The men’s gymnastic team, ranked 12th in the nation with 14 underclassmen on its 25-man roster, is loaded with talent, but lacking experience. That was exactly what the squad displayed in its first competition of the season Sunday.
The Owls placed second of four teams at the Temple Invitational, held at McGonigle Hall. Penn State took home the title with a score of 210.205. The Owls followed with a 198.600.William and Mary and James Madison rounded out the meet with tallies of 190.850 and 160.300, respectively. Fred Turoff, in his 31st year coaching the Owls, said he felt his squad could have come closer to the Nittany Lions.
“Well, I think we can certainly score 10 points more than we did today,” Turoff said, “because we had a lot of mistakes especially toward the end, which indicates that the guys are not in great meet shape. But we will be addressing that in our training.”
The Owls had a shot to win up until the very last cycle – the high bar – but couldn’t generate one last push to topple the Lions.
Junior Luke Vexler roused the home crowd with routines in the floor exercise (9.000) and the rings (8.300). He also supplied
the Owls with an 8.050 on the high bars. Vexler was last season’s Eastern College Athletic Conference all-around champion.
“Today [parallel] bars and high bars were a little bit slow, but it will be there next weekend and weekends to come,” Vexler said.
“I thought we did a great job for our first meet.”
Junior Sterling Kramer, who won the Eastern College Athletic Conference floor exercise
title a year ago, found a familiar form but stumbled in the latter portion of the day.
Entering the tournament, the Owls had their eyes on upsetting No. 5 Penn State and making sure No. 13 William and Mary didn’t upset them.
“We were out to get Penn State,” Vexler said. “They are one of the best teams in the country, so we are considering ourselves at the same level, although we may have lost to them today.” Other noteworthy performances were delivered by sophomores John Vogtman and Jason Russo.
Vogtman contributed with a team-high 8.600 score on the parallel bars and Russo who added an 8.550 on the floor.
Freshman Patrick McLaughlin suited up for his first career event and provided the team with an 8.700 on the vault. Despite these bright spots for the Owls, Turoff said he expected more out of his team and was critical of missed opportunities.
“Since this was the first meet, first time to get out in front of the judges, if you’re not an experienced athlete – which is most of them – then they get first meet jitters, and that showed,” he said.
The Owls have a long road before them. They have five road tournaments before they return to McGonigle Hall for the Temple Boys Invite on Feb. 23-25. They take their show to West Point, N.Y., next weekend to battle No. 14 Army.
Anthony Stipa can be reached at email@example.com.