Buckeyes face third-consecutive opponent ranked in the nation’s Top 3; meet serves as Senior Night

COLUMBUS, Ohio In its home finale, the seventh-ranked Ohio State men’s gymnastics team (4-7; 2-4 Big Ten) welcomes longtime rival and No. 3 Oklahoma to St. John Arena for a dual at 7 p.m. The meet will serve as senior night for Buckeyes DJ Bucher, Tony Duong, David Ortiz and Jimmy Wickham.

Follow live scoring of the dual meet Saturday, which can be accessed from the men’s gymnastics page online at

In the past decade, Ohio State and Oklahoma have met for dual competition nine times with the Sooners taking a 5-4 lead in the series. The Buckeyes trail the Sooners 23-27-1 in the all-time series.

With a spirited rivalry, competition between the two teams has been neck-and-neck over the years. In 2007, Ohio State notched its first dual win over Oklahoma in five years with a 218.65-213.55 road win. The then-No. 4 Buckeyes snapped the third-ranked Sooners’ seven year home dual win streak with the victory in Norman, Okla. At the dual, Ohio State had four gymnasts combine to win top marks on all six events. DJ Bucher and Jimmy Wickham led the squad, winning two events each. Bucher was first on pommel horse and parallel bars while Wickham hit the top mark on floor and vault. Then-freshman Tai Lee won rings with a season-high 9.75 as former Buckeye Willie Ito tied Bucher for first on pommel horse and took high bar.

In 2005, Ohio State came up just .225 of a point short, finishing second to Oklahoma at the NCAA championships. Then-freshman Jonathan Horton scored a 9.5 on vault to give the Sooners a 225.675-225.45 win over the Buckeyes at Holleder Center on the campus of the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
March 3, 2007 W, 218.65-213.55
Feb. 18, 2006 L, 215.9-216.55
March 5, 2005 L, 222.675-222.825
Feb. 13, 2004 L, 217.4-219.6
March 7, 2003 L, 218.15-222.5
March 10, 2001 L, 215.4-217.3
Feb. 28, 2000 W, 228.1-228.025
Feb. 20, 1999 W, 227.1-226.225
Feb. 6, 1998 W, 227.9-226.6

Selected third in the College Gymnastics Associations’ (CGA) preseason coaches poll in October, Oklahoma has stayed within the country’s Top 6 throughout the 2008 season. The Sooners are 11-1 on the season, falling only to No. 1-ranked Stanford at the Pacific Coast Classic in Oakland, Calif., Feb. 24.

The team, led by ninth-year head coach Mark Williams, is headlined by Nissen-Emery candidate Jonathon Horton. The senior won his third-consecutive Pacific Coast Classic all-around title with a score of 91.150, the second-highest NCAA mark awarded this season. The Sooners posted a season-high 359.8, finishing behind the Cardinals’ 361.65.

As a squad, OU leads the nation on rings and vault, averaging a 61.017 and 63.633, respectively. The Sooners rank third on floor (60.7) and high bar (58.617), fourth on parallel bars (58.617) and ninth on pommel horse (55.883).

Despite posting its second-consecutive season-best team total, the Buckeyes lost a conference dual to second-ranked Penn State, 360.55-353.05, Feb. 24 in St. John Arena. At the meet, the junior class led Ohio State to its season-high with three event wins. Eddie Hay scored a season-best 15.75 on floor for first place, Andy Saurber had a 14.55 on pommel horse for the win and tri-captain Jake Bateman notched a season-best 15.5 on parallel bars, recording his third first-place finish on the apparatus in 2008. Bateman took second in the all-around with a career-high 89.55 while freshman Brandon Wynn recorded season highs on four events en route to a season-best 87.0 score in the all-around for fourth.

Entering its final season, the Buckeye senior class has accomplished much in three years. Garnering their first conference rings as freshmen, All-Americans DJ Bucherand Jimmy Wickham, along with classmates Tony Duong and David Ortiz, have contributed key routines en route to recording three-consecutive Big Ten title wins, the program’s longest such run to date. Coming in as one of Avery’s largest classes, the veteran gymnasts have been the backbone of the Ohio State effort. In each of the three title winning championships, the 2008 senior class has combined to score five or more Top 3 Buckeye finishes. 

