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No. 6 Ohio State aims for Top 6 finish in the Twin Cities

SCHEDULE
Thursday, April 16
2 p.m. ET NCAA Qualifier Session I
California, Stanford, Illinois, Penn State, Nebraska and Navy
Sports Pavilion, Minneapolis, Minn.

8 p.m. ET NCAA Qualifier Session II
Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, UIC
Sports Pavilion, Minneapolis, Minn.

Friday, April 17
8 p.m. ET NCAA Team Championships
Sports Pavilion, Minneapolis, Minn.

Saturday, April 18
8 p.m. ET NCAA Individual Event Finals
Sports Pavilion, Minneapolis, Minn.

COLUMBUS, Ohio The Ohio State men’s gymnastics team, ranked sixth in the country, will conclude its season at the 2009 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships Thursday-Saturday hosted by the University of Minnesota at the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis, Minn.

The competition opens Thursday with the 12-team national qualifier. The national qualifier consists of an afternoon qualifying session at 2 p.m. ET and an evening qualifying session at 8 p.m.

The No. 6 Buckeyes, who placed third at the Big Ten Championships April 3, will compete Thursday in the evening qualifier along with defending champion and No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 3 Illinois, No. 10 Illinois-Chicago, No. 11 Iowa and host and No. 7 Minnesota. Top-ranked Stanford headlines the afternoon qualifying session that also includes No. 4 Michigan, No. 5 California, No. 8 Penn State, No. 9 Nebraska and No. 12 Navy.

The Top 3 teams from each session will advance to the six-team finals at 8 p.m. Friday. The Top 3 all-around competitors not on one of the qualifying teams, plus the Top 3 individuals on each event not already qualified on a team or as an all-around competitor, will also advance to the finals session. The individual event finals are scheduled to take place at 8 p.m. Saturday.

For the past three seasons, the Buckeyes have just missed out qualifying for the team championships, finishing seventh in 2006 and ’08 and eighth in 2007. Ohio State has claimed NCAA titles in 1985, ’96 and 2001. In 11 seasons, Ohio State head coach Miles Avery has produced one national championship team and four national runner-up squads.

THE FIELD
The Buckeyes are seeking their first Super Six finish at the national championships in three years. Ohio State holds a 349.870 national qualifying average (NQA) in the GymInfo national rankings to enter the national competition as the No. 6 seed. Stanford holds the No. 1 seed with a commanding 359.92 NQA followed by No. 2 Oklahoma (357.57) and No. 3 Illinois (355.96).

Michigan, who tied Illinois for a share of the 2009 Big Ten team title, sits at the No. 4 seed with an NQA of 354.13 while California comes in at fifth with a 353.97 mean. Host Minnesota holds the No. 7 seat just behind Ohio State with a 348.25. The Buckeyes outscored the Gophers 349.9-348.0 to hold on to third at the Big Ten Championships April 3.

No. 8 Penn State carries a 346.43 NQA and is followed by No. 9 Nebraska (341.93), No. 10 UIC (339.03), No. 11 Iowa (337.79) and No. 12 Navy (337.16).

GOING TO NATIONALS
Tickets, both all-session and single-session ticket packages, are on sale through the University of Minnesota Athletics Department and may be purchased in person at the ticket office in Mariucci Arena, over the phone by calling 612-624-8080 or 800-UGOPHER, or online at www.gophersports.com.

All-session adult tickets, which include all four competition sessions, are priced at $35, with all-session student tickets available for $25. Single-session tickets are priced at $15 for adults and $8 for students. Special single-session packages for groups of 15 or more are also available and are priced at $5 per ticket.

WATCH IT ON TV
ESPN2 will televise the 2009 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships on tape-delayed basis at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, April 23.
 
OHIO STATE AT THE CHAMPIONSHIPS
The Buckeyes last won the national title in 2001 in their home venue of St. John Arena in Columbus, Ohio, with a season-high score of 218.125. Three members of the 2001 squad notched individual event championship titles as well. Jamie Natalie won the all-around, Daren Lynch won on vault and Raj Bhavsar won on parallel bars.

