Jan. 5, 2001
The Alumni Exhibition
The 2001 OSU men’s gymnastics team will have a final preseason tune-up Saturday at2 p.m. in Larkins Hall. The alumni team is comprised of former Ohio State gymnasts. The 2000 alumni team will be Mike Canales, Mike Morgan, Mike Finn, Neil Niemi, Doug Stibel, Jason Mazzurco and Blaine Wilson. The exhibition allows the current Buckeyes a chance to expel some preseason jitters in front of a live crowd before the regular season begins Jan. 13.
The Rankings Are In
The Buckeyes are ranked second in the nation in a preseason poll released by the College Gymnastics Association. Michigan holds onto the top spot in the polls. Other Big Ten schools ranked in the Top 20 include: Penn State, fourth, Iowa, sixth, Illinois, seventh, Michigan State, 10th, and Minnesota, 12th. In addition to the Big Ten schools, the Buckeyes will face No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 14 Illinois-Chicago and No. 19 California-Santa Barbara this season.
The Windy City Invitational
Ohio State will travel to Chicago Jan. 13 to compete in the Windy City Invitational, an annual event hosted by the University of Illinois at Chicago. In addition to the Buckeyes and the No. 14 Flames, the other schools competing in the event are No. 1 Michigan, No. 6 Iowa, No. 8 Illinois, No. 10 Michigan State and No. 12 Minnesota.
2000 Windy City Invitational
Ohio State took the top spot in the 2000 Windy City Invitational, defeating defending national champions Michigan and six other Top 15 teams in the process. The Buckeyes finished with a team score of 225.725 and won four of the top seven spots in the all-around. Jamie Natalie won the individual title with a score of 56.375. Raj Bhavsar, in his first collegiate meet, won the pommel horse title and placed third in the all-around. Michigan, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota rounded out the top five finishers last year.
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 after placing sixth on vault at the NCAA Championships last season. He has been an Academic All-American, an Academic All-Big Ten selection and an OSU Sholar-Ahlete 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 the 2001 Nissen-Emery 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.
Holding Down the Homestead
The Buckeyes will play host to their first meet Jan. 19 when Illinois-Chicago comes to town. The squad will only compete in St. John Arena two more times before stepping on its home court for the NCAA Championship. The Buckeyes play host to co-ed meets with Michigan State Feb. 9 and Penn State with West Virginia Feb. 24.
Miles Avery is entering 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 also has been on the coaching staff for many international competitions, most recently as the U.S. head coach at the Pontiac International Team Championships. Avery was a member of the coaching staff of the 2000 and 1996 Olympic Games.
The Buckeyes have qualified for the NCAA Championships 20 consecutive years, a streak that more than quadruples that of any other NCAA Division I university in men’s gymnastics.
After bringing one of the best recruiting classes in the nation to OSU last year, head coach Miles Avery was hard pressed to reproduce that level of talent in the current freshman class. Avery is expecting immediate production from freshmen Jamey Houle and Eric Van Sickle. Houle was the 2000 Junior Nationals champion, and Van Sickle, from nearby Hilliard, Ohio is the seventh ranked junior in the country. California freshman Isaac Monicle could begin contributing later in the season.
Recapping the 2000 Season
The second ranked Buckeyes ended the 2000 season with a sixth place finish in the NCAA Championships. Head coach Miles Avery led the squad to an 18-2 overall record, with outstanding performances from juniors Jamie Natalie and Daren Lynch and freshman Raj Bhavsar pacing the team. However, the team fell just short in the Big Ten Championship, finishing second behind Michigan. Natalie, Lynch and Bhavsar each placed in the top six in their individual events during the NCAA Championships, winning All-America honors.
Buckeyes Show Experience
The 2001 team will have its fair share of leaders this season, with seniors and juniors comprising more than half of the roster. Five seniors, including captains Daren Lynch and Jamie Natalie, will take the floor for the Buckeyes this season.
Three juniors, led by captain Earnest Nelson, will round out the upperclass portion of the 13- man squad.
Natalie wins OSU’s Top Award
Senior Jamie Natalie was named the Ohio State Male Athlete of the Year for the 1999-2000 academic year. Natalie finished the season by claiming two individual titles during the NCAA Championships. He was named to the All-America team in three events as well as the All-Big Ten squad and the All-Big Ten academic team. Natalie also participated in the Pontiac International Team Championships and the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Natalie is considered one of the top prospects to win this season’s Nissen-Emery Award, which goes to the top gymnast in the nation.
The men’s gymnastics team will have the honor of playing host to 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.
OSU vs. The World
OSU head coach Miles Avery and senior Jamie Natalie participated in the Pontiac International Team Championships in Syracuse, N.Y., over the summer. The event marked Avery’s first time as the head coach in an international meet. Natalie claimed his highest score on the high bars with a 9.6. The competition, which pitted the United States against Romania and China, was televised on NBC Dec. 16-17. The U.S. team finished in second place behind Romania.
Ohio State Academic Standouts
Three members of the men’s gymnastic team were recognized for their efforts in the classroom last year. Jamie Natalie, Daren Lynch and Ben Falkner were named to the 2000 All-Big Ten academic team.
More Buckeyes Coaching Buckeyes
Six 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, Dick Huntwork by Mike Serra (1988) at Hocking Valley Gymnastics in Ohio and Jamey Houle by Todd Henry at Tim Daggetts Gold Medal Gymnastics in Enfield, Conn.
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.”
Quoting the Coach
On the Alumni Exhibition:
“Our alumni are ready to help in any way they can. They are always willing to come back and help the team get ready for the new season. Those that can compete against the current varsity do and those that can’t come just to support these current Buckeyes and see old friends. However, this alumni team is exceptionally good, starring two-time Olympian Blaine Wilson and recently retired national team member Doug Stibel. It will be a fun time as always with the current varsity competing in front of a crowd.”
College Gymnastics Association
2001 Preseason Poll
2. Ohio State
4. Penn State
10. Michigan State
15. Air Force
16. William & Mary
19. California-Santa Barbara
Ohio State by the Numbers
1: Number of times Ohio State has been the NCAA runner-up (1999)
2: Number of NCAA Championships Ohio State has won
3: Number of Buckeye Nissen-Emery Award winners (Kip Simons, Blaine Wilson, Mike Racanelli)
6: Number of Ohio State Olympians (Sydney, 2000: Blaine Wilson, Jamie Natalie, Avery, Atlanta, 1996: Simons, Wilson, Peter Kormann, Miles Avery, Seoul, 1988: Gil Pinto, Brazil)
7: Number of times Ohio State has made the national team finals since 1938, Number of times Ohio State has won the Big Ten Championship
16: Number of NCAA individual championships
20: Number of consecutive years Ohio State has been to the NCAA Championship
22: Number of Ohio State gymnasts named Academic All-Big Ten
46: Number of Ohio State Big Ten champions
47: Number of Ohio State Scholar-Athletes
66: Number of NCAA All-Americans