Penn State Claims Big Ten's Fourth Men's Gymnastics Title In Six Years
April 12, 2004
The men's gymnastics national championship trophy returned to the Big Ten, as Penn State produced the school's second national crown in the last five years at the 2004 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships. Just two weeks after placing second to top-ranked Illinois at the Big Ten Championships held at Huff Hall in Champaign, the Nittany Lions returned to the Illini campus and claimed the national title in a different facility, as the event was held at the larger Assembly Hall from April 2-4. Two-time defending champion Oklahoma placed second followed by a trio of Conference programs in Illinois, Ohio State and Michigan. PSU has now earned two national titles while a member of the Big Ten, most recently in 2000, and 11 crowns overall, which leads the nation.
The Big Ten has now earned four national championships in the last six seasons, including trophies for Michigan in 1999, Penn State in 2000 and Ohio State in 2001. The Conference placed four schools among the top five in the country for the second straight season and just the third time in League annals, a feat that was first accomplished in 1958. The Big Ten has now nabbed at least three of the top five spots in each of the past six NCAA Championships.
Conference gymnasts also excelled in the individual events, as Penn State's Luis Vargas was victorious in the all-around and three other standouts gave the League half of the individual event crowns. Vargas became the first Nittany Lion to win the all-around since Marshall Avener in 1973 and the fourth Big Ten victor in the last five seasons, including OSU's Raj Bhavsar in 2002 and Jamie Natalie in 2000 and 2001. PSU-teammate Kevin Tan repeated as the national champion on the still rings to become the schools' first back-to-back titlist in the event. Illinois claimed two individual crowns as Bob Rogers posted the top score on the pommel horse while Justin Spring placed first on the high bar, marking the Illini's first national titles since 1998. A total of 15 Big Ten gymnasts were named to the 2004 All-America team, led by five selections from Illinois and three from Ohio State.
The Big Ten sent six teams to the national championships in three straight seasons for the first time since 1960, a year that marked the conclusion of seven straight years with six or more teams advancing to the NCAA Championships. That string of success included four national titles with Illinois claiming solo crowns in 1955 and 1956 and the Illini splitting the national title with Conference-foe Michigan State in 1958. The Big Ten advanced all six programs to the 2003 NCAA Championships, with five teams placing among the top six in Ohio State (2nd), Penn State (3rd), Michigan (4th), Illinois (5th) and Iowa (6th). Three squads finished among the top five in 2002 in the Buckeyes (2nd), Wolverines (4th) and Hawkeyes (5th).
2004 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships