Buckeyes send eight gymnasts to individual finals Saturday

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. With a score of 354.35, the seventh-ranked Ohio State men’s gymnastics program finished third Friday at the 2008 Big Ten Men’s Gymnastics Championships in Rec Hall on the campus of Penn State University. Host school and defending national champion Penn State took the league’s crown with a 360.45 while Illinois placed second with a 357.3. Under Ohio State head coach Miles Avery, the Buckeyes have never finished out of the conference’s Top 3 in 11 seasons, extending the program’s record to 22-consecutive years placing in the top half of the league.

Junior Jake Bateman, a native of Kingsport, Tenn., capture second in the all-around with an 87.95 while freshman Brandon Wynn placed sixth (85.55). The nation’s top-ranked all-arounder Casey Sandy of Penn State won the title with a 91.5.

“The guys did tremendously well tonight,” Avery said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more from them. This was a tough competition and they did awesome.”

Eight Buckeyes will compete at 7 p.m. Saturday night for a Big Ten event crown at the individual finals. To qualify, the student-athlete must have secured a Top 8 finish on the apparatus during the team competition. All three Ohio State captains will compete in the finals. Bateman enters the vault, parallel bars and high bar finals Saturday, DJ Bucher, a native of Mason, Ohio, will look to defend his 2007 parallel bars title and Jimmy Wickham of Gulfport, Miss., will compete for the Big Ten floor and vault titles. Making their first appearance in the event finals tomorrow will be junior Andy Saurber (pommel horse), sophomore Shachar Tal (rings) and Wynn (high bar) while senior David Ortiz and junior Eddie Hay, the 2007 Big Ten floor champion, will vie for the vault and high bar crowns, respectively.

The Buckeyes started the evening with a fourth-place total of 58.8 on rings. With only four gymnasts competing on the event, all four scores from the lineup comprised of one freshman, two sophomores and a junior counted. Tal turned in a solid performance, notching a season-high 15.1 to lead the Buckeyes and tie Nittany Lion Noam Shaham for seventh. Bateman began his evening with a 14.75, sophomore Tai Lee had a 14.5 and Wynn followed suit, tallying a 14.45.

In the second rotation, Ohio State saw three gymnasts set season-highs on vault as the team combined for a 2008-best mark of 63.75. The event score entered in as the competition’s second-best score. As he had all year, Wickham anchored the Buckeyes on vault, finishing second with a 16.4. The senior, ranked No. 2 on the event in the GymInfo national standings, was just .05 points shy of his season-high tally. Bateman and Ortiz hit a pair of 15.85s, registering season bests for both gymnasts as the duo tied for eighth. Lee hit a season-high of his own with a 15.35 while Wynn added a solid 15.65 to the Ohio State effort, just .05 short of tying his season best.

Heading into the third rotation, the Buckeyes held first place with a running score of 122.55. Tri-captains Bateman and Bucher led the squad on parallel bars with a 15.1 and 14.8, respectively, to help the squad to a second-place 59.15 event total. With his 15.1, Bateman finished third while Bucher tied for seventh. Competing on his birthday, sophomore Justin Myers registered a 14.6, his second-best tally on parallel bars this year, at his first Big Ten championships. Tal continued to perform well for the squad, notching a 14.65.

On high bar, the Scarlet and Gray logged a 56.55 event total, dropping to second place with a running score of 238.25, trailing Penn State’s tally of 241.85. Wynn led the Buckeyes with a fourth-place mark of 14.25 and was followed by Bateman and Hay who each scored a 14.15 to tie for eighth.

With two events to go, Ohio State added its second season-high of the evening with a 60.15 total on floor to enter the final rotation in second with a 298.4 – just behind Penn State’s 299.3 and just ahead of Illinois’ 298.3. Wickham notched a competition-high 15.55, again just .05 shy of his season best. In his first try at floor this year, Lee notched a 14.95, tying for 13th place. Myers tied his 2008 high, scoring a 14.9 while freshman standout Wynn hit a season-best 14.75.

Ending the league championships on pommel horse, the Buckeyes had their work cut out for them with just one point separating first from third place in the team competition. Saurber, Ohio State’s pommel horse specialist from Hamilton, Ohio, led the squad with a 14.35 but the team’s event score of 55.95 was not enough to hold on to second. Also scoring high were redshirt-freshman Michael Bell with a 14.25 and senior Tony Duong with a 13.75.   

2008 Big Ten Men’s Gymnastics Team Finals
1. Penn State – 360.45
2. Illinois – 357.3
3. Ohio State – 354.35
4. Michigan – 353.0
5. Minnesota – 351.45
6. Iowa – 344.5