COLUMBUS, Ohio Miles Avery, Ohio State men’s gymnastics head coach, announced senior Jake Bateman and junior Tai Lee captains of the preseason No. 3-ranked Buckeye squad as voted by their teammates Saturday at the Varsity Exhibition at Steelwood Athletic Training Facility. The exhibition marks the end of preseason activities for Ohio State as it opens regular-season action at the 39th-annual Windy City Invitational at 8 p.m. Saturday in Chicago, Ill.
“With Jake and Tai, who are both very different people, I think this team will be served well,” Avery said. “It shows that this team knows itself very well to know they need both type of characters to lead this team.”
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. The Kingsport, Tenn., native becomes a two-time captain after serving taking the role on in 2008. Bateman 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.
“Obviously, it is an honor,” Bateman said. “To be voted captain for a second season means a lot. Staying unified as a team this year is the most important goal for me.”
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 his sophomore season.
“It is a real honor to have my teammates elect me as one of their captains,” Lee, a consumer affairs major, said. “It means a lot to have their trust.”
In all, 13 former letterwinners attended the 2009 Varsity Exhibition, held yearly to thank the program’s alums. Making his 10th-consecutive appearance as an alum was Michael Canales, a Buckeye gymnast from 1996-99. Canales, a foot surgeon in Cleveland, jumped up on rings and vaulted into the pit at the Varsity Exhibition.
“I love it,” Canales said. “For a day, I get to pretend I’m a gymnast again.”
No. 3 Ohio State earned the highest ranking among Big Ten squads in the College Gymnastics Association coaches’ preseason poll and is followed by Illinois, Penn State and Michigan in fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively. The Scarlet and Gray open the season on the road at the Windy City Invitational at 8 p.m. EST Jan. 17 in Chicago and face competition from conference foes Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota, as well as host and Eastern College Athletic Conference member UIC.
Men’s Gymnastics Letterwinners at the Varsity Exhibition:
DJ Bucher 2005-08
Michael Canales 1996-99
Tony Duong 2006-08
Kristopher Kline 2004-07
Daren Lynch 1998-01
Mike Marino 2005-07
Jamie Natalie 1998-01
Earnest Nelson 1999-01
Doug Stibel 1996-99
David Ortiz 2005-08
Pedro Pineda 2005-07
Blaine Wilson 1994-97
Andy Zembower 1975-76