This Week in the Big Ten

April 19, 2009

[ONE // wolverines finish runner-up at ncaa gymnastics championship]
We put a close to the week by putting a close to the Big Ten men's and women's gymnastics seasons. On Friday at Minnesota, three Big Ten men's gymnastics teams posted season-high scores at the NCAA's `Super Six' Team Championships. No. 4 Michigan placed second with a season-high score of 361.500 - the highest finish for the Wolverines since the 2000 season when it also claimed the runner-up spot on the winner's podium. No. 3 Illinois finished in fifth place, tying its season-high score of 359.300, and has now placed in the top-five at the NCAA Championships in each of its past seven seasons (2003-09). Sixth-ranked Ohio State recorded another career night, tallying its second-consecutive season-high score with a 355.950 team total to finish the competition in sixth place. In addition, the conference advanced 18 individual event specialists to the individual event finals.

[TWO // pair of big ten gymnasts earn national titles]
Of those 18 individuals, 14 earned All-America recognition Saturday night at the conclusion of the Individual Event Finals. Illinois crowned two individual champions while capturing three event titles overall. Illini sophomore Paul Ruggeri defended his 2008 NCAA high bar title, turning in a near flawless routine to capture his second-consecutive national championship in the event with a score of 15.750. The 2009 Big Ten Parallel Bars Champion went on to post the top score in the last event of the night with a 15.175 for his first National title on parallel bars. Fellow Illini sophomore Daniel Ribeiro was also crowned a national champion, capturing the pommel horse crown with a mark of 15.575. Ranked No. 1 in the country coming into the championships, Ribeiro earned All-American honors on pommel horse for the second straight year, becoming the first Illini gymnast to win the event since 2004. With the trio of top finishes, the Fighting Illini will return from nationals with at least three individual titles for the first time since 1958. 

For a complete look at the individual results, click here.

[THREE // big ten women fall short of ncaa super six]
On the women's side, both Illinois and Penn State competed this past Thursday in the team preliminaries of the 2009 NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships at Nebraska. Penn State posted a 196.100 to finish fifth in the opening session, while Illinois' 195.050 was good enough for sixth place. Both teams did not advance to the finals. Two Illini individuals claimed All-America honors, the most in a single-season in school history, and Penn State had a school-record three gymnasts combine for four All-America accolades. For more on the women's opening session, click here!

[FOUR // big ten women represent at ncaa gymnastics finals]

On Saturday evening, the Big Ten saw a handful of its female gymnasts earn spots on the awards podium at the NCAA Individual Event Finals at Nebraska. 

Illinois' Melissa Fernandez, Michigan's Kylee Botterman and Penn State's Brandi Personett, Whitney Bencsko and Alexandra Brockway all earned All-America honors in their respective events. A complete breakdown of those individual performances and the school milestones they eclipsed, be sure to check out the recap on here.

[FIVE // illini gymnastics coaches honored with national accolades]
Finally from the world of gymnastics, a big congratulations to the Illinois women's gymnastics coaching staff. On Saturday morning at the NCAA Championships banquet in Lincoln, Neb., Illini head coach Bob Starkell was named National Coach of the Year and assistants Kim Landrus and Amy Kruse earned the nod as co-Assistant Coaches of the Year by their peers. Starkell led Illinois to its first ever appearance at the NCAA Championships this year and produced the school's lone first-team All-American in Melissa Fernandez. Under his guidance, the Illini program has made remarkable strides in the last four years, improving every year at the Big Ten Championships, Regional Championships and final national rankings. Earlier this year he was named Co-Big Ten Coach of the Year after leading Illinois to a second place finish at the conference championships. He then led the Illini to their best-ever regional finish of second to earn the trip to nationals. 

[SIX // northwestern and ohio state tennis conference champs once again]
No. 1 Northwestern topped Penn State 7-0 to clinch its 11th consecutive Big Ten Championship on Sunday, giving the Wildcats a perfect 10-0 record for the fifth straight year and upping their winning streak against conference opponents to 74 matches. Northwestern's run of 11 consecutive Big Ten titles--best in Big Ten women's tennis history--ranks as the second-longest in the conference annals for any women's sport, checking in just behind the 12 straight swimming and diving championships that Michigan won from 1987-98. This is the 13th overall Big Ten women's tennis title for Northwestern. On the men's side, congratulations to the second-ranked Ohio State men’s tennis team as the Buckeyes earned a share of their fourth straight Big Ten title on Friday with a 7-0 sweep over No. 44 Northwestern. OSU went on to knock off Wisconsin, 7-0, on Sunday to conclude the regular season at 27-1 and a perfect 10-0 in league play. The Buckeyes have captured 85 consecutive matches at home dating back to the 2003 season. The conference win Sunday also marked OSU’s 50th-consecutive victory against Big Ten opponents. Ohio State is now 101-5 in its last 106 league matches, including postseason play. Remarkably, those milestones weren’t the only accomplishments the Buckeyes had this past weekend. In Friday’s win over the Wildcats, senior tri-captain Steven Moneke became the program’s all-time career singles leader with 133 wins.

