Men gymnasts no match for Penn State

By Kari Brackett

First-ranked Penn State kept its loss column clean as the Nittany Lions improved their record to 8-0 with Wednesday night’s 279.25-268.85 victory over the NIU men’s gymnastic team at Chick Evans Field House.

“It was not a real good night for us,” NIU Coach Chuck Ehrlich said. “But it was not real bad for us, either.”

The Huskies had a slow start. In the floor exercise, the three top places went to Penn State. NIU’s Mike Balcer started things going on the pommel horse and tied for second with Penn State’s Mario Gonzalez, scoring 9.45, but it was not enough to bring the Huskies ahead. After the two events, the Nittany Lions were ahead 94.05-89.95.

NIU could never quite catch up. Carlos Fulcher took second on still rings with a 9.55 score. He and Gene Margiotta won first and second, respectively, on vault with scores of 9.60 and 9.50. Fulcher also saw a third-place spot on the parallel bars, scoring 9.35. In the final event, NIU’s Erik Solky tied for the blue-ribbon with Penn State’s Mike Ambrozy on the horizontal bar with a 9.55 finish.

Ehrlich said he was pleased with the vaulting, which was the only event NIU dominated, but he did say he believed there were some critical mistakes.

“We are not a bad vaulting team,” Ehrlich said. “Gene really came on strong for us. He came through with his lay-out, full-twisting tsuk.”

In the all-around competition, Penn State had total control. Chris Laux took third with 55.55, Ian Sheley placed second with 56.00, and Spider Maxwell came in first with 56.45. For NIU, Fulcher was the only gymnast in the all-around and finished with 55.45.

“Carlos is capable of much more,” Ehrlich said. “He has a good shot at making nationals on the parallel bars and on the vault. 55.45 is not his best.”

Ehrlich said the team is missing an important gymnast at this time, which definitely hurts. Ron Rash, who Ehrlich says is his second best all-around gymnast, is out with an injury and is not sure when he will be back.

“Rash has a blood clot in his right calf, and it is affecting his foot,” Ehrlich said. “He is still in the hospital and the injury happened 15 days ago.”

Ehrlich also commented on the low scores the judges gave at the meet. He said he did not believe the judges were throwing out the big scores for neither of the teams.

Ehrlich says he is already looking forward to competing against Penn State next year and says his team will give a good fight.

NIU, 3-3, has some big meets ahead. On Saturday they compete against Iowa and Michigan at the fieldhouse at 7:30 p.m.

“For Saturday’s meet, I would like us to be more consistent on the pommel horse,” Ehrlich said. “I would also like us to be stronger on the rings.”