Bateman finishes first on vault, second in all-around

COLUMBUS, Ohio The preseason third-ranked Ohio State men’s gymnastics team placed fourth with a team total of 337.65 at the 39th-annual Windy City Invitational Saturday night in the Physical and Education Building in Chicago. Michigan was the victor at the meet with a score of 346.1, while Illinois (342.25) and Minnesota (341.4) finished second and third, respectively. Meet host UIC was fifth with a score of 327.7 and Iowa was last with a 325.9.

Senior captain Jake Bateman and junior captain Tai Lee nabbed second and third, respectively, in the all-around. Bateman, a native of Kingsport, Tenn., tallied an 87.55 in the all-around, scoring a first-place finish on vault with a 15.6. Lee, a native of Orlando, Fla., tied for first on rings with a 14.8 en route to his 84.15 score in the all-around. Michigan sophomore Chris Cameron won the all-around with an 88.1.

“Already a man down coming into the weekend, then losing Brandon Wynn to the flu, this team had a lot working against them,” Miles Avery, 12th-year Ohio State head coach, said. “We started slow but this squad showed it has some fight in it and really started to come on in the third and fourth rotations. Now, we have to focus on starting and ending strong.”

With only four gymnasts competing on parallel bars and high bar, all four scores counted for the Buckeyes on those events. The team began the evening on rings. Lee paced the squad with his tie for first while Bateman did the same for Ohio State on vault with his first-place mark. Making his debut for the Scarlet and Gray on vault was Plano, Texas, native Philip Onorato. The freshman had Ohio State’s second-best score on the event, tallying a 15.3 to help the Buckeyes outscore all four meet competitors with a team total of 60.6 on vault.

On parallel bars, Bateman posted a team-best 14.65, good for fourth at the meet, before the team received 1-2 marks on high bar. Justin Myers, a junior from Hinckley, Ohio, captured the meet’s top mark on high bar with a 14.35. Bateman placed second with a 14.25 and Lee added a 14.15 for fourth. Ohio State finished with the second-best score on high bar, a 54.8, trailing Minnesota’s 55.6 event total. 

Moving on to floor, seniorEddie Hay posted a Buckeye-high 15.25 to place third and was followed by Bateman with a fourth-place 15.0. On pommel horse, Mike Behles and Steven Spencer made their Ohio State debuts. Bateman and Lee paced the team, scoring a 13.65 and 13.6, respectively.

Saturday marked the 30th-consecutive season the Scarlet and Gray opened its season at the Windy City Invite and the second-consecutive time the Buckeyes finished fourth. Previous to the 2008 season, Ohio State last finished fourth at the opening season meet in 2002. That team went on to win the Big Ten Conference title and finish second at the NCAA championships.

Making his debut after sitting out in 2008 because of injury was Pejman Ebrahimi. Ebrahimi tallied a 14.2 on rings.

“As far as energy goes, parallel bars and high bar went really well for us and was a turning point for us,” Ebrahimi, a fifth-year senior, said. “Our two best events are rings and vault but we came out a little slow tonight on those events. We need to have a more aggressive start. The good we can take away from the night is that we dug ourselves out.”

Ohio State and Illinois square off for the second-consecutive weekend, this time in a dual meeting, at 8 p.m. EST Jan. 24 at Huff Hall in Champaign, Ill. The Scarlet and Gray then take a break from collegiate action to compete at USA Gymnastics’ 2009 Winter Cup Challenge Feb. 5 and 7 in Las Vegas.