Feb. 12, 2003

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – After spending last weekend in Las Vegas competing in the Winter Cup Challenge, Ohio State will play host to a co-ed dual match Friday against Nebraska at 7 p.m. in St. John Arena.

The No. 9 Cornhuskers posted a season-high 210.55 against No. 2 Oklahoma Feb. 1. Their score was higher than any mark they posted in the 2001-02 season. Last week at the Winter Cup Challenge, sophomore Mace Patterson and freshman Derric Wood finished the all-around competition in 26th and 32nd, respectively. Patterson already has set five career-high marks, including an improvement on his all-around score with 51.8 points against Oklahoma. Wood set his all-around career-high in Nebraska’s season-opener against Iowa, finishing second in the all-around with a score of 51.775.

In his third decade as the head coach of the Nebraska men’s gymnastics team, Francis Allen has created a strong gymnastics program.The staggering success over the past two decades includes eight NCAA team titles, seven runner-up finishes, 41 individual national titles, 11 Olympians and 14 conference titles. Over the past 21 seasons, his teams have finished either first, second or third 16 times at the NCAA championships, and since 1979, the Huskers have earned eight national titles, five more than runner-ups Stanford and Ohio State in that same span.

The all-time series record against Nebraska is in the Cornhuskers’ favor, 9-8. Last year, No. 6 Ohio State encountered No. 12 Nebraska later in the year when it traveled to Lincoln, Neb., March 3. In a victorious effort, the Buckeyes recorded a then season-high 217.4 to the Cornhuskers 209.725. Raj Bhavsar won the all-around with a 55.0 and placed first in pommel horse (9.475), rings (9.5) and parallel bars (9.6). Dick Huntwork finished on top in floor with a 9.45 and Randy Monahan led the way on high bar as Buckeye gymnasts claimed the top four places in the event.

After opening the season at No. 2 defending national champion Oklahoma, the Buckeyes dropped to third in the Gymnastics Info Poll with 213.0 points high score. Penn State moved into first place after recording a 217.25 score and Oklahoma slipped to second after it compiled 214.275 points.

Since, the Top 3 have remained the same, however, as of Feb. 10 the ranking have reverted to an average of the team’s top-two scores. Ohio State has a 214.245 average behind Penn State’s 218.325 and Oklahoma’s 215.862. Three Big Ten team round out the Top 6: Michigan (212.7), Iowa (210.237) and Illinois (209.675).

For individual events, Ohio State ranks No. 1 on floor, No. 4 on vault and No. 3 on the other events. Individually, Randy Monahan is fourth in the nation on all-around with a 53.4 two-score average and Dick Huntwork’s 9.2 average on floor ranks fourth.

Dick Huntwork has increased his all-around involvement this season by becoming a top performer for the Buckeyes. Since his opening 49.8 at the Windy City Invitational, he has shown improvement weekly. His career-high 52.15 was recorded at Illinois and his currently is ranked No. 7 in the nation with a 51.95 two-score all-around average.

Ronald Ferris, a freshman from Austintown, Ohio, is making an impact with the Buckeyes this season. He holds a team season-high 9.15 on parallel bars, which he recorded in a first-place effort against Illinois. Ferris also has competed on pommel horse, high bar and vault.

Bhavsar, the 2002 NCAA and Big Ten All-Around Champion, has yet to compete in a dual match or tournament this season because of a tear in the shoulder. He completed in the last leg of the 2002 season with what was thought to be a strained shoulder. Although he risked further injury, he still competed in the 2002 national championships. At the conclusion of the season, a MRI reveled orthopedic surgery was necessary.

Bhavsar competed in the Feb. 7-8 Winter Cup where he earned a continuance on the U.S. National Team until June 2003. He is not expected to compete again until the Buckeyes travel to Oklahoma March 7. From there, he will finish out the rest of his senior year.

Ohio State returned all five 2002 All-Americans this season. Raj Bhavsar was an All-American on all-around, vault and pommel horse. Kerry Adderly, Jamey Houle and Dick Huntwork were All-Americans on floor and Randy Monahan was an All-American on high bar.

Randy Monahan won multiple honors after his first place all-around finish at the Windy City including Big Ten Men’s Gymnast of the Week and NCAA Men’s Gymnast of the Week named by Inside Gymnastics collegiate editor Jerry Wright. Monahan placed in the Top 10 on all six events and placed third in three events by scoring a 9.0 on rings, a 9.35 on vault and a 9.0 on high bar. In the competition, he compiled 53.850 points to claim the all-around title by one point. He also placed fourth on floor exercise (9.100).

The Buckeyes will travel to State College to challenge the No. 1 Nittany Lions at 7 p.m. Feb. 2. Penn State clamed the top of the rankings by posting a 219.4 against Michigan Jan. 25. Jose Palacous is the current national all-around leader with 55.050 points.

The Buckeyes will play host to the Big Ten Championships March 28-29 at St. John Arena. Ohio State will defend its back-to-back 2001 and 2002 championships, which were held in State College, Pa., and Minneapolis, Minn., respectively. A third-consecutive victory will mark the first Big Ten three-peat in school history.

The Buckeyes will look to extend their record to 23-consecutive trips to the NCAA championship, which will be held in Philadelphia at Avery’s alma mater, Temple. It will be his goal to make the team feel at home, especially considering the home team has won the national title the last two years (Ohio State and Oklahoma, respectively). Winning this tournament is the ultimate goal for the team this year and would make the second national championship in three years.