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COLUMBUS, Ohio After having its home finale vs. Oklahoma cancelled March 8 because of weather, the seventh-ranked Ohio State men’s gymnastics team meets No. 5 Michigan at 7 p.m. Saturday in Ann Arbor, Mich., for its final meet of the 2008 regular season and its first competition in three weeks.

The dual between the Buckeyes (4-7; 2-4 Big Ten) and the Wolverines (6-5 overall) will be televised by the Big Ten Network on tape delay at 8 p.m. March 29.

GET IT HERE FIRST
Follow live scoring of the dual meet Saturday, which can be accessed from the men’s gymnastics page online at OhioStateBuckeyes.com.

WE MEET AGAIN
Since 1999, Ohio State and Michigan have met eight times for regular-season duals with the Buckeyes owning a 6-2 edge on the Wolverines. Last year, Miles Avery’s third-ranked squad defeated the first-ranked Wolverines, 220.5-215.85, at home in St. John Arena March 17. The score was the Buckeyes’ highest since the 2005 NCAA Championships (225.45). Ohio State won five of six events and posted team-season highs on pommel horse, vault, parallel bars and high bar. 

THE RECORD
March 17, 2007 W, 220.5-215.85
March 11, 2006 W, 214.3-212.7
March 13, 2005 W, 226.9-218.3
March 13, 2004 L, 219.45-219.725
March 15, 2003 W, 221.2-214.35
Jan. 20, 2001 L, 210.4-215.5
Feb. 5, 2000 W, 229.95-229.9
Jan. 29, 1999 W, 228.325-227.55

ON THE WOLVERINES
In his 12th season as the Michigan men’s gymnastics head coach, Kurt Golder has guided eight-consecutive teams to Super Six finishes at the NCAA Championships, including the Wolverines’ fourth-place finish at the 2007 NCAA Championships.

In 2008, juniors Ralph Russo and Joe Catrambone have anchored a young Wolverine team and lead them Michigan to a 6-5 overall record. In the GymInfo national rankings, Catrambone holds the nation’s top three-score average on high bar with a 15.317. Making a splash this season on high bar is rookie Thomas Kelley. Kelley and Buckeye freshman Sean Regan grew up competing together in their hometown of Libertyville, Ill.

FACETIME ON THE BIG TEN NETWORK
Ohio State men’s gymnastics made its debut on the Big Ten Network Feb. 28 as the network aired the co-ed dual between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions held Feb. 24 in historic St. John Arena. The meet was also shown March 2.

The Buckeyes’ meet against Michigan at 7 p.m. in Ann Arbor, Mich., will be the final test of the regular season and its second competition aired on the Big Ten Network. The matchup will run at 8 p.m. March 29 on delay.

THE CANDIDATE
DJ Bucher was tabbed a 2008 Nissen-Emery Award finalist March 12 by the College Gymnastics Association (CGA). A six-time All-American, Bucher has been a standout for the program since his rookie season when he collected All-America honors on three events, the most by a freshman in Buckeye history.

The Mason, Ohio, native captured the 2005 and ’07 Big Ten parallel bars titles and won the 2006 Big Ten pommel horse crown. Bucher, who was voted tri-captain of the 2008 squad, is a three-time All-Big Ten selection and a 2007 CGA Second Team All-America Scholar-Athlete.

In his time at Ohio State, the textiles and clothing major earned National Gymnast of the Week honors once (March 17, 2007) and Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honors twice (Jan. 31 and March 21, 2007).

Nationally, Bucher qualified for seven of the last nine USA Gymnastics’ VISA Championships and was named to the 2002 and ’05 U.S. Senior National teams.

2008 Nissen-Emery Award Finalists:
DJ Bucher, Ohio State
Wesley Haagensen, Illinois
Derek Helsby, Penn State
Jonathan Horton, Oklahoma
Tim McNeill, California
David Sender, Stanford
Luke Vexler, Temple

BUCKEYES AND THE 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. Only Oklahoma has had more gymnasts garner the recognition with five winners. Ohio State’s four honorees ties with Southern Connecticut State who also produced four before dropping its program in 2004. Since 1999, the Buckeye program has produced a candidate to the award’s finalists list eight of the last 10 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.

GO DJ, THAT’S MY DJ
Voted tri-captain of the 2008 squad at Ohio State’s Varsity Exhibition (Jan. 5), six-time All-American DJ Bucher started his senior season off strong, placing second on rings (14.9) and tying for fifth on parallel bars (14.45) at the Windy City Invitational (Jan. 12). He added another second-place finish on pommel horse with a season-high 14.6 at home against Illinois (Jan. 26).

20-PLUS
After Columbus endured a record setting 20-plus inches of snow, passing the city’s previous high of 15.3 inches set in February 1910, Ohio State’s scheduled meet vs. then-No. 3 Oklahoma was cancelled when the blizzard in Central Ohio curtailed the Sooners’ travel plans.