With a 232.150 team score, Ohio State won the 1996 NCAA Championship. Former Buckeye Blaine Wilson captured the all-around, rings and parallel bars titles. Teammate Drew Durbin earned a national championship on pommel horse.

In 1985, Ohio State earned the program’s first national championship, accumulating 285.350 points. Twin bothers Noah and Seth Riskin were named co-champions on parallel bars at the event finals.

ALL-AMERICA NODS
Head coach Miles Avery has coached 19 All-Americans and eight NCAA individual event and all-around champions since taking the helm in 1998. Last season, Jake Bateman earned his first All-America honor, placing sixth in the all-around. In 2008, Jimmy Wickham (2005-08) concluded his career as a four-time national honoree adding accolades on floor and vault. In 2007, fifth-year senior Pejman Ebrahimi became the first Buckeye since 2005 to win a national title, tying Stanford’s David Sender on vault.

Since Don Perry first earned All-America status on the trampoline in 1954, Ohio State has had 42 gymnasts collect the honor. In Ohio State history, former Buckeyes Mike Racanelli (1987-90) and Blaine Wilson (1994-97) tallied 10 individual honors each in only three seasons.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONS
Ohio State gymnasts have earned 24 NCAA individual championships. Former student athlete and Olympian Blaine Wilson leads the Buckeyes after garnering six national championships in two seasons.

2007 NCAA Vault Champion Pejman Ebrahimi is the only current Ohio State gymnast to win an individual championship.

AT THE HELM OSU COACHES POCKET NATIONAL HONORS
In 2007, Ohio State men’s gymnastics head coach Miles Avery and assistant coach Doug Stibel were named Central Region Coach and Assistant Coach of the Year, respectively, at the NCAA/CGA banquet at the Mt. Nittany Club in Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pa.

For Avery, the honor was the third of his 10-year tenure at the helm of the Ohio State program. His first came in 2002 and he also earned the distinction in 2005. Stibel’s recognition was the first of his career.

Under Avery, the 2007 team became the first in OSU program history to capture three-consecutive Big Ten championship titles. The 2007 Big Ten Champions won OSU’s third title in as many years March 30, 2007 at the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis, Minn., with a score of 217.75, topping Penn State by only one-tenth of a point.

Stibel, then in his sixth season as assistant coach, earned his first assistant coach of the year honor. A former Buckeye gymnast, Stibel has helped coach Ohio State to four Big Ten championship titles. A four-year letterwinner (1996-99), Stibel was a member of the 1996 NCAA championship team and the ’96 and ’97 Big Ten championship squads.

A LOOK BACK AT 2008 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
With a team total of 351.8, Ohio State placed fourth at the first of two NCAA qualifying sessions April 17, 2008, in Maples Pavilion on the campus of Stanford University. The fourth-place finish knocked the Buckeyes out of contention for the 2008 national team title. The Top 3 finishers from the afternoon session were Oklahoma (357.5), Penn State (357.3) and Michigan (354.3).

Individually, 10 Buckeyes qualified for the second night of competition, including Jake Bateman who would go on to earn All-America honors in the all-around. With a career-high 87.7, Bateman received his first All-America nod and became the first Buckeye to earn the national laurel in the all-around since Randy Monahan finished second in 2005.

Competing as individuals during the team competition April 18, 208 in Maples Pavilion, senior tri-captain Jimmy Wickham and junior Andy Saurber claimed Top 8 finishes and qualified for the NCAA individual event finals. Wickham advanced on floor and vault after scoring a 15.4 (sixth) and 16.3 (third), respectively, while Saurber moved on to the pommel horse finals after tallying a 14.4 for sixth.

At the event finals, Wickham conclude his college career earning All-America status on floor and vault April 19, 2008. Wickham, a native of Gulfport, Miss., tied for second on floor with a 15.6 while placing third on vault with a 16.325. He ended his Ohio State career as a four-time All-American. Competing in his first NCAA individual event final, Saurber scored a 13.25 to finish 10th on pommel horse.

BIG TEN ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Philip Onorato had a spectacular Big Ten championships, earning the coveted 2009 Big Ten Freshman of the Year honor while also placing second on rings (15.275) and vault (16.0) April 4. The Plano, Texas, native became just the sixth Buckeye to earn the conference’s rookie of the year honor and the first since senior teammate Jake Bateman was the honoree in 2006.

