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March 25, 2000

%^$COLUMBUS, Ohio — After a runner-up finish at the Big Ten Championships, the Buckeyes move on to the National Qualifier, Thursday, March 30. The top three teams in each of two qualifying sessions move on to the NCAA Championships (Friday, March 31). The individual event finals will be held April 1.%^$

%^$The Streak
%^$If the Buckeyes advance to the NCAA Championships, it will extend their streak of championship appearances to 20. That streak more than quadruples that of any other NCAA Division I university in men’s gymnastics.%^$

%^$A New Format
%^$This season the NCAA has changed the men’s gymnastics championship format, as it has eliminated the traditional regional competitions and replaced them with a national qualifier held the day prior to the national team championships. There will be two sessions, with one qualifying session at 1 p.m. and the second at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 30.%^$

%^$The teams in each session are determined based on the national qualifying average (computed by selecting the highest home meet score and the two highest away meet scores, replacing the highest of these scores with the conference championship meet score and averaging these three scores.). The top three teams, top three all-around men and top three individuals on each event from each session advance to the team and all-around finals on Friday at 7 p.m.%^$

%^$The NCAA Championships
%^$The six teams (three from each session) that advance to the finals will compete at 7 p.m. on Friday in the NCAA team championships. The top eight individuals on each event during Friday’s competition advance to the individual finals, held Saturday at 2 p.m.%^$

%^$The 2000 Qualifiers
%^$The Buckeyes, by ranking fourth in the nation in national qualifying average, will compete in the first session.%^$

%^$How the sessions have been set for this year:%^$

Rank Team NQA%^$Qualifying Session I%^$No. 1 Michigan 231.258%^$No. 4 Ohio State 228.700%^$No. 5 Penn State 227.833%^$No. 8 Illinois 226.250%^$No. 9 Nebraska 225.283%^$No.12 Minnesota 223.058%^$Qualifying Session II%^$No. 2 Oklahoma 229.600%^$No. 3 California 229.392%^$No. 6 Iowa 227.683%^$No. 7 Michigan State 227.317%^$No.10 Brigham Young 224.433%^$No.11 Stanford 224.117%^$

%^$Last Year at the NCAAs
%^$After winning the 1999 East Regional, the Buckeyes placed second at the NCAA Championships with a team score of 230.85. Ohio State tied the school record for most NCAA All-Americans in one year, as five Buckeyes won the honor. Tim Elsner was third on the floor exercise, Jamie Natalie was second on the pommel horse and Daren Lynch placed fifth on the vault. Doug Stibel tied for second on the parallel bars and was sixth on the floor exercise, while current OSU assistant coach Peter Landry tied for fifth on the parallel bars.%^$

%^$OSU’s NCAA History
%^$The Buckeyes have claimed two NCAA Championships (1985, `96). The team has advanced to the championships for 19-consecutive seasons and has placed in the top three seven times. Overall, the Buckeyes have been in the team championships 21 times.%^$

%^$OSU Individuals at the NCAAs
%^$Overall, 16 Buckeyes have won NCAA event titles. Blaine Wilson was a six-time champion, including winning two all-around titles, while Drew Durbin was a three-time winner on the pommel horse. Ohio State has had 67 All-Americans, led by Mike Racanelli, a 10-time honoree, and Wilson, a nine-time award winner.%^$

%^$The Buckeyes at the Big Tens
%^$Ohio State was the runner-up at the 2000 Big Ten Championships held in East Lansing, Mich., March 17-18. The Buckeyes put together a team score of 229.500, while Michigan won its second-consecutive title with a team score of 232.100. Illinois was third, followed by Iowa, Michigan State, Penn State and Minnesota. OSU had five gymnasts advance to the individual event finals in 10 events combined. The Buckeyes found success in the event finals as well, as Natalie and Lynch each claimed event titles to make the all-Big Ten team and Bhavsar was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.%^$

%^$The All-Around at the Big Tens
%^$Jamie Natalie and Raj Bhavsar each earned all-Big Ten honors after placing in the top six in the all-around at the Big Ten Championships. Natalie placed third with a score of 57.525, while Bhavsar was sixth with a career-high 56.425.%^$

%^$Freshman of the Year
%^$Freshman Raj Bhavsar was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year at the conference championships. He earned the honor after a standout regular season as well as a strong performance in the championships. During the dual meet season he claimed five event titles and had six runner-up finishes. He was impressive at Big Tens, as he earned all-conference honors after placing sixth in the all-around and set a career high in the floor exercise. He advanced to the event finals in two events as well.%^$

