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April 12, 2000

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Buckeyes ended their 2000 season with a record 20th-consecutive trip to the NCAA finals. The squad finished sixth at the meet, while Jamie Natalie claimed both the all-around and floor exercise titles and Natalie, Raj Bhavsar and Daren Lynch each were named to the All-America team.

The Streak
By advancing to the NCAA Championships finals, the Buckeyes extended their streak of championship appearances to 20 years. That streak more than quadruples that of any other NCAA Division I university in men’s gymnastics.

The Buckeyes on TV
Highlights from the NCAA men’s gymnastics championships will be broadcast on ESPN, Sunday (April 16) at 1 p.m. On Thursday, April 20, the Big Ten Winter Championships Show will be broadcast on ESPN at 2:30 p.m. That show features highlights from all of the Big Ten winter championship events, including the men’s gymnastics championships.

The Offseason
Jamie Natalie and Raj Bhavsar will spend the offseason preparing for national, and hopefully international, competition. The 2000 John Hancock U.S. Gymnastics Championships, in St. Louis July 26-29, is the first of two qualifying events for the sport of gymnastics to the 2000 Olympic Team for U.S. gymnasts. The top 14 men from the event qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Boston Aug. 17-20. The members of the U.S. Olympic team will be determined by taking forty percent of an athlete’s score from the John Hancock U.S. Gymnastics Championships and adding 60 percent of each gymnast’s score from the Olympic Trials. The Olympic Games take place September 15 through October 1 in Sydney. The John Hancock U.S. Gymnastics Championships National will crown champions in both the all-around and individual event finals. The members of the 2000-01 U.S. Senior and Junior National Teams who will represent the U.S. in international competition throughout the year will also be determined at those competitions.

More Conference Honors
Ben Falkner, Lynch and Natalie were each named to the winter academic all-Big Ten team. Falkner is a journalism major, while Lynch and Natalie are both studying exercise science. Lynch, a two-time All-American on the vault, and Natalie, the 2000 NCAA Champion in both the all-around and the floor exercise, both earned the honor for the second-consecutive season. Overall, 354 conference student-athletes, including 30 Buckeyes, were named to the academic team. To be eligible, each student-athlete must be a letterwinner in at least their second academic year at their institution and must carry a grade point average of 3.0 or better. Each OSU men’s gymnast had a GPA of over 3.50.

We’re Next
Ohio State and the men’s gymnastics team have the honor of hosting the next NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships, April 5-7, 2001. The national qualifier will be held April 5, with the national team and all-around finals April 6 and the individual event finals the following day. A 13,276-seat venue, St. John Arena will give many Columbus residents the opportunity to see quality NCAA men’s gymnastics.

Wrapping Up the NCAAs
The Qualifier
The Ohio State Buckeyes placed second in the first qualifying session of the NCAA Championships (March 30) to advance to a record 20th-consecutive NCAA Championship final. The squad compiled a team score of 229.375, while Michigan recorded a 231.925 and Penn State scored 229.125 to also advance to the finals. California, Oklahoma and Iowa advanced out of the second session. The Buckeyes struggled in their first two events, the vault and parallel bars, but were able to finish strong and clinch a berth in the team finals. The squad scored a season high on the pommel horse, led by Natalie, 9.850, Bhavsar, 9.750, and Ryan Schwartzkopf, 9.700.
The Team Finals
Ohio State placed sixth and Jamie Natalie claimed the all-around title, earning All-America honors, at the NCAA Championship Team and All-Around Finals (March 31). In a close meet, Penn State won the national championship with a score of 231.975, while defending-champion Michigan was the runner-up with a team total of 231.850. Iowa was third (231.525), followed by Oklahoma (230.850), California (230.825) and the Buckeyes with a season-high 230.800. The Buckeyes entered the fifth of six rotations in second place, only 1.15 points behind first-place Iowa. However, Ohio State scored a 38.050 on the high bar to drop to sixth place. The team ended the meet by scoring a 38.800 on the floor exercise. The team did put together a season-high 38.625 in the still rings. Bhavsar compiled a season-high 57.225 to place 13th in the all-around.
The Individual Finals
Natalie, Lynch and Bhavsar each earned All-American honors at the NCAA Championship Individual Event Finals (April 1). Natalie won the honor in three events overall, including claiming the all-around and floor exercise titles and placing fifth on the still rings. Lynch earned the accolade on the vault, while Bhavsar placed third on the parallel bars. The top six individuals in each event receive All-American honors. Michael Evans finished seventh on the vault, one spot away from All-America accolades.

