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Seven-ranked Buckeyes set off for Ann Arbor, Mich., for league championships

COLUMBUS, Ohio The Ohio State men’s gymnastics team, ranked seventh in the country and fourth in the Big Ten, will meet for the always competitive league championships at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich. This year features a tight race for the Big Ten team title with Illinois, Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State and Minnesota holding the fourth through eighth rankings, respectively, in the GymInfo national poll. Iowa rounds out the standings with a No. 10 ranking.

The 2009 Big Ten Men’s Gymnastics Championships will kick off at 7 p.m. Friday with the team and all-around competition and will conclude at 7 p.m. Saturday with the individual event championships. Senior Eddie Hay, the 2007 Big Ten floor champion, is the last Buckeye to win an event title at the conference championships. A year ago, senior captain and 2009 Nissen-Emery Award finalist Jake Bateman finished second in the all-around while then-freshman Brandon Wynn placed sixth as both earned first-team All-Big Ten honors.

Ohio State will start the team competition on rings, the team’s strongest event, and will end on the hardest event in gymnastics, pommel horse.

FOLLOWING FROM HOME
The Big Ten Network will be televising the 2009 Big Ten Men’s Gymnastics Championships live at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday night. Live stats will also be available on the men’s gymnastics homepage at www.MGoBlue.com. 

TICKETS TO THE BIG TEN SHOWDOWN
Tickets for the two-day Big Ten Championships at Crisler Arena are available for purchase online at MGoBlue.com/tickets, with team and all-around finals taking place Friday and individual event finals taking place Saturday.

Adult tickets are $7, while senior and student tickets are $4. Tickets can also be purchased at the Michigan Ticket Office, located on 1000 South State Street in Ann Arbor, or by phone (734) 764-0247 or toll free at (866) 296-MTIX (6849). Tickets also will be on sale at Crisler Arena on days of competition.

Doors will open to the public at 5:30 pm on Friday, April 3, and Saturday, April 4. There will be a reserved section for each team’s fans.

EBRAHIMI NAMED CAPTAIN
Fifth-year senior Pejman Ebrahimi was named co-captain of the Ohio State squad Tuesday, Miles Avery, men’s gymnastics head coach, announced. Ebrahimi, a 2007 NCAA champion on vault, will join senior Jake Bateman in the leadership role for the remainder of the season in replace of injured junior co-captain Tai Lee.

A LOOK BACK: 2008 BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIPS
With a score of 354.35, the seventh-ranked Buckeyes finished third April 4, 2008 at the 2008 Big Ten Men’s Gymnastics Championships in Rec Hall on the campus of Penn State University. Host school and defending national champion Penn State took the league’s crown with a 360.45 while Illinois placed second with a 357.3. Michigan finished in fourth (353.0), Minnesota took fifth (351.45) and Iowa sixth (344.5).

Jake Bateman captured second in the all-around with an 87.95 while Brandon Wynn placed sixth (85.55). The nation’s top-ranked all-arounder then-junior Casey Sandy of Penn State won the title with a 91.5.

AVERY’S BUCKEYES PERFORM AT BIG TENS
Under Ohio State head coach Miles Avery, the Buckeyes have never finished out of the conference’s Top 3 in 11 seasons, extending the program’s record to 22-consecutive years placing in the top half of the league.

Since garnering its first Big Ten crown in 1983, an honor the Buckeyes shared with Illinois, Ohio State has collected 12 conference team titles in 26 seasons. With Avery at the helm, the Buckeyes have garnered five first-place finishes (2001, ’02, ’05, ’06, ’07) and two second-place finishes (2000, ’03).

In 1926, Charles Smith became the first Buckeye to win a Big Ten individual title. Since then, Ohio State has had 31 student-athletes earn an individual championship for a total of 67. The 2009 team boasts Big Ten titlists Eddie Hay, the 2007 Big Ten floor champion.

PROGRAM HISTORY
At the 2007 Big Ten Championships, the Buckeyes captured the program’s third-consecutive league crown, recording the longest such streak in program history. The 2007 Big Ten Championship was OSU’s third title in as many years March 30, 2007 at the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis, Minn., with a score of 217.75. Only one tenth of a point separated No. 1 from No. 2 in the Big Ten, as Penn State, who would go on to win the 2007 NCAA title on its home floor in April, finished second with a 217.65. Host Minnesota rounded out the Top 3 scoring a 215.25.

AT THE HELM OSU COACHES POCKET LEAGUE HONORS
For the fifth time in 10 seasons, Ohio State head coach Miles Avery was tabbed Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2007, an honor he shared with Minnesota head coach Mike Brown. Since the award was first presented in 1988, a Buckeye coach has received the laurel nine times, the most for any conference program. Peter Kormann earned the award in 1993, ’94, ’96, and ’97 and Avery was tabbed coach of the year in 2001, ’02, ’05, ’06 and 07.

IN THE LEAGUES TOP 10
Four Buckeyes currently own Top 10 rankings among Big Ten competitors. On floor, Ohio State is led by senior Eddie Hay’s 15.15 average and fourth ranking while classmate Jake Bateman holds sixth with a 15.083. The Buckeyes rank 1-2-3 among conference foes on rings with sophomore Brandon Wynn in first with a mean of 15.3. Bateman follows in second (15.183) and junior Shachar Tal rounds out the sweep in third (15.067).

On vault, Bateman is tied for seventh (15.683) while senior co-captain Pejman Ebrahimi falls just outside the Top 10 in 11th with a 15.667 average. Bateman, who ranks in the Big Ten’s Top 10 on 4-of-6 events, also adds a ninth-place ranking on parallel bars (14.4) and is third in the all-around, averaging an 87.567 total. Wynn also ranks high in the all-around competition, holding a mean of 84.517.

BUCKEYES IN THE NATIONAL RANKINGS
Ohio State owns two Top 5 event averages in the GymInfo national standings released March 30. The Buckeyes hold the nation’s No. 1 (tied) ranking on rings with a 60.55 mean and the No. 5 spot on vault (62.45).

Individually, senior Jake Bateman and sophomore Brandon Wynn stand at seventh (87.567) and 10th (84.517) in the nation’s all-around rankings. Wynn is ranked third on rings with a 15.3 while Bateman is fifth with a 15.183 average and Shachar Tal is seventh with a 15.067. Among all NCAA competitors, Eddie Hay holds the No. 9 spot in floor standings with a 15.15.

BATEMAN NAMED NISSEN-EMERY AWARD FINALIST
Jake Bateman, a senior and two-time captain of the Ohio State men’s gymnastics team, was named a 2009 Nissen-Emery award finalist by the College Gymnastics Association.

As he did a season ago, Bateman has led the Buckeyes in the all-around in 2009, including a season-high 88.65 in the all-around vs. Michigan (March 21). In six meets this season, the Kingsport, Tenn., native and product of Premier Athletics has recorded four first-places finishes, one each on floor (15.1; Feb. 21 UIC), vault (15.6; Jan. 17 Windy City Invite) and high bar (15.3; March 21 Michigan), as well as an all-around win (86.1; Feb. 28 Penn State). Bateman has tallied two or more team-best scores in five of his six meets this season.

The Big Ten freshman of the year in 2006, Bateman earned his first All-America honor in the all-around with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA championships. He finished second in the all-around at the 2008 Big Ten Championships to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors as a junior. Studying biology at Ohio State, the polished athlete also is a leader in the classroom as a CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Second Team Academic All-American and First Team All-District selection.

The winner will be announced at the College Gymnastics Association Banquet April 15 in Minneapolis, Minn., the site of the 2009 National Collegiate Men’s Gymnastics Championships.

The Nissen-Emery Award Finalists:
Jake Bateman (Ohio State)
Chris Brooks (Oklahoma)
Kit Beikmann (Minnesota)
Kyson Bunthuwong (California)
Philip Goldberg (Michigan)
Sho Nakamori (Stanford)
T.J. Schmidt (Nebraska)
Jacob Schonig (Air Force)

OHIO STATE AND THE NISSEN-EMERY AWARD
Four Buckeyes have won the award, including Mike Racanelli in 1990, Kip Simons in 1994, Blaine Wilson in 1997 and Jamie Natalie in 2001. In the last 20 years, only Oklahoma has had more gymnasts garner the recognition with five winners. Illinois, Minnesota and Stanford each have had two honorees since 1989. Since 1999, the Scarlet and Gray have produced a candidate to the award’s finalists list nine of the last 11 seasons.