%^$All-Big Ten Honorees
%^$Natalie and Lynch each were named all-Big Ten after claiming individual event titles. Natalie won the floor exercise with a career-high 9.95, while Lynch tied for first on the vault with a 9.7125.%^$

%^$Record-Setter
%^$Natalie’s 9.95 on the floor exercise broke the school record on that event. The previous record of 9.925 was set by four-time defending U.S. champion Blaine Wilson, an All-American on the event, at the 1996 NCAA National Championships.%^$

%^$Other Event Finals
%^$The Buckeyes had strong finishes on a number of different events at the Big Ten Championships. Morgan placed third on the vault, while Bhavsar was third on the parallel bars and sixth on the floor exercise. Natalie finished fourth on the parallel bars and was sixth on the still rings.%^$

%^$Morgan Nominated for Honor Michael Morgan was named as one of 10 finalists for the prestigious Nissen-Emery Award. The honor is given annually to the outstanding senior male collegiate gymnast in the nation. The award will be presented at a pre-meet press conference held Wednesday before the NCAA Championships. Morgan was a member of the 1996 national championship team and earned All-America and all-Big Ten honors as a junior in 1998. After missing last season with a wrist injury, he has returned to form this season. He currently ranks ninth (tied) nationally in the floor exercise, 13th (tied) in the vault and 19th in the all-around. Morgan earned Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honors earlier this year after helping the Buckeyes to their comeback win over Michigan and Illinois with a then-career high in the all-around.%^$

%^$OSU and the Nissen Award
%^$Three Buckeyes have claimed the Nissen-Emery award in the program’s history – Mike Racanelli in 1990, Kip Simons in 1994 and Blaine Wilson in 1997.%^$

%^$Regular Season Wrap-Up
%^$The Buckeyes went 13-1 in the dual meet season, including defeating 12-straight opponents. Ohio State began the season with a win at the Windy City Invitational, topping six nationally ranked teams. The squad posted wins in two dual meets, a tri-meet and a quad meet, suffering its only loss at Penn State to end the regular season. The Buckeyes kept their home winning streak alive with two victories in St. John Arena this season, moving their consecutive wins total to 13.%^$

%^$OSU Ranked Among the Best
%^$In the coaches poll released by GymInfo (March 20), the Buckeyes are ranked No. 2 behind only Michigan. Oklahoma follows in the third spot, while Penn State is fourth and California has moved up to fifth.%^$

%^$In the rankings based on NCAA qualifying average (determined by selecting the highest home and two highest away scores, replacing the best of the three with the conference meet score and averaging the remaining three), the Buckeyes rank fourth (228.700). Michigan is first (231.258), Oklahoma is second (229.600) and California ranks third (229.392). Ohio State ranks second on both the vault and the parallel bars and is third on the floor exercise. The squad is fifth on the high bar and the still rings and ranks seventh on the pommel horse.%^$

%^$Buckeyes in the Top 10
%^$Natalie ranks third in the nation on the parallel bars, is fourth (tied) on the floor exercise and is sixth in the all-around. Lynch is third on the vault, while Bhavsar is fifth on the parallel bars. Morgan is ninth (tied) on the floor exercise.%^$

%^$Ohio State’s Coach
%^$Miles Avery is in his third season as the head coach of the Buckeyes. In just his second season at the helm, he led OSU to a runner-up finish at the NCAA Championships. 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.%^$

%^$The Big Ten is Tough
%^$All seven of the schools in the Big Ten are ranked in the Top 15 in the coaches poll. Michigan is No. 1, followed by Ohio State, No. 2, Penn State, No. 4, Iowa, No. 6, Illinois, No. 7, Michigan State, No. 9 and Minnesota, No. 12. In the poll based on scores, Michigan is also No. 1, followed by: Ohio State, No. 4, Penn State, No. 5, Iowa, No. 6, Michigan State, No. 7, Illinois, No. 8, and Minnesota, No. 12.%^$

%^$The 2000 Captains
%^$Daren Lynch and Jay Nardelli were chosen as captains for this year’s squad in a vote by the team.%^$

%^$Lynch earned All-America honors last season after placing fifth on the vault at the NCAA Championships. He has been an academic All-American, an academic all-Big Ten selection and an OSU scholar-athlete honoree.%^$

