The team hosted a meet against No. 5 Penn State and Army.
The men’s gymnastics squad took second on Sunday in its first home meet of the season against No. 5 Penn State and Army.
The Owls scored 341.4 and finished behind the perennial powerhouse Nittany Lions, who tallied a 351.8. Army competed with much of its roster inactive after several weeks of constant competition and didn’t pose a threat with a 295.5.
“That was our first stable meet,” senior captain Patrick McLaughlin said. “We didn’t have a bunch of errors.”
“This is a big step up,” coach Fred Turoff said. “This is going to raise us up in the national rankings.”
The Owls opened the day on the floor exercise with a solid 55.4. Junior all-arounder Chris Mooney took third with a 14.3. The team then moved on to the pommel horse and the rings where it scored a 55.4 and 56.3, respectively. But the scores were not enough to top the Nittany Lions’ combined score of 119.4, leaving the Owls in a big hole.
“Their routines in general are more difficult than ours, so it’s tough to catch them,” Turoff said. “But in terms of execution, I thought we were similar today.”
The vault was the highlight of the day. Temple outdid Penn State’s score of 61.8 with a 62.1. Mooney tied with Penn State sophomore Matt Chelberg for second with a 15.7.
The Owls closed out the day on the parallel bars and the high bar. McLaughlin led the squad in both events, posting a second-place 14.7 on the parallel bars and a third-place 14.2 on the high bar.
Being able to compete this year has been a big thrill for the captain. McLaughlin went down with a season-ending injury last year – his true senior year – and it looked as if the NCAA wouldn’t grant him another year of eligibility.
“I didn’t think I would [be competing] because they tweaked the rules so I couldn’t get another year,” McLaughlin said.
Eventually he was granted a fifth year, and he said he’s loved every minute of it, especially in front of the home crowd.
“It’s awesome,” McLaughlin said. “I love doing anchor. I love finishing off for my team when they set me up. It’s just a treat every time.”
The Owls finished with a 56.9 on the parallel bars and a 55.3 on the high bar, capping off another solid day. Temple was the only squad to field all-arounders in the meet, as senior Adam Al-Rokh and Mooney scored an 83.3 and 83.8, respectively.
“You take a look at [Al-Rokh and Mooney], they increased their all-around scores today. That was really nice,” Turoff said. “[Junior Taylor Brana] finally got his feet on a ring dismount, which was good, and he stayed on horse [and] he got his highest score in parallel bars today.”
“The whole vault was strong,” McLaughlin said. “On floor, [sophomore Brett Statman] was pretty stable, [and sophomore Zach Aquiar] stepped it up. [Brana on parallel bars], that was pretty nuts, actually perfect. There’s still a couple hazy spots, but we’ll get it together.”
The team seemed pleased with the overall effort. The scores have improved with every meet.
“This was our best meet so far. [There’s] still a few areas to work on,” Turoff said.
The Owls have a few weeks until their next meet, a weekend-long invitational at home on Feb. 18-19. They plan to use the time in between to improve and cut down on mistakes.
“We got a lot of work,” McLaughlin said. “I’d like to get those [10 points] that [Penn State] beat us today, but they’ll probably be improving as well. I want to get to the point that they are at and I think we can do it.”
Jake Adams can be reached at email@example.com.