After using the last couple meets as a warm up for the rest of the season, the Lions are going to have to pull out all the stops this weekend.
No.1 Penn State will have its most difficult meet yet as it hosts No.5 Ohio State at 7 p.m. Saturday at Rec Hall.
Although Ohio State is always a team to watch out for, the Nittany Lions' record so far is much more impressive. The Lions have been at the top of the rankings for a couple weeks now, with No. 2 Michigan trailing far behind by nine points. Penn State is undefeated after earning first place out of six at the Navy Open and outperforming Army in every event in a dual meet.
Freshman Alexis Torres, who is recovering from a concussion he sustained at the Navy Open, is confident the team will perform well.
“We’re all positive and we have a great team,” he said. “We are prepared to take on any team.”
In addition to having a perfect record as a team, individual gymnasts have had personal records as Trevor Howard was crowned Big Ten Freshman of the Week two weeks in a row and Felix Aronovich was awarded the Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honor.
Craig Hernandez also broke his own school record on the pommel horse at the Navy Open. With all the momentum from the wins, awards, and accomplishments, Penn State is in good standing to test Ohio State.
But coach Randy Jepson recognizes that the challenge has just begun.
“It’s our first opportunity to meet a Big Ten team,” he said. “Although they are not quite as polished as we are probably right now, they will be.”
The Buckeyes have been picking up their pace as well as they jumped from No. 8 to No. 5 last week. They had a solid opening to their season, garnering second place at the Windy City Invitational, tying with defending national champions Illinois.
This season, the Buckeyes' claim to fame is their performance on the high bar. At the Windy City Invitational, the team tied for first in the high bar and freshman Jake Martin placed first with a score of 15.25. However, their season high of a 71.80 at the Metroplex Challenge is no match for the staggering 76.05 that Penn State scored against Army. In fact, as a team, the Lions have scored higher than Ohio State in every event other than floor exercise.
In the floor routine, Nittany Lion Matt Chelberg holds this season's best score with a score of 15. He will have to combat Buckeye Danny Steiner, who hit a team season record with a 15.75.
Jepson said that the team has to focus on landings in the floor routine in order to have a shot at sweeping all six events. Due to an injury, freshman Trevor Howard has yet to make an appearance on the floor, arguably one of his best events.
Junior Preston Gall is looking forward to taking on the Buckeyes.
“It’ll be more of a challenge than the first two meets. It’s a better team,” he said. “It’ll be our first real test.”