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COLUMBUS, Ohio Last year, the Ohio State men’s gymnastics team captured its third-consecutive Big Ten title, a feat no other Buckeye team has accomplished in the program’s 84-year history. This weekend, the squad will face stiff competition from its conference rivals as Ohio State travels to University, Pa., to defend its crown at the 2008 Big Ten Men’s Gymnastics Championships held at 7 p.m. EST Friday and Saturday in Rec Hall on the Penn State University campus.

The Big Ten Network will be televising the championships live, marking the Buckeyes’ third appearance on the network this season. Friday night will feature the team championships with Ohio State starting the competition on rings and ending on pommel horse. Saturday will showcase the league’s top gymnasts on each event as they vie for individual Big Ten crowns.

The reigning Big Ten champions enter the meet ranked seventh in the nation with a 4-8 overall record and a 2-5 league ledger. In its last three regular-season tune ups, Ohio State continued to show improvement, upping its season-best team total at its duals vs. California (351.0), Penn State (353.05) and Michigan (356.25).

The Buckeyes head into the championships after posting a season-high 356.25 on the road vs. the Wolverines March 22. The mark registered in as the second-highest Big Ten road score this season, following Penn State’s 360.55 logged vs. Ohio State in St. John Arena Feb. 24.

GETTING THERE
Tickets for the 2008 Big Ten Men’s Gymnastics Championships can be purchased by calling the Penn State University ticket office at 814-863-1000 or 1-800-833-5533 or e-mailing golions@psu.edu. All-session ticket prices for adults and youth are $12 and $6, respectively, while single-session tickets are available for $7 (adult) and $4 (youth). Groups of 20 or more are eligible for a single-session discount of $3 when purchased in advance.

FOLLOWING FROM HOME
Follow live scoring of the 2008 Big Ten Men’s Gymnastics Championships online or watch it live from home on the Big Ten Network. Live scoring can be accessed from the men’s gymnastics schedule page online at OhioStateBuckeyes.com.

THREE TIMES THE VICTOR
At the 2007 Big Ten Championships, the then-No. 1 ranked 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.

Coming in fourth at the championships was Michigan with a 214.35 while Illinois ended the competition in fifth (211.9) and Iowa sixth (210.0).

Individually, DJ Bucher grabbed his third Big Ten crown with a win on parallel bars while Eddie Hay nabbed his first conference title with a win on floor.

OHIO STATE AT THE CHAMPIONSHIPS
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 25 seasons. Under Miles Avery’s direction, the Buckeyes have never finished out of the Top 3 at Big Ten championships, including 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 2008 team boasts two Big Ten titlists with senior DJ Bucher, who won on parallel bars in 2005 and ’07 and pommel horse in ’06, and junior Eddie Hay, the 2007 Big Ten floor champion. A native of Mason, Ohio, Bucher is one of 14 Buckeyes who have collected multiple individual league crowns from a list that dons three Olympians (Gil Pinto, Kip Simons and Blaine Wilson) and two Olympic alternates (Raj Bhavsar and Jamie Natalie).

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. 

ALL-BIG TEN STATUS
The 2008 Buckeye squad brings three All-Big Ten selections to the floor this championships season. Last year, DJ Bucher earned his third distinction while then-sophomore Eddie Hay and then-freshman Tai Lee garnered their first All-Big Ten honors. In his senior campaign, Bucher has the chance to become only the fifth Buckeye in program history to be named to the All-Big Ten team each of his four years of eligibility.

FACETIME ON THE BIG TEN NETWORK
The live production of the 2008 Big Ten Men’s Gymnastics Championships marks the third time this season the Ohio State men’s gymnastics program has been featured on the Big Ten Network.

The Buckeyes made their debut on the television channel Feb. 28 with a tape delay production of their co-ed dual vs. the Nittany Lions Feb. 24 held in historic St. John Arena. Ohio State then met Michigan for a league battle March 22 in Ann Arbor, Mich., with its second competition aired on delay March 29 on the Big Ten Network.

2008 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
The Buckeyes head out West April 17-19 for the 66th-annual NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships hosted by No. 1-ranked Stanford at Maples Pavilion. Participating teams will be announced on April 8.

All-session ticket packages range from $20 to $30 and include four sessions (two on April 17 at 1 p.m. PST and 7 p.m. PST and one session at 7 p.m. PST April 18 and April 19). Individual session tickets will go on sale April 17. Groups of 10 or more can purchase individual session tickets for $4 each until April 15. All seats are general admission.

THE CANDIDATE
DJ Bucher was tabbed a 2008 Nissen-Emery Award finalist March 12 by the College Gymnastics Association (CGA). A six-time All-American, Bucher has been a standout for the program since his rookie season when he collected All-America honors on three events, the most by a freshman in Buckeye history.

The Mason, Ohio, native captured the 2005 and ’07 Big Ten parallel bars titles and won the 2006 Big Ten pommel horse crown. Bucher, who was voted tri-captain of the 2008 squad, is a three-time All-Big Ten selection and a 2007 CGA Second Team All-America Scholar-Athlete.

In his time at Ohio State, the textiles and clothing major earned National Gymnast of the Week honors once (March 17, 2007) and Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honors twice (Jan. 31 and March 21, 2007).

