Philadelphia was the only home Evan Eigner knew.
Spending his entire life in the city, he began his gymnastics career through the Temple University boy’s gymnastics program, and went on to compete for his dad at Temple.
Following last December’s sports cuts, Eigner was forced to weigh his options at the end of the 2014 season.
His performance on the still rings made him the most likely candidate to transfer, given the fact there were only 16 NCAA Division I gymnastics programs in the country.
Because he had invested so much in a single place his entire life, Eigner said there were several difficult aspects about leaving Temple. But there was one key factor he considered when making his decision – Fred Turoff, his father and head coach.
“One of the biggest things [here at Temple] was being trained under Freddy,” Eigner said. “I still consider him one of my coaches. To see him in the gym every [day], that [factor] was up there.”
Turoff, who remains head coach for Temple’s program at a competitive club level, has been fully supportive of his son’s decision to become a Buckeye.
“I have to look at it as he took advantage of a situation,” Turoff said. “He had a top team that wanted him, that gave him a partial financial aid offer, and he’s going to help them now.”
Eigner added he has been able to adapt to Columbus, Ohio through various new experiences and relationships.
Some of these experiences have come from practicing in the Steelwood Athletic Training Facility, a 15,000 square-foot space that features several resi pits, in-ground loose foam pits and regular competition landing surfaces.
Turoff said one of the most important advantages Steelwood has compared to McGonigle Hall has to do with the recourses the programs have to work with.
“There are so many more stations [for events] over there,” Turoff said. “Almost any facility is better than ours because nobody has to set up equipment and take it down.”
But along with the nicer facility comes better gymnasts. Ohio State has won three NCAA team championships, 27 individual championships, and has had 53 All-Americans in its program.
Turoff added that several athletes on the team participated in the P&G Championships in Pittsburgh from Aug. 21-24. The final roster for 2015 hasn’t been revealed yet, but Turoff is confident that his son will make the cut.
“He’s worried about the cuts,” Turoff said. “I keep telling him, ‘The fact that they gave you a partial scholarship means they’re not going to cut you and they expect you to compete for them … keep working hard, getting better, fixing up your weak areas and you’ll have no problem.’”
In any case, Eigner is certainly benefiting from practicing with one of the best gymnastics programs in the country.
“The coaches are world-class, and the trainers are top-notch,” Eigner said. “There’s been world-class gymnastics going on a regular basis, so to experience that has been pretty amazing for me.”
Although some of Eigner’s teammates rank among the nation’s elite, he said the camaraderie he developed with his former team and coaches is something that will always remain with him.
One individual that was particularly close to him was junior Pat Henley. Henley was Eigner’s morning workout partner, and said the cooperation between the two was seamless.
“If I was having trouble with something, I could always just go and talk to him,” Henley said. “And vice-versa. … He was kind of quiet, but that’s what I liked about him. We were similar in that way.”
Eigner said this sense of culture throughout Rooms 143 and 144 in McGonigle Hall is something that exists throughout the entire gymnastics community. But if Eigner is to make it past cuts, which take place in a couple of weeks, there’s one big difference between Ohio State and Temple when it comes to the sport he’s devoted his whole life to.
“The main difference here [at Ohio State] is the fact that we’re trying to win a national championship,” Eigner said. “All the guys at Temple want to compete … but here, we have a legitimate chance at winning a national championship. … When we walk into the gym, we know that’s our goal.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @SteveSportsGuy1