Ohio State inks 22nd-consecutive finish in the league’s Top 3

ANN ARBOR, Mich.  The Ohio State men’s gymnastics team extended its streak of Top 3 finishes at the Big Ten Championships to 22 in a row Friday, finishing third for a second-consecutive year with a tally of 349.9 in Crisler Arena on the University of Michigan campus. The championship title came down to Michigan’s final routine and resulted in a tie as both the Wolverines and Illinois scored a 357.1 team total. Minnesota trailed the Buckeyes in fourth with a 348.0 while Penn State placed fifth (340.8) and Iowa sixth (337.75).

“It was typical of our year in terms of being inconsistent and that is exactly how this competition went for us,” Miles Avery, Ohio State head coach, said. “It was great for us to stay in the Top 3 of the league for the 22nd-consecutive season.”

Two Buckeyes finished in the Top 6 of the all-around, earning All-Big Ten status. Senior co-captain Jake Bateman, a 2009 Nissen-Emery Award finalist, placed third with an 88.55 while freshman Philip Onorato took sixth with an 82.65. Onorato’s tally, the best by a rookie at the meet, helps his campaign for freshman of the year honors.

Ohio State began the league championships on rings, proving it is the best in the league on the event with a first-place 59.95 total. As they have done three times previously in 2009, the Buckeyes swept the Top 3 finishes on rings. Sophomore Brandon Wynn, ranked first in the Big Ten and third in the nation heading into the event, led the field with an event-winning 15.15 mark. Onorato and Bateman started their all-around campaigns, taking second and third, respectively. Onorato, a native of Plano, Texas, posted a 15.1 while Bateman of Kingsport, Tenn., tied for third with a 15.05. Also having a solid night on rings was sophomore Sean Regan who tallied his second-consecutive career high on the event with a 14.65.

In the second rotation, the squad earned a 62.1 on vault, its fourth highest tally on the event this season. Leading Ohio State with a third-place score of 15.7 was Onorato while senior Pejman Ebrahimi tied for fifth with a 15.55. Ohio State had three more Buckeyes score above a 15.0 in Bateman, 15.45 (7T), Wynn, 15.4 (10T), and junior Justin Myers, 15.1.

A pair of Buckeyes, junior Shachar Tal and Bateman brought the Ohio State fan contingent to its feet with two solid parallel bars routines. Going fourth in the lineup, Tal received a 14.55, to place fifth. Using the momentum, Bateman boosted the Buckeyes to a third-place 57.0 total with a 14.8, the meet’s third-best score and his second-best score of 2009. Myers, a native of Hinckley, Ohio, continued to support the team effort, adding a 14.1 (11th) to the event total.

On high bar, Bateman led the squad with a fourth-place 14.7 and Regan, a native of Libertyville, Ill., contributed a 14.0 as the Buckeyes posted a 55.5 event tally.

Ohio State rebounded on floor in the fifth rotation with a 58.9 event total. Onorato started the scoring with a 14.25 and the scores kept increasing from there.  The squad’s upperclassmen took over with seniors Bateman and Eddie Hay scoring the team’s two best scores with an eighth-place 15.0 and 13th-place (tied) 14.9, respectively. Bateman’s 15.0 mark was just three-tenths of a point shy of his career high. The juniors, Myers and Tal, continued the show for the Buckeyes, registering a 14.75 and 14.1, respectively.

The Buckeyes finished the meet on the hardest event in gymnastics, pommel horse, earning a solid 56.4, just one-tenth shy of the team’s season high. A freshman and a senior pommel horse specialist posted the Top 2 Buckeye scores. Ty Echard, a rookie from Lancaster, Ohio, gave Ohio State a 15.0, a mark just three-tenths of a point shy of his career best, to tie for fourth. Senior Andy Saurber of Hamilton, Ohio, added a season-high 14.3 as the Scarlet and Gray to finish tied for 12th and aid the team effort.

The Big Ten Championships conclude at 7 p.m. Saturday in Crisler Arena with the individual event finals. Ohio State will have six gymnasts competing Saturday, including Bateman who qualified for 5-of-6 event finals. The All-American will compete for a league title on floor, rings, vault, parallel bars and high bar. Onorato qualified for finals on two events, rings and vault. Buckeyes competing in one event final are Echard on pommel horse, Wynn on rings, Ebrahimi on vault and Tal on parallel bars.

The Big Ten Network will televise the individual event finals live at 7 p.m.