Nationally, Bucher has qualified for seven of the last nine USA Gymnastics’ VISA Championships and was named to the 2002 and ’05 U.S. Senior National teams.

2008 Nissen-Emery Award Finalists:
DJ Bucher, Ohio State
Wesley Haagensen, Illinois
Derek Helsby, Penn State
Jonathan Horton, Oklahoma
Tim McNeill, California
David Sender, Stanford
Luke Vexler, Temple

BUCKEYES AND THE AWARD
Four Buckeyes have won the Nissen-Emery Award, including Mike Racanelli in 1990, Kip Simons in 1994, Blaine Wilson in 1997 and Jamie Natalie in 2001. Only Oklahoma has had more gymnasts garner the recognition with five winners. Ohio State’s four honorees ties with Southern Connecticut State who also produced four before dropping its program in 2004. Since 1999, the Buckeye program has produced a candidate to the award’s finalists list eight of the last 10 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.

GO DJ, THAT’S MY DJ
Voted tri-captain of the 2008 squad at Ohio State’s Varsity Exhibition (Jan. 5), six-time All-American DJ Bucher started his senior season off strong, placing second on rings (14.9) and tying for fifth on parallel bars (14.45) at the Windy City Invitational (Jan. 12). He added another second-place finish on pommel horse with a season-high 14.6 at home against Illinois (Jan. 26). Now bouncing back from injury, the native of Mason, Ohio, made his presence known vs. Michigan (March 22), nabbing his first win of the season on parallel bars with a season-best 15.35. At the dual, the Nissen-Emery Award finalist added a second-place finish on pommel horse with a 14.5.

WYNN AT THE TOP OF HIS CLASS
This season, Buckeye freshman Brandon Wynn has not only adjusted to his new competition schedule but has done so in good fashion. A native of Voorhees, N.J., Wynn enters the postseason with the highest all-around three-score average among Big Ten rookies with an 85.717. The average ranks Wynn fifth among all Big Ten competitors and eighth nationally in the GymInfo rankings. He owns the No. 1 average among his conference counterparts on rings (14.883) and parallel bars (14.517) while holding the second-best average on high bar (14.517) behind Illinois’ Paul Ruggeri (14.867). On vault, Wynn comes in at No. 5 with a 15.4 average.

The versatile gymnast, who has competed the all-around at all six Buckeye meets this year, outscored junior teammate Jake Bateman in the all-around for the first time this season at the Michigan dual (March 22). At his strong showing, Wynn tied for second on vault (15.7), fifth on parallel bars (14.6) and sixth on rings (14.8).

OHIO STATE IN THE NATIONAL RANKINGS
Entering the postseason, Ohio State remains seventh in the GymInfo national rankings with a team total season average of 348.417 after six competitions. Stanford maintains its place atop the standings with a 360.083 average with Oklahoma (358.467) and Penn State (356.833) following in second and third, respectively. California, fourth in the rankings, holds a 356.25 average while Illinois jumps just ahead of Michigan to take the fifth spot (354.817). The Wolverines hold sixth in the standings with a 353.783 average.

The Buckeyes hold Top 10 team averages on all six events, including a team-best sixth on floor (59.233). The squad holds seventh on rings (58.483) and high bar (56.9) and eighth on vault (61.883). Ohio State enters the GymInfo national event rankings in ninth on parallel bars (57.133) and 10th on pommel horse with a 55.5 three-score average.

BUCKEYES IN THE TOP 10
Four Ohio State gymnasts hold Top 10 individual event scores in the GymInfo national rankings, including captains Jimmy Wickham and Jake Bateman. Wickham, a native of Gulfport, Miss., owns the highest ranking of a Buckeye at the No. 2 spot with a three-score average of 16.133 on vault. The senior shares the No. 2 ranking with Iowa’s Geoff Reins while also holding the nation’s ninth-highest average on floor (15.3). Bateman also holds two Top 10 averages in the GymInfo rankings. The junior from Kingsport, Tenn., is fourth on parallel bars with a 15.167 three-score average, earning him the second-highest average in the Big Ten. Bateman also owns the country’s seventh-best and Big Ten’s fourth-best all-around average of 85.867.

Junior Eddie Hay of Butler, Pa., enters the national rankings tied for seventh on floor with a 15.333 average while freshman Brandon Wynn breaks into the Top 10 with an eighth-ranked average of 85.717 in the all-around. A native of Voorhees, N.J., Wynn holds the fifth-best all-around average among Big Ten competitors and the best among the conference’s rookie class. The gymnast trails two Big Ten seniors and two juniors in the standings.   

CONFERENCE STANDINGS
Defending national champion Penn State leads the Big Ten Conference with a season average of 356.833 points. Battling back and forth for the league’s second spot all season has been Michigan and Illinois. Heading into the championships, the Fighting Illini hold the second-highest team average with a 354.817 and just behind them are the Wolverines in third (353.783). Ohio State is fourth with a team average of 348.417 while Minnesota holds fifth (346.683) in the Big Ten and eighth in the country. Iowa’s average of 343.917 ranks sixth in the conference and 10th in the nation.

UP NEXT
Ohio State flies cross-country to compete at the 66th-annual NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships held April 17-19 at Stanford’s Maples Pavilion. Participating teams will be announced on April 8.