of Ohio State’s competitors have made improvements on parallel bars and will rival the Buckeyes. Although Bhavsar is one of the best in the country in the event, Adderly, Trobaugh and Monahan did very well in the NCAA Championship last year. Ferris, on his second best event, is expected to displace one of the veterans. The same type of performance is critical to the success of the team.
Every team has an Achilles’ heel, and for the Buckeyes, high bar is it. In previous NCAA competitions the squad has not performed up to its potential. Avery has addressed the team with his concerns about the event and squad agrees they cannot allow high bar to negatively impact the team in competition as it did in the NCAA championships last year. Instead, the Buckeyes will do whatever it takes to challenge themselves to improve.
Depth, Depth and more Depth
Ohio State has an arsenal of gymnasts that will compete in some events and provide depth in others. Freshman Matt Dwork has clean lines and great executions, where freshman Nicholas Searcy will more than likely redshirt while improving his strength and gymnastics. Freshman Jason Kaplan is the future of the team in terms of rings and will help out down the road. Sophomores Phil McClellen and Tim Saxton are hard workers that continue to improve. It is Avery’s intention to use the entire roster and reward the hard work of the Buckeyes.
Ohio State will start the season in St. John Arena with a formal intra-squad scrimmage. Avery wants the squad to take every opportunity to feel comfortable in its home arena, especially because the 2003 Big Ten Championships will be held there near the end of the season.
The Windy City Invitational, on Saturday, Jan. 4, is the first meet of the year where Ohio State will face other Big Ten opponents. The Buckeyes will just be starting to get their routines together and their goal is not to score well in the tournament. Instead, the team will try out different combination of student-athletes in different events. Even though most of the Big Ten will compete, lately the invitational is not an indicator for who will have the best team at the end of the year.
The squad will take the next week off before playing host to Illinois-Chicago on Saturday, Jan. 25 in St. John Arena. Last year, the Buckeyes made a tremendous improvement on how they scored in the first dual match compared to the Windy City Invitational. This year, the team will look to duplicate that progress.
The next week, Ohio State will travel to Champaign, Ill., to face Illinois in a co-ed dual match. Illinois is a good team that competes well at home. The Fighting Illini has a team that is similar to the Buckeye squad last year; they have several young talented student-athletes.
The team will then travel to Las Vegas to compete in the Winter Cup Challenge on Feb. 7-8. Several young Buckeyes will vie for a one of the four spots available on the USA Sr. National Team.
On Friday, Feb. 14, Nebraska will visit St. John Arena to compete in a co-ed dual match. Ohio State still will be experimenting with the line up and trying new things, so winning the meet will not be the main objective.
The Buckeyes will begin a three-meet road trip in State College, Pa., where they will challenge Penn State. The Nittany Lions were a young team last year that should be significantly better this year. This is one date on the calendar where the Buckeyes will want to perform at their best.
The next stop for Ohio State is Norman, Okla. This is not only the home of the defending national champions, Oklahoma, but also the site where the NCAA championships were held last year. Winning the dual match is not the top priority, but it would send the message the Buckeyes are a force to be reckoned with. If Bhavsar’s rehabilitation goes as planed, this should be his first competition of the year.
The last road dual meet of the year is in Minneapolis, Minn., against Minnesota. Last year, the Golden Gophers had one of the most improved programs in the Big Ten and there is no reason why this year should be different. Over the last several years, Ohio State has competed well at Minnesota.
The final dual meet of the season is at home against Michigan Saturday, March 15, at St. John Arena. The Wolverines were the second -best team in the Big Ten last year and among one of the top in the nation. They will be looking for a victory in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State will have its best team on the floor and look to send a message to the Big Ten and the rest of the country they are ready for the postseason.
Ohio State will play host to the Big Ten Championships March 28-29 in St. John Arena. The Big Ten is the best and most competitive men’s gymnastics conference in the country. The Buckeyes will look to extend their streak to three-consecutive Big Ten championships for the first time in program history.
The Buckeyes will look to extend their record to 23-consecutive trips to the NCAA championship, which will be held in Philadelphia at Avery’s alma mater, Temple. It will be his goal to make the team feel at home, especially considering the home team has won the national title the last two years. Winning this tournament is the ultimate goal for the team this year and would make the second national championship in three years.