Onorato also received First Team All-Big Ten honors for his sixth-place finish in the all-around April 3.

REWIND 2009 BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIPS
Ohio State extended its streak of Top 3 finishes at the Big Ten Championships to 22 in a row April 3, finishing third for a second-consecutive year with a tally of 349.9 in Crisler Arena on the University of Michigan campus. The championship title came down to Michigan’s final routine and resulted in a tie as both the Wolverines and Illinois scored a 357.1 team total. Minnesota trailed the Buckeyes in fourth with a 348.0 while Penn State placed fifth (340.8) and Iowa sixth (337.75).

Two Buckeyes finished in the Top 6 of the all-around. Senior co-captain Jake Bateman, a 2009 Nissen-Emery Award finalist, placed third with an 88.55 while freshman Philip Onorato took sixth with an 82.65. Onorato’s tally was the best by a rookie at the meet.

The following night, Onorato headlined Ohio State’s stellar performance at the conference event championships April 4, earning the coveted Big Ten Freshman of the Year honor while also placing second on rings (15.275) and vault (16.0).

Bateman and Onorato earned first-team All-Big Ten accolades after placing third and sixth, respectively, in the all-around while Pejman Ebrahimi was named Ohio State’s Big Ten Sportsmanship honoree.

Joining Onorato on the podium for rings were sophomore Brandon Wynn in third (15.25) and Bateman in fifth (15.025). Bateman, who competed in 5-of-6 event finals, placed on four events, including floor (fourth), rings, vault (sixth) and parallel bars (sixth). Junior Shachar Tal recorded his first Top 6 league finish with a fourth-place 14.725 on parallel bars.

EBRAHIMI NAMED CAPTAIN
Fifth-year senior Pejman Ebrahimi was named co-captain of the Ohio State squad March 31, Miles Avery, men’s gymnastics head coach, announced. Ebrahimi, a 2007 NCAA champion on vault, joins senior Jake Bateman in the leadership role for the remainder of the season in replace of injured junior co-captain Tai Lee.

AVERY’S BUCKEYES PERFORM AT BIG TENS
Under Ohio State head coach Miles Avery, the Buckeyes have never finished out of the conference’s Top 3 in 12 seasons, extending the program’s record to 22-consecutive years placing in the top half of the league.

Since garnering its first Big Ten crown in 1983, an honor the Buckeyes shared with Illinois, Ohio State has collected 12 conference team titles in 26 seasons. With Avery at the helm, the Buckeyes have garnered five first-place finishes (2001, ’02, ’05, ’06, ’07) and two second-place finishes (2000, ’03).

BUCKEYES IN THE NATIONAL RANKINGS
The Scarlet and Gray have five gymnasts holding Top 15 national qualifying averages. Jake Bateman ranks on three events, including the all-around. The 2009 Nissen-Emery Award Finalist sits at fifth in the all-around (87.96), sixth on rings (15.13) and 10th on high bar (14.5). Sophomore Brandon Wynn is the highest ranking Buckeye in fourth on rings with a 15.24 NQA.

Fifth-year senior Pejman Ebrahimi is tied for 13th on vault with a 15.62 NQA. In 2007, Ebrahimi won the NCAA vault title. Senior Eddie Hay is tied for 14th on floor with a 15.05 mean while rookie pommel horse specialist Ty Echard is 15th with a 14.41 average on the event. Echard tallied a 15.0 to qualify for his first Big Ten pommel horse finals April 3 and opened his career with a 15.3 vs. UIC Feb. 21. 

BATEMAN NAMED NISSEN-EMERY AWARD FINALIST
Jake Bateman, a senior and two-time captain of the Ohio State men’s gymnastics team, was named a 2009 Nissen-Emery award finalist by the College Gymnastics Association.

As he did a season ago, Bateman has led the Buckeyes in the all-around in 2009, including a season-high 88.65 in the all-around vs. Michigan (March 21). In six meets this season, the Kingsport, Tenn., native and product of Premier Athletics has recorded four first-places finishes, one each on floor (15.1; Feb. 21 UIC), vault (15.6; Jan. 17 Windy City Invite) and high bar (15.3; March 21 Michigan), as well as an all-around win (86.1; Feb. 28 Penn State). Bateman has tallied two or more team-best scores in five of his six meets this season.

The Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2006, Bateman earned his first All-America honor in the all-around with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA championships. He finished second in the all-around at the 2008 Big Ten Championships to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors as a junior. Studying biology at Ohio State, the polished athlete also is a leader in the classroom as a CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Second Team Academic All-American and First Team All-District selection.

The Nissen-Emery award winner will be announced at the College Gymnastics Association Banquet April 15 in Minneapolis, Minn., the site of the 2009 National Collegiate Men’s Gymnastics Championships.

The Nissen-Emery Award Finalists:
Jake Bateman (Ohio State)
Chris Brooks (Oklahoma)
Kit Beikmann (Minnesota)
Kyson Bunthuwong (California)
Philip Goldberg (Michigan)
Sho Nakamori (Stanford)
T.J. Schmidt (Nebraska)
Jacob Schonig (Air Force)

OHIO STATE AND THE NISSEN-EMERY AWARD
Four Buckeyes have won the Nissen-Emery award, including Mike Racanelli in 1990, Kip Simons in 1994, Blaine Wilson in 1997 and Jamie Natalie in 2001. In the last 20 years, only Oklahoma has had more gymnasts garner the recognition with five winners. Illinois, Minnesota and Stanford each have had two honorees since 1989. Since 1999, the Scarlet and Gray have produced a candidate to the award’s finalists list nine of the last 11 seasons.

Each year, the prestigious Nissen-Emery Award is presented to the nation’s outstanding senior male collegiate gymnast. In addition to excellence in the sport, the winner also must be an example of good sportsmanship and maintain a high standard of scholarship throughout his college career.

BEST IN THE COUNTRY
A native of Voorhees, N.J., Brandon Wynn notched an NCAA-leading 16.1 on rings vs. Michigan (March 21) in St. John Arena. No other Division I NCAA gymnast has produced a mark above a 15.65 in 2009. Bryant Hadden of Stanford and Jacob Schonig of Air Force trail Wynn with a pair of 15.65s. His mark stands as both a career and Ohio State program high on the event.

RINGS KINGS
The Buckeyes have placed 1-2-3 on rings four times this season, including at the Big Ten team championships April 3. The squad earned its first sweep vs. UIC Feb. 21 and repeated the effort at Oklahoma March 14 and vs. Michigan March 21 in St. John Arena. At the league championships, Wynn led the Buckeye effort and was followed by Philip Onorato in second and Jake Bateman in third. Onorato went on to place second at the Big Ten event finals with a 15.275, just five-hundredths of a point shy of Michigan’s Philip Goldberg (15.325). Wynn finished third (15.25) and Bateman fifth (15.025).

With a 60.55 event total average, Ohio State is second in the national rankings with a 60.31 national qualifying average, trailing only Stanford (60.93). Brandon Wynn, who notched an NCAA-best 16.1 vs. the Wolverines March 21, holds fourth in the national rankings with a 15.24 NQA while Bateman comes in at sixth with a 15.13 mean. 

FOLLOW THE LEADERS*
Senior Jake Bateman and junior Tai Lee were announced captains of the 2009 Buckeyes at the Varsity Exhibition Jan. 10 as voted by their teammates.

Bateman, the 2006 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, paced the Buckeyes a season ago, earning All-America status in the all-around with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA championships. In addition, Bateman finished second in the all-around at the 2008 Big Ten Championships to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors as a junior. The Kingsport, Tenn., native becomes a two-time captain for Ohio State after taking the role on in 2008.

Studying biology at Ohio State, the polished athlete also is a leader in the classroom as a CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Second Team Academic All-American and First Team All-District selection.

Lee, a native of Orlando, Fla., had a standout freshman season, competing at 6-of-7 regular-season meets before sustaining a shoulder injury that kept him out of the lineup for the majority of 2008. In only three meets, he helped Ohio State to a third-place finish at the 2008 Big Ten Championships and finished third in the all-around during the NCAA qualifier. Lee is majoring in consumer affairs.

*Note: Pejman Ebrahimi was named co-captain March 31.