March 31, 2007
MINNEAPOLIS - After Ohio State made program history with its third Big Ten championship crown in as many years, it was time for some of the nation's top gymnasts to shine individually in Saturday's individual portion of the 2007 Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Championships at the University of Minnesota's Sports Pavilion. The field featured the eight top finishers in each event from Friday's team competition with all six schools boasting representatives.
Eddie Hay followed up his career-best floor exercise performance helped Ohio State clinch the team title on Friday night with another stellar showing in the event. The Buckeye sophomore, who finished third a year ago in the event, claimed the first gold medal of the night in the floor exercise with a score of 9.825. Illinois' Chad Wiest picked up silver medal honors with a 9.675 routine, and Kent Caldwell of Michigan scored a 9.575 for his set to take home the bronze.
Minnesota's Kit Beikmann used the home crowd support during his title-winning pommel horse performance. The Gopher sophomore did not qualify for the individual competition a year ago, but he made a name for himself at the 2007 event, scoring a 9.125 to take home gold. Iowa's Jacob Becker and Penn State's Casey Sandy shared second place, both earning scores of 9.050 for their championship meet efforts.
After a costly stumble during his floor exercise routine, Illinois' Tyler Yamauchi responded fiercely with a 9.575 vault score to win the event and bring home the Illini's first gold of the night. The Illinois junior also tied for third on the rings (9.550) with Ohio State's D.J. Bucher. Mitchell Mays tallied the Gophers' second medal of the night, earning silver in the vault with a score of 9.375. Rounding out the medalists was Ohio State's Jimmy Wickham with a third-place total of 9.250.
In the rings, Iowa's Jacques Bouchard beat out reigning champion Tommy Ramos of Penn State for the gold with a score of 9.725. Ramos narrowly missed a second title but secured silver medal honors with a 9.575 showing.
With defending Big Ten and NCAA parallel bars champion Justin Spring of Illinois watching from the sidelines as an Illini assistant coach, the competition for the this year's title was wide open. Ohio State's D.J. Bucher brought home yet another memento for the Buckeyes' trophy case with a first-place routine that scored 9.675. The all-around winner from Friday night, Illinois' Wes Haagensen came in next with a silver medal total of 9.475. Third place awards went to Penn State's Derek Helsby, who tallied a 9.175 in the event.
When reigning horizontal bar champion Willie Ito of Ohio State took the competition floor, he looked poised to bring home a second straight title. But after a scary fall, Ito was able to recover for a score of 8.500 for seventh place. Michigan's Aaron Rakes took over, claiming the Wolverines' first gold with a score of 9.475. Haagensen garnered his second straight silver medal with a 9.350 finish. The Gophers boasted another medalist as Jake Lee earned bronze status with a score of 9.125, closely followed in fourth place by his teammate Cole Storer (9.000).
A Freshman of the Year award in 2005 forecasted Haagensen's potential, and the Illini junior fulfilled those early premonitions when he was unanimously named the 2007 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year.
After leading his squad to its third title in as many years, Buckeyes' coach Miles Avery was honored as Co-Coach of the Year with Minnesota's Mike Burns, who led his own crew to a close third-place showing. Burns' rookie all-arounder Andre Berry added another honor for the Gophers, winning Freshman of the Year.
At the conclusion of the competition, the top six all-around performers and individual gold medalists named to the All-Big Ten first team including Illinois' Haagensen and Yamauchi; Iowa's Bouchard; Michigan's Rakes: Minnesota's Beikmann, Berry and Lee; Ohio State's Bucher, Hay and Tai Lee; and Penn State's Derek Helsby and Casey Sandy.
The Conference office also announced honorees from each team for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award. The student-athletes chosen are individuals who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior. In addition, the student-athletes must be in good academic standing and have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting. These student-athletes are now candidates for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, as the Conference office will honor one male and one female student-athlete from each institution at the end of the school year. Illinois' Chris Silcox, Iowa's Bouchard, Michigan's Kent Caldwell, Minnesota's Lee, Ohio State's Hay and Penn State's Matt Cohen were awarded with the sportsmanship distinction following their 2007 performances.