%^$Nardelli is an OSU scholar-athlete and has been an academic all-Big Ten honoree. He set career highs on the pommel horse, still rings and all-around last season at the NCAA regional.%^$

%^$Event-By-Event
%^$The Buckeyes have performed well on every event this year, including standout performances on the high bar and the floor exercise. The squad scored a 39.000 on the high bar in the home quad meet for their high event score of the season. The team has recorded a 38.900 on the floor exercise (1/28) and a 38.800 on both the pommel horse (Feb. 19) and the parallel bars (Feb. 5). So far this season the Buckeyes have topped three of six team high scores from last season.%^$

%^$Morgan’s Last Home Meet
%^$Senior Michael Morgan shined in his last home meet for the Buckeyes, as he led the squad with a career-high in the all-around (57.625) against BYU, Iowa and Minnesota. He placed third in the all-around, was second on the floor exercise (9.775) and tied for second on the vault (9.700). He ended his Ohio State career without ever losing a home meet.%^$

%^$Consistency
%^$Jamie Natalie claimed at least one event title in every meet this season. He won on the high bar in five of six meets and won both the all-around and on the parallel bars three times each. In addition, he claimed two floor exercise titles and won the still rings at Michigan State.%^$

%^$Standout on Pommel Horse
%^$Freshman Ryan Schwartzkopf, a pommel horse specialist for the Buckeyes, set a career high on the event with a 9.925 in the quad meet. He finished third in the competition, as he topped his former career-best of 9.400 with the Buckeyes’ high score this season.%^$

%^$Academic Honoree
%^$Daren Lynch was one of 185 undergraduate students selected to attend the President’s Salute to Undergraduate Academic Achievement, put on by the University Honors and Scholars Center. Lynch, a two-time OSU Scholar-Athlete, an academic all-Big Ten honoree and a College Gymnastics Association Academic All-America Scholar-Athlete, was nominated by the exercise science faculty in the College of Education for `Excellence in Academic Achievement’. The students chosen, mostly juniors and seniors, are scholars as demonstrated by their performance, curriculum and related experiences. Each area decides what criteria to use to select their students, as factors include GPA, research projects, special internships and unique academic contributions to the college.%^$

%^$Hosting Champions
%^$After making historic St. John Arena its permanent home last season, the men’s gymnastics team will have the honor of hosting the 2001 NCAA Championships in the facility. 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 quality NCAA men’s gymnastics.%^$

%^$Winners at Home
%^$With the quad meet win over BYU, Iowa and Minnesota, the Buckeyes extended their home winning streak to 13 meets. The Buckeyes have not lost at home since 1994.%^$

%^$Impressive Freshman Class
%^$The rookie group of Bhavsar, Evans, Huntwork and Schwartzkopf has had an impressive season so far, as each gymnast has contributed to the Buckeyes’ success. Bhavsar has claimed five event titles and earned Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honors (Feb. 2), while Evans claimed the floor exercise crown against Michigan State. Huntwork won the vault at the home quad meet and Schwartzkopf has recorded the Buckeyes’ top score on the pommel horse.%^$

%^$More Big Ten Honors
%^$The Buckeyes claimed Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honors for five-consecutive weeks this season. Jamie Natalie led the team, earning the award three times.
%^$Jan. 19:
%^$Natalie won his first honor after claiming the all-around title at the Windy City Invitational with a score of 56.375. He won the meet title on the high bar (9.925), tied for second on the still rings (9.800) and was fourth on the floor exercise (9.750). He set career-highs on the floor exercise and the still rings and tied his career-high on the high bar.
%^$Jan. 26:
%^$Natalie won his second-consecutive honor after winning the all-around title (58.175) and placing first in three events against Michigan State. He finished first and tied his career-high on the still rings (9.800) and also won the parallel bars (9.925) and the high bar (9.850). He was also second on the pommel horse with a career-high 9.900. He shared the honors this week with MSU’s Jon Plante.
%^$Feb. 2:
%^$Bhavsar claimed two meet titles and set season and career-highs in all five events he competed in at Oklahoma. He won the pommel horse title with a 9.85 and was first on the still rings with a 9.850. He also finished second on the parallel bars (9.700), third on the high bar (9.450) and tied for eighth on the floor exercise (9.400).
%^$Feb. 9:
%^$Morgan won the all-around with a career-high score of 57.475 to help lead the Buckeyes to an upset victory over Michigan and Illinois. In addition to placing first in the all-around, Morgan won the floor exercise (9.825) and placed second on the pommel horse (9.650) and the high bar (9.750).
%^$Feb. 16:
%^$Natalie was honored for a third time after placing eighth in the all-around at the 2000 Winter Cup Challenge. He was the highest-placing collegiate gymnast, as his score of 53.650 in the all-around finals topped the 35 other NCAA gymnasts in the event. His score of 9.650 on the floor exercise was the top score on that event in the finals.%^$