A National Champion
Natalie won both the all-around and floor exercise titles to become the first Buckeye since Olympian and four-time defending national champion Blaine Wilson to claim more than one national individual championship in a season. He was the first Buckeye since 1997 to claim an individual title at the NCAA Championships. Natalie scored a career-high 58.375 in the all-around and a 9.900 on the floor exercise en route to being named to the All-American team. He placed fifth on the still rings to become an All-American on that event as well.

More Buckeye All-Americans
Lynch earned All-America honors on the vault for the second-consecutive season after placing sixth at the individual event finals. Bhavsar was named to the All-American team after finishing third on the parallel bars with a 9.7625.

Quoting the All-Americans
Natalie on winning the NCAA all-around title and being the first Ohio State gymnast since Wilson to win a national championship…

“It’s always great to go out there and win against tough competition. Hopefully I can follow in the footsteps of Blaine Wilson, the last Ohio State gymnast to win the NCAA all-around title (1996 and `97), and achieve everything he has done in his career so far.”

Lynch on hosting the 2001 NCAA Championships…

“We were particularly intrigued with Iowa’s strong performance in front of their home crowd at the NCAA Championships this season. We hope that next year we can have that same intensity on our home floor at the national championship in St. John Arena.”

Bhavsar on Ohio State’s performance at the NCAA Championships…

“The biggest thing about the NCAAs was that it was a learning experience. It wasn’t a disappointment or dishonorable. Hopefully next year we’ll be able to take what happened this year, when we struggled at the finals, and step it up at the championships.”

OSU and the NCAAs
The Buckeyes have claimed two NCAA Championships (1985, `96). The team has advanced to the championships for 20-consecutive seasons and has placed in the top three seven times. Overall, the Buckeyes have been in the team championship 21 times.

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.

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 then-career-high 56.425.

Freshman of the Year
Raj Bhavsar had an outstanding freshman season, as evidenced by earning both Big Ten Freshman of the Year and All-America honors. He put together a strong regular season as well as impressive performances at both the Big Ten and NCAA Championships. He earned all-Big Ten honors after placing sixth in the all-around at the conference meet and was an All-American after finishing third on the parallel bars at the NCAAs. He also advanced to the individual event final on the still rings. During the dual meet season Bhavsar claimed five event titles and had six runner-up finishes.

Big Ten Champions
Natalie and Lynch each were named all-Big Ten after claiming individual event titles at the conference championship. Natalie won the floor exercise with a career-high and school-record 9.95, while Lynch tied for first on the vault with a 9.7125.

Other Big Ten 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 a Finalist
Michael Morgan was one of 10 finalists for the prestigious Nissen-Emery Award. The honor, given annually to the outstanding senior male collegiate gymnast in the nation, was given to Jeff Lavallee of Massachusetts this season. 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. 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’s Nissen History
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.

Among the Best
In the final coaches poll released by GymInfo (March 20), the Buckeyes were ranked No. 2 behind only Michigan. Oklahoma followed in the third spot, while Penn State was fourth and California was 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 ranked fourth (228.700). Michigan was first (231.258), Oklahoma was second (229.600) and California ranked third (229.392). Ohio State ranked second on both the vault and the parallel bars and was third on the floor exercise. The squad was fifth on the high bar and the still rings and ranked seventh on the pommel horse.

Buckeyes in the Top 10
In the final rankings compiled before the NCAA Championships, Natalie ranked third in the nation on the parallel bars, was fourth (tied) on the floor exercise and was sixth in the all-around. Lynch was third on the vault, while Bhavsar was fifth on the parallel bars. Morgan was ninth (tied) on the floor exercise.

The Buckeye Coach
Miles Avery just completed his third season as head coach of the Buckeyes. He has led the squad to NCAA Championships finals appearances in each season at the helm, including a runner-up finish at the 1999 NCAA Championships in only his second season. 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 were ranked in the Top 15 in the coaches poll. Michigan was 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 was 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, beginning with the Windy City Invitational and ending at the NCAA Individual Event Finals. During the regular 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. He followed that up by winning the floor exercise at both the conference and national championships and claiming the all-around title at the NCAAs.

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.

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 had an impressive season, as each gymnast contributed to the Buckeyes’ success. Bhavsar earned both all-Big Ten and All-America honors, while Evans claimed the floor exercise crown against Michigan State. Huntwork won the vault at the home quad meet and Schwartzkopf recorded the Buckeyes’ top score on the pommel horse. Each freshman competed for the Buckeyes at both the conference and national championships.

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.

Leading the Way
Natalie recorded OSU’s high score on three events as well as the all-around this season. 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 58.375, recorded at the NCAA Championships, 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.

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.