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Big Ten best in men's gymnastics

BY RYAN MURPHY | APRIL 05, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Big Ten is the nation's biggest and best men's gymnastics conference, with seven teams — all of which are ranked in the top 11 nationally — and the conference has some of the top gymnasts in the country.

The seven Big Ten teams will congregate Friday and Saturday for the Big Ten championships in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Iowa junior Matt McGrath said the depth of the conference makes for competitive gymnastics.

"There's only so many teams," he said, "You can't afford to be bad."

Junior Brody Shemansky said the dominance of the Big Ten raises everyone's game.

"It's really competitive, which makes for a great atmosphere," Shemansky said. "The competition in the Big Ten really increases your skill level."

Take a look at The Daily Iowan's breakdown of Iowa's competition in the Big Ten Championships:

No. 1 Penn State

Last Big Ten Championship: 2008

The Nittany Lions are the nation's top-ranked team, with a four-score average (the average of a team's second, third, and fourth highest scores) of 355.600. Penn State claims three of the conference's individual event leaders: Parker Raque on floor exercise, Craig Hernandez on pommel horse, and Scott Rosenthal on the still rings. All six Nittany Lions on pommel horse are ranked in the nation's top 20.

No. 4 Illinois

Last Big Ten Championship: 2011

No team has won the Big Ten championships more than the defending champion Illini. The 26-time conference champions boast the only gymnast in the conference to sit atop the Big Ten rankings in two events, senior Paul Ruggieri. He is first in both the vault and the high bar, the latter being an event in which he claimed the silver medal for Team USA in the 2012 Cottbus World Cup in Germany. Iowa head coach JD Reive said he believes the Illini are the team best equipped to topple the Nittany Lions.

"If they show up and do their job — which I expect them to do — they're going to be the ones to fight with," Reive said.

No. 5 Minnesota

Last Big Ten Championship: 1995

The Gophers enter the Big Ten championships with one of only two returning individual champions from 2011. Sophomore Zack Chase is the conference's defending champion on vault, and is currently ranked fourth in the Big Ten on the event. Chase leads the Gopher effort on vault, where Minnesota is the ranked No. 1 in the nation with three gymnasts — Chase, D.J. Repp, and Adam LaFleur — ranked in the top 20 nationally.

No. 6 Ohio State

Last Big Ten Championship: 2007

The Buckeyes are among the worst two teams in the conference in four of the six events, but strong showings on pommel horse and floor exercise place the Buckeyes fourth in the conference. Ty Echard is ranked second in the Big Ten on pommel horse, and Daniel Snyder leads Ohio State with the conference's third-highest average on the floor exercise. The Buckeyes' strength lies in those two events, in which they ranked in the top four nationally.

No. 8 Michigan

Last Big Ten Championship: 2000

Michigan may be the conference's fifth-ranked team, but the Wolverines will send out arguably the most talented gymnast in the conference. Sophomore Sam Mikulak, another Team USA gymnast, was the 2011 NCAA and Big Ten all-around champion. He's currently ranked first in the conference and second in the nation on parallel bars. The Corona del Mar, Calif., native is joined at the top of the conference all-around rankings by freshman Adrian de los Angeles. The Wolverine pair sits directly behind the Illinois duo of Ruggieri and C.J. Maestas.

No. 9 Nebraska

Last Conference Championship: 1999 (Mountain Pacific Sports Federation)

The Cornhuskers are competing in the Big Ten championships for the first time. Nebraska's team strength lies on the high bar and parallel bar — the team ranks fourth in the Big Ten in both events — but the Huskers' best individuals excel on other events. Nebraska gymnasts Grant Perdue and Wyatt Baier are ranked seventh in the conference on the floor exercise and the vault, respectively.

Follow DI men's gymnastics reporter Ryan Murphy on Twitter.

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