Springfield College’s men’s gymnastics team came away with a pair of national champions from the 2012 USAG Championships this past week in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Junior Jimmy Pezzino repeated his national title in the floor exercise with a score of 14.900, edging Corbin Palmer of the host team, the Air Force Academy.
“Before the floor I was nervous,” said Pezzino. “But it was good nerves especially since I was trying to defend my title. It felt amazing to win the national title again.”
Pezzino was narrowly missed capturing another national title in the vault competition. The Buffalo, N.Y. native scored 14.500, good for second place behind Air Force’s Ben Zaiser’s 14.600 first-place finish.
“Having a second national championship (this year) would mean a lot to me,” said Pezzino. “I am very proud with my second-place finish. To be honest, I never expected to place where I did.”
Head coach Steve Posner, who has coached 23 national champions in his 30 years at the helm, was amazed with Pezzino’s performance, especially when defending his title.
“It’s always harder the second time because people are after you,” said Posner. “It’s unusual because there is so much pressure on you. I hope that will carry him into the NCAA.”
Although Pezzino claimed his second national title in as many years, the season is far from over for him and his fellow gymnasts. Springfield still has the ECAC Championships, as well as the NCAA Championships in Norman, Okla. to look forward to.
“[The USAG] was a championship, but it was a championship for those schools with three scholarships or less,” said Poser. “Not everyone is invited for that.”
“We hope that Jimmy qualifies along with some other guys to represent Springfield in the NCAA Championships.”
Another NCAA Championship hopeful is sophomore Ryan Ponce, who won the rings with a score of 15.250.
“He was an All-American last year, so we knew he was in the mix,” said Posner. “He’s really one of the outstanding ringmen in the country.”
Ponce knocked off Air Force’s Gared Chapman (15.000) to win his first national title.
Other than the two national champions, several other SC gymnasts fared well in Colorado. Junior Alex McCabe to third place in the floor exercise behind Pezzino, while fellow junior Rob Ruggiero finished eighth in the pommel horse.
Senior Ty Evans won two national titles last season, the All-Around and the high bars. This season, however, he had a pair of fourth-place finishes in the vault and the parallel bars and two sixth-place finishes in the All-Around and the high bars. Although he walks away with no national titles this season, Evans became a four-time USAG All-American this season.
“He got hurt and lost his confidence in the season, but he bounced back and had a good meet,” said Posner. “He’s looking to continue training and we’re trying to prepare him for the big time (national team).”
There is a qualifier for the national team held in Colorado after the NCAA’s, and out of the fifteen spots available, Posner believes that Evans could be in the mix.
Before Evans can do that, he still has two more meets in an SC uniform. Posner hopes that at the ECAC the Pride can steal some wins after what Posner referred to as an average USAG performance.
“I thought we did average; not great. Every team is real close [and] we’re really fortunate this year to be very competitive with these Division I schools,” said Posner. “In order to beat any of these teams we have to be on.”
The ECAC Championships take place Friday and Saturday in Philadelphia, while the NCAA Championships are Apr. 19-20 at the University of Oklahoma.
Terrence Payne can be reached at email@example.com