LAST TIME OUT
Despite topping its season-high set just a week before, the Buckeyes lost a conference dual to then-No. 2 ranked Penn State, 360.55-353.05, Feb. 24 in St. John Arena. At the meet, the junior class led Ohio State to its season-high with three event wins. Eddie Hay scored a season-best 15.75 on floor for first place, Andy Saurber had a 14.55 on pommel horse for the win and tri-captain Jake Bateman notched a season-best 15.5 on parallel bars, recording his third first-place finish on the apparatus in 2008. Bateman took second in the all-around with a career-high 89.55 while freshmanBrandon Wynn recorded season highs on four events en route to a season-best 87.0 score in the all-around for fourth.

OHIO STATE IN THE NATIONAL RANKINGS
Entering the 11th week of the regular season, Ohio State remains seventh in the GymInfo national rankings with a team total season average of 350.717 after five competitions. Stanford maintains atop the standings with a 361.433 average with Oklahoma (360.717) and Penn State (358.917) following in second and third, respectively. California, fourth in the rankings, holds a 357.983 average while Michigan rounds out the Top 5 with a team average of 357.1.

The Buckeyes hold Top 10 team averages on all six events, including a team-best sixth on floor (59.317). The squad holds eighth on pommel horse (56.15), rings (58.65), parallel bars (57.667) and high bar (57.0) while its 62.383 average on vault is good for 10th.

BUCKEYES IN THE TOP 10
Three Ohio State gymnasts hold Top 10 individual event scores in the national rankings, including captains Jimmy Wickham and Jake Bateman. Bateman, a native of Kingsport, Tenn., owns the highest ranking of a Buckeye, holding the nation’s fourth spot on parallel bars with a 15.35 three-score average. His average is good for second among Big Ten gymnasts. Bateman also owns the country’s seventh-best and Big Ten’s fourth-best all-around average of 86.95.

Wickham, a native of Gulfport, Miss., holds fifth on vault with a 16.133 while junior Eddie Hay of Butler, Pa., enters the national rankings in fifth on floor (15.567). 

CONFERENCE STANDINGS
Defending national champion Penn State leads the Big Ten Conference with a season average of 358.917 points. Michigan moved ahead of Illinois in the rankings with a 357.1 average for second while the Fighting Illini round out the league’s Top 3 with a 355.883 three-score average. Ohio State is fourth with a team average of 350.717 and Minnesota holds fifth (346.683) in the Big Ten and eighth in the country. Iowa’s average of 345.8 ranks sixth in the conference and ninth in the nation.

FROM EAST TO WEST
This year, Miles Avery, 11th-year head coach of Ohio State, has flown from coast-to-coast with 2008 Olympic hopefuls Paul and Morgan Hamm and Blaine Wilson and the traveling continues. Avery, a product of Philadelphia, will serve as head coach of the U.S. team at the 2008 Pacific Rim Championships March 28-30 in San Jose, Calif. At the international competition, he will guide a squad consisting of senior national team members Paul Hamm, former Buckeye Raj Bhavsar (2000-03) and Alexander Artemev.

Teams competing at the championships include Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Japan, Mexico, Russia and the United States, all of whom have already qualified their teams or gymnasts for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In addition, Chile, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, Peru and Singapore will also be competing at the Pacific Rim Championships.

THE MEASURING STICK
After winning the 2008 Tyson American Cup all-around title March 1, his second in as many tries since returning to national competition, Paul Hamm and personal coach Miles Avery returned to Columbus, Ohio, from New York City. In Columbus, they were joined by five other members of the current U.S. Men’s Senior National team and Paul’s twin brother Morgan Hamm for a four day training camp.

Avery hosted the seven athletes at Steelwood Athletic Training Facility, the practice gym of the Buckeyes, which also serves as the training venue for Olympians Blaine Wilson and Paul and Morgan Hamm. March 3-6, Steelwood became the scene for a four day mini-training camp for the U.S. Olympic hopefuls.

“It’s exciting to host a U.S. National training camp at Ohio State because you know Olympians are going to come from this group of guys,” Avery said. “Hosting it gives the OSU team an opportunity to see some of the best gymnastics in the country.”

During the camp, the seven athletes trained together for the U.S. Olympic Trials held June 19-22. At the conclusion of the trials, the national program will name the athletes who will represent the country at the 2008 Beijing Olympics this summer.

UP NEXT
Postseason action kicks off April 4-5 for the Buckeyes with the Big Ten championships held at 7 p.m. both nights at Rec Hall on the campus of Penn State. Then Ohio State flies across the country to compete at the NCAA championships hosted by Stanford in Maples Pavilion.