2007 Big Ten Championships Underway Friday

Championships Central

The 2007 Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Championships will feature six Big Ten teams, all of whom are ranked in the top 10 nationally this season.  Ohio State, who currently holds the country's top spot, will lead the conference contingent into the championships and be looking for its third straight team title.  Michigan currently ranks second in the nation, just behind the Buckeyes' overall team score by 0.067 points.  Penn State, Minnesota and Ililnois take over the fifth-through-seventh places and all have season averages within four points of leader Ohio State.  The 2007 Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Championships will be hosted by the University of Minnesota with team and all-around competition set for Friday, March 24 at the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis. Individual champions will be crowned Saturday, March 25.

Floor Exercise
With the graduation of two-time floor exercise champion Michael Reavis of Iowa, the event title race is wide open at the conference meet. Michigan's Caldwell Kent not only leads Big Ten gymnasts on the floor exercise, but is also ranked number one nationally in the event with an average of 9.667.  His Wolverine teammate Scott Bregman is not far behind, ranking third in the nation with an average of 9.550, while Michigan boasts the best team showing this season in the event in the country.  The Hawkeyes will look to Geoff Reins to fill Reavis' shoes. He shares the fourth-best average in the country (9.450) with Illinois' Chad Wiest.  The event is loaded with talent as five more Big Ten tumblers rank among the nation's top 10 and another seven are among the top 20.

Pommel Horse
Penn State and Ohio State lead the way on the pommel horse, sharing a nation-leading team average score of 35.467.   Nittany Lion sophomore Casey Sandy leads the conference and is second in the country with a 9.367 average. Michigan, which ranks third just behind its conference counterparts by 0.017 points, is led by Justin Laury's 9.100 average. The Buckeyes' Willie Ito and DJ Bucher are the only other Big Ten gymnasts to average above 9.000 this season. A Nissen-Emery Award finalist, Ito ranks fourth in the nation (9.083) followed by defending event champion Bucher's sixth-best average of 9.017. Nine of the country's top 20 averages come from the Big Ten, led by three Buckeyes.

Still Rings
Reigning still rings conference champion, Penn State's Tommy Ramos will look to add another crown to his resume this weekend as he enters the meet ranked second in the country with an average of 9.642.  He will face some heavy competition from Ohio State's Bucher and Tai Lee, as well as Michigan's Ralph Rosso.  Ramos' teammate and last year's fifth-place finisher, Matt Cohen is tied for sixth in the country with Illinois' Tyler Yamauchi and Iowa's Jaques Bouchard, who all boast a 9.483 average.  High scores abound on the rings this season with a total of 13 of the nation's top 20 gymnasts representing all six Big Ten schools with average scores better than 9.333. 

Yamauchi also stars for the Illini in the vault, leading the nation with a 9.21 average. Ohio State's Jimmy Wickham (9.100), Minnesota's Mitchell Mays (9.067) and Penn State's Vladi Klurman (9.050) are the only other gymnasts in the conference and in the country with averages above 9.000.  The 2006 runner-up, Penn State's Santiago Lopez is also one of the conference leaders. He is tied with Iowa's Goeff Reins for sixth-best in the nation (8.983).

Parallel Bars
Graduation also leaves a huge vacancy in the parallel bars with the absence of former Illini Justin Spring, the reigning Big Ten and NCAA Champion in the event.  Ohio State leads the nation as a team, with Bucher, Nicholaus Searcy and Ito ranking second, fourth and fifth in the nation, respectively. But it's Michigan's Andrew Elkind who holds the country's top spot heading into this year's championship with an average of 9.550. The Wolverines boast four more gymnasts among the nation's top 20.

High Bar
Ramos also leads the field in the high bar. The Nittany Lion ranks second in the nation with an average of 9.417. Close behind him is Michigan's Elkind, followed by Ito and Penn State teammate Casey Sandy. Michigan again features another strong contingency in the event with three more gymnasts ranking among the nation's top 13.

Spring's void in the all-around competition leaves plenty of room for several Big Ten gymnasts to make their mark this year. Illinois' Wesley Haagenson, who finished second to his elder teammate last year, figures to have the best shot as he ranks second in the nation with an average of 53.200. Minnesota's Jacob Lee will have a prime opportunity to make a run at the title in his home gym. The Gopher has ranks third in the nation with an average of 52.350. Four more Big Ten athletes rank among the nation's top 10.