Penn State Tabbed Men's Gymnastics Preseason Favorite
Dec. 19, 2006
PARK RIDGE, Ill. - Penn State has been voted as the preseason favorite by the conference coaches for the upcoming Big Ten men's gymnastics season, it was announced on Tuesday. Ohio State, reigning Big Ten Champion, was tabbed second, followed by Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa. The conference coaches also selected a 12-member Preseason All-Big Ten team.
Coming off a fourth-place finish at the 2006 NCAA Championships, the Nittany Lions return 12 competitors, including All-American juniors Derek Helsby, Tommy Ramos and Santiago Lopez. Helsby, along with sophomore Casey Sandy were named to the Preseason All-Big Ten team for the 2007 season. The Nittany Lions, who are ranked fifth in the GymInfo Preseason Coaches Poll, are vying for an NCAA-record 12th national title and will host the 2007 NCAA Championship in Rec Hall, April 12-14.
The Buckeyes, who are rated third nationally, claimed their second consecutive Big Ten title last season. Returning for Ohio State are all 14 letterwinners from last year's squad and redshirt freshman Kevin Brown. The squad touts the talents of returning All-Americans Willie Ito and Jimmy Wickham on vault, as well as junior DJ Bucher and sophomore Jake Bateman, who claimed Preseason All-Big Ten accolades. Bucher earned All-American honors on the pommel horse last season while Bateman was named Big Ten Freshmen of the Year.
The Wolverines, selected third by the coaches, enter the season ranked No. 8 nationally after tallying a fourth-place finish at the Big Ten Championships last year. Michigan welcomes back nine letterwinners including Preseason All-Big Ten honorees Justin Laury and Kent Caldwell. Laury, who was medically redshirted last season, captured All-America honors with a fifth-place finish in the all-around at the 2005 NCAA Championship. Caldwell advanced to the NCAA finals on floor exercise last season.
Illinois, rated sixth nationally, is coming off a strong 2006 campaign, where the Fighting Illini notched a second-place showing at both the conference championships and NCAA's last season. Looking to lead Illinois this season will be Preseason All-Big Ten honorees Wes Haagensen and Tyler Yamauchi, as well as fellow All-Americans' Ross Bradley and Chris Lung. Haagensen finished third on parallel bars, fourth in all-around and fifth on floor exercise at last year's NCAA Championship, while Yamauchi posted an eighth-place finish on rings.
Minnesota, which is currently ranked ninth in the country, welcomes back 10 letterwinners including a Preseason All-Big Ten honoree in senior Jake Lee. Last season, Lee advanced to the NCAA's pommel horse finals, while also earning All-Conference accolades. Newcomer Cole Storer, who will begin his first season as a Golden Gopher, was also named to the Preseason All-Conference team.
Iowa returns 10 letterwinners from last season's squad which closed out the 2006 season with a third-place showing at the Big Ten Championships and a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Championship. Returning All-Americans Curtis Kleffman and Geoff Reins, who both picked up Preseason All-Conference accolades, will lead the Hawkeyes in 2007. Kleffman placed fourth on the pommel horse at the NCAA event finals, while Reins tallied a seventh-place finish on floor exercise.
Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio State will open the 2006 season on Saturday, Jan. 13 at the Windy City Invitational in Chicago, Ill., while Penn State will begin the dual-meet season, hosting Army. The complete 2007 Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Preseason Poll and Preseason All-Big Ten Team follows.