Each year, the prestigious Nissen-Emery Award is presented to the nation’s outstanding senior male collegiate gymnast. In addition to excellence in the sport, the winner also must be an example of good sportsmanship and maintain a high standard of scholarship throughout his college career.

BEST IN THE COUNTRY
A native of Voorhees, N.J., Brandon Wynn notched an NCAA-leading 16.1 on rings vs. Michigan (March 21) in St. John Arena. No other Division I NCAA gymnast has produced a mark above a 15.65 in 2009. Bryant Hadden of Stanford and Jacob Schonig of Air Force trail Wynn with a pair of 15.65. His mark stands as both a career and Ohio State program high on the event.

RINGS KINGS
The Buckeyes have placed 1-2-3 on rings three times this season. The squad earned its first sweep vs. UIC Feb. 21 and repeated the effort at Oklahoma March 14 and vs. Michigan March 21 in St. John Arena. With a 60.55 event total average, Ohio State is tied for first with Stanford in the national rankings and boasts the Big Ten’s Top 3 competitors on rings.

Brandon Wynn, who notched an NCAA-best 16.1 vs. the Wolverines, holds first in the league and third in the country with a 15.3 average on the event. Following in second and third in the conference standings are Jake Bateman (15.183) and Shachar Tal (15.067), respectively. In the NCAA rankings, Bateman comes in at No. 5 and Tal at No. 7.

REGULAR-SEASON FINALE
A crowd of 500-plus watched six members of the Ohio State men’s gymnastics team set career highs March 21 in St. John Arena as the squad celebrated senior night with a team total of 349.7. The Buckeyes tallied program-high marks on rings (61.25) and high bar (60.15) but ultimately dropped its conference match vs. Michigan who posted a 357.6.

Top performances came from senior Jake Bateman, notching a career and program-high 15.3 on high bar and sophomore Brandon Wynn, accomplishing the same feat on rings with a 16.1.

Bateman, who scored a season-high and second-place 88.65 in the all-around, was joined by his four teammates in the high bar effort, as all Buckeye competitors hit career marks on the apparatus, including juniors Tai Lee with a 15.1 and Justin Myers with a 15.0.

On pommel horse, freshman Ty Echard continued his stellar rookie season with a team-best 14.0. In the third rotation, the Buckeyes made up some ground, winning rings with a program-best 61.25 over the Wolverine’s 59.8. Following Wynn’s first-place effort, Bateman joined in with a second-place 15.4 and junior Shachar Tal made it a sweep with a 15.2, just .05 shy of his career high.

Ohio State carried its momentum into its vaulting, notching the Top 3 marks on its second-consecutive event. Fifth-year senior Pejman Ebrahimi took first with a 15.9, Myers of Hinckley, Ohio, notched a career-high 15.8 for second and Bateman tied for third with a 15.75.

FOLLOW THE LEADERS*
Senior Jake Bateman and junior Tai Lee were announced captains of the 2009 Buckeyes at the Varsity Exhibition Jan. 10 as voted by their teammates.

Bateman, the 2006 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, paced the Buckeyes a season ago, earning All-America status in the all-around with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA championships. In addition, Bateman finished second in the all-around at the 2008 Big Ten Championships to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors as a junior. The Kingsport, Tenn., native becomes a two-time captain for Ohio State after taking the role on in 2008.

Studying biology at Ohio State, the polished athlete also is a leader in the classroom as a CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Second Team Academic All-American and First Team All-District selection.

Lee, a native of Orlando, Fla., had a standout freshman season, competing at 6-of-7 regular-season meets before sustaining a shoulder injury that kept him out of the lineup for the majority of 2008. In only three meets, he helped Ohio State to a third-place finish at the 2008 Big Ten Championships and finished third in the all-around during the NCAA qualifier. Lee is majoring in consumer affairs.

*Note: Pejman Ebrahimi was named co-captain March 31.

UP NEXT
Ohio State has a bye week to prepare for the 2009 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships in Minneapolis, Minn. The national championships begins Thursday, April 16 with Session I and II of the team qualifier. The team finals will begin at 7 p.m. Friday, April 17 and the Buckeyes will end the 2009 season at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 18 with the national individual event finals.