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) before dropping out of the competition due to an injury sustained on rings.

A standout student-athlete from his rookie season, Bucher is the only Buckeye to date to garner All-America honors on three events as a freshman. A three-time conference champion, the Mason, Ohio, native won on parallel bars in 2005 and ’07 and on pommel horse in 2006. The accomplished gymnast has qualified for seven of the last nine USA Gymnastics’ VISA Championships and has finished first 29 times as a Buckeye while also getting it done in the classroom as a second-team CGA All-America Scholar-Athlete honoree in 2007.

There is no horsing around on pommel horse once Tony Duong salutes the judges. Starting in 2006, Duong has been a mainstay in the Ohio State pommel horse lineup. Opening his senior campaign with a career-best 14.25 on the apparatus at the Windy City Invitational Jan. 12, the Bear, Del., native has continued to score high for the Buckeyes. Duong’s strong work effort carries over to the classroom as the chemical engineering major is a two-time first-team CGA Academic All-America, two-time Academic All-Big Ten and three-time OSU Scholar-Athlete honoree.

In his time at Ohio State, seniorDavid Ortiz has manned both the Ohio State vault and high bar teams. Starting his freshman season when he scored a then-OSU program high of 9.65 on vault vs. Michigan (March 13, 2005), Ortiz has continued to garner high marks, helping the team to three-consecutive Big Ten titles. Sidetracked by injury halfway through his junior season, the Cincinnati, Ohio, native has fought back this year to complete his final season as a Buckeye. Against California (Feb. 16), the computer science and engineering major hit a season-best 14.75 on high bar, bettering his previous high by nearly two points. Ortiz repeated his success the following week with a 14.5 on the apparatus to help the team to a season-high team total of 353.05 against Penn State (Jan. 24). 

Entering in 2005 as a walk on, Jimmy Wickham quickly carved a niche for himself in the gym as a specialist on floor and vault at Ohio State. One of three captains on the 2008 squad, Wickham has competed in 31 meets, missing only one competition in four years. The senior had to sit out vs. the Nittany Lions Feb. 24 after sustaining an early injury on floor that day. The Gulfport, Miss., native led Ohio State on vault at all four competitions previous to the meet against Penn State, winning the event vs. Illinois (Jan. 26) with a season-high 16.25 and California (Feb. 16) with a 16.2. Currently tied for second in the nation on vault, Wickham holds a three-score average of 16.133. A solid contributor for the Buckeyes on floor as well, he ranks eighth in the country on floor with a 15.333. This season, Wickham captured the event against Temple and Navy (Feb. 2) with a season-best 15.6, added a 15.45 for second on floor vs. the Golden Bears and a 14.95 for fifth vs. the Fighting Illini.

A two-time All-American on vault, Wickham nabbed the U.S. National vault title as a sophomore after scoring a two-day total of 32.45 at the 2006 Winter Cup Challenge. In his Ohio State career, Wickham has finished in first-place 18 times and owns the OSU vault record with a score of 9.7 under the former NCAA points system used during 2001-07 seasons. Outside of the gym, the exercise science major has garnered CGA All-America Scholar-Athlete accolades twice and OSU Scholar-Athlete honors three times.

Entering the ninth week of the regular season, Ohio State remains seventh in the GymInfo national rankings with a team total season average of 350.717 after five competitions. Stanford maintains atop the standings with a 361.433 average with Penn State (357.783) and Oklahoma (357.783) following in second and third, respectively. California, fourth in the rankings, holds a 355.683 average while Michigan rounds out the Top 5 with a team average of 355.683.

The Buckeyes hold Top 7 team averages on all six events, including a team-best sixth on floor (59.317), pommel horse (56.15) and vault (62.383). Ohio State is seventh on rings with an average of 58.65, parallel bars (57.667) and high bar (57.0).

Three Ohio State gymnasts hold Top 10 individual event scores in the national rankings, including captains Jimmy Wickham andJake Bateman. Wickham has the highest ranking for a Buckeye tied for second on vault with a 16.133 three-score average and eighth on floor (15.333). Bateman is third on parallel bars with an average of 15.35 and fourth in the all-around with an 86.95. Classmate Eddie Hay owns a team-high three-score average of 15.567 the nation’s fourth spot on floor.