[SEVEN // penn state tabs next wrestling mentor]
Proving its dominance on the college wrestling landscape, the Big Ten has added yet another legendary figure to the conference mats. This past week Penn State announced the hiring of former Iowa State head coach Cael Sanderson, whose Cyclone teams never finished lower than fifth at NCAAs. In three years, Sanderson's teams went 44-10, won three conference crowns, qualified all 30 wrestlers for nationals, and earned 15 All-America awards and two individual national titles. As a wrestler, Sanderson established himself as the most dominant collegiate competitor in NCAA history. In four years, Sanderson never lost. From 1999-2002, Sanderson posted a 159-0 career record (going 39-0, 40-0, 40-0 and 40-0); won four individual National Championships; won four Most Outstanding Wrestler awards at the NCAA Championships (the only wrestler in NCAA history to do so); became the first freshman in NCAA history to win the O.W. honor and won three Dan Hodge Trophies as the nation's best collegiate wrestler (also a collegiate first).

[EIGHT // a weekend full of football]
This past weekend, three Big Ten teams took to the gridiron for their annual spring games. In Bloomington, Indiana saw its Crimson squad hold off the Cream 28-27. The Danny Hope era got underway in West Lafayette as Purdue saw its offense defeat the defense, 36-29, in the annual Black & Gold game. In Madison, Wisconsin did not make it as close as the Cardinal drilled the White, 56-20, in the Badgers' spring contest. Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State and Penn State will all be in action this week. For a complete breakdown of those contests, check out more of the Big Ten Network's coverage by clicking here.

[NINE // big ten football ready for prime time]
The Big Ten released this past week the game times and television plans for 14 home football contests to appear during prime time on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 or the Big Ten Network. At least one Big Ten contest will be featured during prime time in the first two weeks of non-conference play and on the first six Saturdays of conference action. The prime-time schedule will include three games each for Illinois, Indiana and Iowa and a pair of outings each for Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State and Penn State. The non-conference home schedule will hit prime time with three contests the opening week of the year, beginning with a Thursday night matchup between Indiana and Eastern Kentucky to kick off the 2009 campaign on Sept. 3 at 8 p.m. ET on the Big Ten Network. Two prime-time tilts will be featured on the opening Saturday, Sept. 5, with Illinois facing Missouri at 3:40 p.m. ET on ESPN and Wisconsin hosting Northern Illinois at 7 p.m. ET on the Big Ten Network.

[TEN // wisconsin's ryan to lead the nation in world competition]
Wisconsin men's basketball head coach Bo Ryan will return to the USA Basketball sidelines as mentor of the 2009 USA Men's World University Games Team, USA Basketball announced Tuesday. The U.S. will look to capture the gold medal at the 24th World University Games, July 2-12, in Belgrade, Serbia. Ryan's selection was made by the USA Basketball Men's Junior National Team Committee, chaired by Syracuse University head coach Jim Boeheim. The United States, which has claimed a medal in every World University Games since beginning play in 1965, has captured a record 13 gold medals, three silver medals and two bronze medals in the 18 WUGs in which a USA Basketball squad has competed. The U.S. owns a 125-7 won-loss record in World University Games play.

[ELEVEN // hughes' play reaps benefits for badger students]
Finally this week, it's nice to see how one shot can help five others at the University of Wisconsin. Many basketball fans watched two weeks ago as it was announced that Badger star Trevon Hughes' last-second, game-winner against Florida State in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament was named the Pontiac Game-Changing Play of the Tournament. By winning that contest, Pontiac donated $50,000 to the Wisconsin general scholarship fund, and this past weekend at the Badgers' spring football game, UW put $5,000 of that money to good use. The Wisconsin Athletic Department decided to randomly choose five UW student men's basketball lottery participants to each receive a $1,000 donation for use toward the payment of their education. Along with Hughes, the randomly selected students -- Michael Hill, Sierra Shahid, Jaimis Searles, Ryan Krause and Daniel Napleton -- were introduced April 18 at the Wisconsin football spring game.