%^$Improving on the High Bar
%^$Sophomore Earnest Nelson has improved his score on the high bar almost every time out this season. He has improved from a 9.45 to start the season to setting his career-high with a 9.775 in the home quad meet. Prior to that score, he put together a standout performance when the Buckeyes needed it most, scoring a 9.675 to help OSU come back to win over Michigan and Illinois (Feb. 19).%^$

%^$Standing Out on Vault
%^$Daren Lynch, who was an All-American on the vault last season, is returning to that same form this year. He currently is tied for third in the country in the event with a two-score average of 9.750. He set his career high earlier this season, scoring a 9.800 against Michigan State. That score stands as OSU’s top score this season on the event.%^$

%^$Leading the Way
%^$Natalie has recorded OSU’s high score this season on three events as well as the all-around. His 9.95 set a school record on the floor exercise, while his 9.925 (two times) is tops on the parallel bars in addition to the high bar. His 58.175 stands as the best all-around mark a Buckeye has scored this season. Schwartzkopf posted the team high score on the pommel horse. Bhavsar has scored 9.850 on the still rings twice this season to lead the squad, while Lynch is tops on vault with a 9.875.%^$

%^$Strong on the Bars
%^$Natalie is also having a standout year on both the parallel bars and the high bar. He ranks third in the nation on the parallel bars and has been ranked in the Top 20 throughout the season on the high bar. He has twice tied his career-high on the high bar this season, scoring a 9.925 at the Windy City Invitational and at home against Iowa, Minnesota and BYU. On the parallel bars, Natalie has scored 9.925 twice this season as well. His career high on the event is 9.950, which also stands as the school record.%^$

%^$Buckeyes Coaching Buckeyes
%^$Five current Buckeyes were coached by former OSU gymnasts prior to coming to Ohio State: Jamie Natalie was coached by Thad Abbott (1993) at Prestige Gymnastics in Delaware, Earnest Nelson by Jim Knopp (90-93) of Flippers in Texas, Matthew Smith by Jason Mazzurco (91-94) at USA Gymnastics World in Utah, Ben Falkner by Peter Bastien (91-94) at the Ellis School of Gymnastics in Massachusetts and Dick Huntwork by Mike Serra (1988) at Hocking Valley Gymnastics in Ohio.%^$

%^$OSU and U.S.A. Gymnastics
%^$Ohio State has a proud tradition of not only sending representatives to the Olympic Games, but of having those athletes perform extremely well for their country. In the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta Blaine Wilson and Kip Simons were members of the U.S. squad that finished fifth. Simons was a two-time World Championships team member and was a member of the gold-medal Pan American Games team in 1995.%^$

%^$Wilson, the only U.S. gymnast to claim four-consecutive national titles, is one of the United States’ top medal hopefuls at the 2000 Games in Sydney.%^$

%^$The 2000 Winter Cup Challenge
%^$At the 2000 Winter Cup Challenge, Natalie finished the meet in eighth place (53.650) and for the second year in a row was the highest-placing NCAA gymnast in the event. His score of 9.650 on the floor exercise was the top score on that event in the finals. Natalie had ended the preliminary rounds in 20th place. He narrowly missed earning a spot on the U.S. Senior National Team, as the top three gymnasts placing in the top 10 that are not current members of the team were added to that squad’s roster. Natalie was the fourth gymnast in the top 10 not already on the national team’s roster. Bhavsar placed 28th in the finals after coming out of the preliminaries in 15th place. Michael Evans and Dick Huntwork also competed in the meet but did not advance to the final round.%^$

%^$A New OSU Coach
%^$Former Ohio State All-American Peter Landry has joined the team’s staff as an assistant coach after completing his eligibility last season. Landry was a member of the team from 1996-99 and was a member of the Buckeyes’ 1996 NCAA Championship squad. As a team captain last season, he was one of eight finalists for the prestigious Nissen Award, given to the outstanding senior collegiate gymnast in the country. Landry will oversee the entire recruiting process for the Buckeyes.