Minnesota familiar with Big Ten site

Minnesota will head to Penn State to compete in the Big Ten Championships.

Last time the Minnesota men’s gymnastics team traveled to State College, Penn., to meet up with formerly No. 1-ranked Penn State, Gophers head coach Mike Burns said No. 8 Minnesota could compete toe-to-toe with the Nittany Lions.

The Gophers would fall to Penn State that February day, 354.200-343.450. But having already competed in the Nittany Lions’ gym and having seen the top team in the Big Ten should help out Minnesota as it travels back to State College for this weekend’s Big Ten Championship.

Improving its score in three of the last four meets since losing to the Nittany Lions, Minnesota still holds its No. 8 national ranking, while Penn State has dropped to No. 3.

Sandwiched between the Nittany Lions and Gophers in the national rankings are Big Ten competitors Illinois (No. 5), Michigan (No. 6) and Ohio State (No.7), which should provide stiff competition for Minnesota.

Iowa, ranked at No. 10 nationally, rounds out the top Big Ten programs.

The Gophers enter the 2008 Big Ten Championships seeking team title No. 21, winning their last conference championship in 1995.

In addition to its 20 team titles, Minnesota has placed second at the Big Ten Championships 16 times.

Gophers gymnasts have claimed 119 individual titles, including current Minnesota junior Kit Beikmann’s victory on pommel horse at last year’s championships in Minneapolis.

Play gets underway Friday with the team and all-around competition. Individual event finals will take place Saturday.