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Buckeyes take on defending NCAA champion Sooners at 8 p.m. EST

COLUMBUS, Ohio The sixth-ranked Ohio State men’s gymnastics team looks to repeat what it accomplished two years ago, earn a win on the road vs. No. 2 Oklahoma at 8 p.m. EST Saturday in Norman, Okla. The Sooners are undefeated in 2009 with a 10-0 record and are averaging a team score of 357.05 to rank second in the nation. The Buckeyes remain at the No. 6 spot in the GymInfo poll with a 348.783 average.

The meet vs. the Sooners is the third-consecutive on the road for Ohio State after travelling to Penn State Feb. 28 and California March 6. While the two programs did not meet last year, the Buckeyes earned a solid win on Oklahoma’s home floor March 2007. No other team has beat the Sooners at home in nine seasons.

FOLLOWING FROM HOME
Live video of the Ohio State-Oklahoma dual will be streamed through www.SoonerSports.com. Fans can access the feed on the Ohio State and Oklahoma men’s gymnastics schedule pages on www.OhioStateBuckeyes.com or the Sooners’ website. Standard rates apply.

ALL-TIME VS. OKLAHOMA
Ohio State trails the all-time series with Oklahoma, 23-28-1. The dual between the two programs a season ago was cancelled when the Sooners could not make it to Columbus because of weather. The Buckeyes won the last meeting, a 218.65-213.55 victory in Norman, Okla., March 3, 2007.

THE SOONERS
In 2008, Oklahoma captured its fifth NCAA team title in seven years to up its program count to eight national titles. Only Penn State (12) and Illinois (9) have more NCAA crowns than OU who is tied with Nebraska with eight. Returning for the Sooners this season are sophomore Steven Legendre, a three-time All-American and reigning NCAA floor champion, and senior All-Americans Chris Brooks and Russell Czeschin.

OHIO STATE CHART TOPPERS
Ohio State is receiving production across the board with 10 gymnasts holding positions in the NCAA and Big Ten standings.

Senior co-captain Jake Bateman leads the squad with an 86.9 all-around average that ranks him third in the conference and eighth in the NCAA. The Kingsport, Tenn., native also holds the No. 2 spot on rings among conference foes with a 15.033, just behind teammate Shachar Tal in first with a 15.083 average on the event. Tal and Bateman are rated fifth and seventh (tied), respectively, among all competitors. Bateman also holds the team’s best mark on parallel bars this season, notching a 14.85 at Illinois Jan. 24. He averages a 14.5 on the event to tie for ninth in the Big Ten. Sophomore Brandon Wynn is sixth in the Big Ten all-around standings with an 84.517 mean after three competitions. His average ranks him 13th in the country.

Senior Eddie Hay champions the squad on floor and sits in the No. 1 spot in the league rankings with a 15.283 average. Hay, a native of Butler, Pa., scored a Buckeye season-best 15.35 on floor vs. the Illini in January. Junior Justin Myers, the team’s two-time most improved honoree, leads the squad on high bar with a 14.2 average, including a season-best 14.45 vs. Illinois Feb. 24.

Freshmen standouts Ty Echard and Philip Onorato have carved their spot in the lineup, each leading the Buckeyes on an event. Echard, a native of Lancaster, Ohio, jumped onto the leaderboard after tallying a program-high 15.3 on pommel horse vs. UIC Feb. 21 in his Buckeye debut. At Penn State, he added a 14.1 on the apparatus and owns a team-best 14.317 average to rank 10th in the conference. Onorato is tied for fifth on vault among league competitors with a 15.733. He and fifth-year senior Pejman Ebrahimi have hit the team’s two best tallies on vault, producing a 16.0 and 16.05, respectively. Ebrahimi averages a 15.717 on vault to rank eighth in the Big Ten. 

ON A ROLL WITH ONORATO
Freshman Philip Onorato is proving rookies can make a difference, helping Ohio State to a season-high team total of 350.8 Feb. 21 after turning in two first-place finishes and a win in the all-around. Competing the all-around for the first time this season, the Plano, Texas, native scored a meet-high 85.85, placing first on both rings (tie-15.35) and high bar (14.2). His marks on rings and high bar were personal bests while he also set career highs on floor (14.6) and parallel bars (14.05).

With a 15.733 average on vault, Onorato ranks tied for fifth in the Big Ten and 14th (tied) in the nation on the event (as of March 9). His average, tied with Penn State’s rookie Matt Albrecht, is highest produced by a Big Ten freshman this season.

CALI RECAP
In its second of three road duals vs. Top 7 opponents, Ohio State scored a 337.25 to finish behind the nation’s third-rated California (352.7) last Friday in Berkeley, Calif. The Buckeyes, who competed without three of their top scorers vs. Cal, fell to 3-5 overall with the loss while the Golden Bears improved to 9-1 on the season.

Highlighting the meet for Ohio State was the pommel horse squad which produced a 55.35 event total, just .60 point shy of the team’s season-high. This effort came from behind a second-place finish from redshirt freshman and Fremont, Calif., native Steven Spencer. Spencer scored a career-high 15.0, trailing Cal’s Glen Ishino by .10 in first. Ohio native’s Andy Saurber, a senior from Fairfield, and Ty Echard, a freshman from Lancaster, contributed a 14.05 (fourth) and 13.55 (fifth), respectively.

Junior Shachar Tal led the squad on floor, rings, vault and parallel bars while classmate Justin Myers score the team’s top mark on high bar. At the contest, Matt Rayl made his Buckeye debut, competing on the pommel horse.

THE SCHEDULE
Ohio State, which welcomes six new faces to the Buckeye program this season, has a tough schedule ahead with only two home meets in 2009.   

The Scarlet and Gray opened the season on the road, taking fourth at the Windy City Invitational Jan. 17 and remained away with a conference loss to Illinois Jan. 24 in Champaign, Ill. The Buckeyes opened their home schedule vs. UIC with a 350.8-333.05 victory Feb. 21 in their first collegiate competition in four weeks.

Ohio State is now at the end of a three-meet road swing. The Buckeyes dropped a 347.6-346.5 decision to reigning Big Ten champion and then-No. 7 Penn State Feb. 28 in State College, Pa. Last week, Ohio State dropped to No. 3 California, 352.7-337.25 Friday in Berkeley, Calif. The Scarlet and Gray cap their away schedule with a dual vs. No. 2 Oklahoma Saturday in Norman, Okla. Regular-season action ends with a home contest against No. 5 Michigan at 7 p.m. March 21. The dual in Columbus will be aired on the Big Ten Network on tape delay at 6 p.m. March 25.  

UP NEXT
The Scarlet and Gray close out the regular season vs. No. 5 Michigan at 7 p.m. next Saturday in St. John Arena. Ohio State will recognize its five seniors as part of Senior Day prior to the start of the meet. The Buckeye-Wolverine dual in Columbus will be televised by the Big Ten Network on tape delay at 6 p.m. March 25.