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Jan. 30, 2001

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Buckeyes travel to Champaign, Ill. Feb. 3 to battle the Illinois Fighting Illini at 7 p.m. in Huff Hall.

About The Teams
Ohio State last competed Jan. 20 against the top-ranked Michigan Wolverines, losing 215.500-210.400. Illinois currently holds the No. 5 spot in the nation, dropping from No. 4 in the last poll. The teams last met Jan. 13, with Illinois defeating Ohio State 207.200-205.400in Chicago at the Windy City Invitational.

Buckeyes Talk About the Meet
The Buckeyes have shown improvement in each of their last two meets, but the team feels the time has come to turn it up a notch. With two weeks to prepare for Illinois, OSU is hoping to go into the competition focused and prepared.

“It’s been a good week off in terms of preperation and routines.” said OSU head coach Miles Avery, ” We’re getting better at our routines and practicing hard.”

“The weekend off was very very helpful for us.” agreed sophomore Dick Huntwork, “We’ve pushed our bodies very hard in the gym, and not having to compete gave us an opportunity to rest a little bit.

“This is going to be a good competition. Illinois is a good team so we have to maintain focus. We’re trying to improve our hits this week. We hit we win. That’s all there is to it.” said Huntwork.

Sophomore standout Raj Bhavsar agrees with Huntwork’s assessment.

“I was kind of upset at the earlier meets. We got some things accomplished, but my expectations for myself and our expectations as a team are much higher. I think we’ll get serious at Illinois. It’s going to be a much better competition in terms of hitting sets.” said Bhavsar.

The team’s goal this weekend is to hit 50 percent of its landings on the first two events, and remain consistent in the other four events.

Meet the Illinois Coach
The Fighting Illini are led by 25-year coaching veteran Yoshi Hayasaki. Born in Nara, Japan, Hayasaki attended and graduated from the University of Washington, where he was the all-around National Champion in 1970 and 1971. Hayasaki also was a three-time All-American and the only male athlete in Huskie history to be named Athlete of the Year twice. He was inducted into the Washington Hall of Fame in 1983.

At Illinois, Hayasaki has won four Big Ten titles and coached 36 All-Americans, four national champions and two Olympians. In his 24 years at Illinois, he has compiled a record of 192-110-1. Last season, the Fighting Illini boasted two All-Americans and finished fourth in the NCAA championship qualifying round, falling just short of the team finals. Hayasaki was named Central Region Coach of the Year and received the Honor Coach Award for his 25 years of coaching experience.

Meet Miles Avery
Miles Avery is in his fourth season as the head coach of the Buckeyes. In his third season at the helm, he led OSU to a sixth place finish at the NCAA Championships and a runner-up spot in the Big Ten Tournament. Before being named head coach, Avery had been an assistant coach at OSU for nine years. In addition to coaching at the collegiate level, Avery has also been on the coaching staff for many international competitions, including the 1998 Goodwill Games, the 1996 Olympic Games and the 1994 World Championship.

Where Are the Bucks Ranked?
Ohio State enters the meet this Saturday ranked No. 3 in the nation, falling one spot despite being idle over the weekend. Oklahoma scored a 213.600 to wrestle the No. 2 spot away from Ohio State. Michigan remained at the head of the pack. Illinois entered last week ranked fourth, COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Buckeyes travel to Champaign, Ill. Feb. 3 to battle the Illinois Fighting Illini at 7 p.m. in Huff Hall.

Understanding the Rankings
Win-loss records count for very little in collegiate gymnastics. Instead, the highest scores for each individual team carry the most weight. Early in the season, weekly rankings are determined using the single highest team scores. In February, the highest home score and highest away score are averaged together to produce the rankings. By March, rankings are determined using the top two away scores and possibly the highest home score. The average of the three scores determines which teams will top the rankings. Ohio State sits at No. 3 in the nation with a high score of 210.400. Only Michigan and Oklahoma have posted higher total scores this season.

The 2001 Captains
Daren Lynch, Jamie Natalie and Earnest Nelson were chosen by their teammates to lead the 2001 squad to the national championship. The tri-captain format is a first in the 122-year history of OSU men’s gymnastics.

Lynch was named to the All-America team for the second time last season after placing sixth on the vault at the NCAA Championships. He has been an academic All-American, an academic all-Big Ten selection and an OSU scholar-athlete honoree.

Natalie won two titles at the NCAA Championships last year and was named an All-American in three events. He was the alternate on the U.S. Men’s Gymnastics Team for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Natalie is considered a strong contender for this years Nissen-Emory Award.

Nelson competed in four events last year, setting career highs in each. He scored a 9.775 on high bar in the quad-meet against Iowa, Minnesota and BYU last season.

Hosting Championship
The men’s gymnastics team will have the honor of hosting the 2001 NCAA Championships in historic St. John Arena. The National Qualifier will be held April 5, with the National Finals April 6-7. The 13,276-seat venue will give many Columbus residents the opportunity to see top-level NCAA men’s gymnastics.

New Rules In 2001
Every four years, or quadrennium, the International Gymnastic Governing Council alters the routines and judging criteria of the sport, forcing gymnasts worldwide to learn different routines. The lack of familiarity with the new routines often leads to lower scores in the early meets of every quadrennium. OSU head coach Miles Avery predicts growing pains for every collegiate team, including the Buckeyes this season.

“It takes a little while to catch up with the new rules.” he said, “So it’s a little slow right now, but it’s a little slow for everyone in the world. Fortunately, this is a seasoned team. We’ll do well.”