Defending national champion Penn State leads the Big Ten Conference with a season average of 357.783 points. Swapping positions are Michigan and Illinois as the Wolverines bump up to second with a 355.683 average while the Fighting Illini round out the league’s Top 3 with a 352.15. Ohio State is fourth with a team average of 350.717 while Minnesota holds fifth (344.283) in the Big Ten and eighth in the country. Iowa’s average of 342.183 ranks sixth in the conference and 10th in the nation.

One thing is for certain, once senior Jimmy Wickham’s hands hit the board Ohio State can expect a high score. Earning the team’s top mark on vault in all four competitions he has competed in, Wickham has been an anchor for the Buckeyes on the event in 2008 and is tied for second in the nation with a 16.133 average. Notching a career-high 16.25 on the apparatus vs. Illinois Jan. 26, the Gulfport, Miss., native earned his first win of the season. Wickham nabbed his second event win with a 16.2 (Feb. 16), just .05 shy of his season high, at the nonconference dual vs. California. The captain scored a team-best 15.95 on vault at the Windy City Invitational (Jan. 12) for fourth and a 15.6 vs. Temple (Feb. 2) to tie for second.

Buckeye all-arounders junior Jake Bateman and freshman Brandon Wynn have shown consistency in 2008, which has proven vital to the Ohio State effort this season. Last time out, Bateman set season highs on vault (15.85), parallel bars (15.5) and high bar (14.85) en route to notching a season-best 89.55 in the all-around vs. the Nittany Lions (Feb. 24). The Kingsport, Tenn., native currently ranks fourth in the nation and second in the conference with an 86.95 three-score all-around average. Against Illinois Jan. 26, Bateman tallied an 89.1 to claim his first all-around win after finishing with a sixth-place 82.2 at the Windy City Invitational Jan. 12.

Not far behind the junior in scoring is OSU newcomer Wynn. A native of Voorhees, N.J., Wynn hit a season-high 87.0 for fourth place to help the Buckeyes to a season high 353.05 team total. In his first competition donning the Scarlet and Gray, Wynn finished seventh at the invite with an 81.6 and third against the Fighting Illini with an 85.75 (Jan. 26). He served as the only Buckeye all-arounder at both the tri-meet vs. Temple and Navy (Feb. 2) and the nonconference dual vs. California where the rookie finished fourth with an 84.4 and second with an 84.45, respectively. Wynn ranks 12th nationally in the all-around and seventh among Big Ten competitors.

Ohio State has its work cut out this season in its continual quest for both national and conference titles. In a league where four of six teams earned berths to the NCAA tournament last year, including 2007 National Champion Penn State, the Buckeyes are among good company in the Big Ten.

For the second season in a row, the Buckeyes have a tough road to travel before entering the postseason. Starting with back-to-back home duals, Avery’s squad fell to then-No. 3 California, 355.2-351.0, Feb. 16 and No. 2 Penn State, 360.55-353.05, Feb. 24. Ohio State had a bye week and now hosts No. 3 Oklahoma Saturday. While all three foes continually rank among the nation’s Top 10 squads, the Nittany Lions and Sooners finished first and second, respectively, at the NCAA championships last year. Capping off a string of tough meets, Ohio State hits the road to face No. 5 Michigan March 22.

In April, the Buckeyes head off to Rec Hall located on the campus of Penn State University for the 2008 Big Ten Championships April 4-5. Then Ohio State takes a bye week before crossing the country to Stanford, Calif., with hopes of qualifying for the NCAA team championships April 17-19.

Ohio State completes its regular-season schedule with a conference dual against No. 5 Michigan at 7 p.m. March 22 in Ann Arbor. The trip marks the Buckeyes’ first road competition since Feb. 2 when the team finished second to Temple and defeated Navy in Philadelphia.

Postseason action kicks off April 4-5 for the Buckeyes with the Big Ten championships held at 7 p.m. both nights at Rec Hall on the campus of Penn State. Then Ohio State flies across the country to compete at the NCAA championships hosted by Stanford in Maples Pavilion.