MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University gymnastics and wrestling teams will compete in the second-ever “Beauty & the Beast” meet on Sunday, Feb. 10, at 3 p.m., at the WVU Coliseum. The two teams will compete simultaneously, with gymnastics taking on Iowa State and wrestling squaring off against Ohio.
Sunday’s event provides Mountaineer fans the opportunity to watch two athletic events for the admission price of $1, courtesy of United Bank. In addition to the two contests, representatives from the Student-Athlete Advisory Council will be painting faces prior to competition at the blue gate concourse.
“‘Beauty & the Beast’ is a great event for all Mountaineer fans and for both teams,” says gymnastics coach Jason Butts. “Sunday is a great way for the fan bases to mix and to gain new interest for both teams. I know all of the student-athletes are really looking forward to Sunday, especially following the fantastic support we received in 2011. I'm excited to put on a great competition for all of the WVU supporters.”
“The atmosphere and the buildup of this event is very, very fun,” says wrestling coach Craig Turnbull. “It brings a lot of people in that wouldn’t normally come to either a gymnastics or wrestling match. It arouses their curiosity to come and see an event that isn’t normally on their radar. The last time that we hosted this event, we had some really great feedback. It was also great for the kids, because there were two different types of events going on for each person to enjoy.”
Sunday’s meeting between the Bobcats (5-3, 3-2 MAC) and the Mountaineers (1-8, 0-3 Big 12) will be the 51st meeting in the series, with the Mountaineers holding a 34-15-1 advantage. In last year’s dual meet, WVU dominated Ohio, 36-3.
“Last year, we went into their gym, and they took a beating,” Turnbull says. “There is going to be some pride involved. Ohio is having a pretty successful year, and we are struggling. We have to be ready for their best shot. We have to get ourselves prepared to wrestle. Last year’s result is going to be a motivating factor for them.”
The Mountaineers’ lineup features ranked wrestlers at 125, 141, 174 and 184 pounds, while the Bobcats have ranked wrestlers competing at 174 pounds and at heavyweight.
Included amongst the ranked WVU grapplers is Nathan Pennesi (141), who earned his 20th win of the season last Saturday against Pitt. The win clinched Pennesi’s third consecutive season with 20 or more victories. In the previous “Beauty and the Beast” in 2011, Pennesi scored a tech fall over his opponent from Michigan State.
“I remember it being a fun environment last time,” Pennesi said. “Getting gymnastics and wrestling fans together is a great idea, because for the most part, they are two different fan bases. It was very fun to wrestle in front of that crowd. There was more energy in the Coliseum than we are used to having because you have those two types of diverse fans.”
Also expected to be in the lineup this weekend for the wrestling team is Colin Johnston (133) and Brutus Scheffel (149). Johnston has missed multiple dual meets this season due to various ailments, while Scheffel has been out of the lineup since Jan. 6, with an ankle injury.
“I missed the previous (Beauty & the Beast) in 2011,” Johnston said. “I was redshirting at the time because I had injured my shoulder. It was a great experience just to watch it, so I could imagine it will be fun to participate in it.” Sunday’s meeting will be the third all-time between the Mountaineers (4-4, 0-1 Big 12) and the Cyclones (2-3, 0-0 Big 12), with each squad owning one win, and the first at the WVU Coliseum. The meet will be the second Big 12 competition in three days for ISU, as it competes against No. 2 Oklahoma on Friday evening, at the Hilton Coliseum, in Ames, Iowa.
The Mountaineers return to the Coliseum for their second conference meet in as many weeks, as the team opened Big 12 action with a 197.325-196.05 loss to the Sooners on Feb. 1; the team’s point total marked the quickest WVU has reached the 196.0+ plateau since 2004.
WVU went 2-1 in its home season opener, defeating Western Michigan (196.05-192.475) and William & Mary (196.05-192.225). The Mountaineers also scored season bests on bars (48.775), beam (49.05) and floor (49.225); WVU continues to rank No. 16 and No. 22 nationally on floor and vault, respectively.
“While we’re really happy with our score from last week, our goal is to hit 24-for-24 routines, and we still haven’t hit that mark this season,” explains Butts. “That was our focus in the gym this week. Sure, we want to score even higher Sunday, but we can only control our performances. If we do our job and execute, the scores will fall where they’re supposed to.”
Senior Kaylyn Millick paced the Mountaineers on three events against OU and finished third overall with a career-best 39.4 score. The Washington, Pa., native also finished third on floor with a career-high 9.9 and fourth on beam (9.875) and bars (9.825); her beam score was a career best, while her bars mark was a season high and the first 9.8 scored by a Mountaineer on the apparatus this season. Millick enters the meet ranks No. 9 in the southeast region on floor.
Freshman Jaida Lawrence earned her fourth consecutive career-best mark on vault, scoring 9.9 and tying for the win, her second straight victory. Lawrence is ranked No. 15 in the southeast region, No. 3 in the Big 12, on vault.
Classmate Alaska Richardson and junior Hope Sloanhoffer tied Millick for third on floor, as both scored a career-high 9.9. The duo is ranked No. 11 and No. 16, respectively, in the southeast region on floor.
The Cyclones are led by a familiar face, as seventh-year coach Jay Ronayne spent 13 years (1989-2002) at WVU on coach Linda Burdette-Good’s staff.
WVU and ISU last met in the 2009 regular-season finale, with the No. 20-ranked Mountaineers narrowly defeating the No. 21 Cyclones, 194.925-194.9, in Ames. The win was WVU’s first over ISU. Current gymnastics coordinator of operations Mehgan Morris, then in the midst of her senior season, won her third straight meet with a 39.175 score “I love that we’re facing conference opponents in consecutive weeks at home,” says Butts. “We’re really getting a good feel for the Big 12. I’m excited for our fans, too, because they will get to see another new conference opponent and witness some strong gymnastics. Meets like Sunday are why the program is proud to be a part of its new conference home.”
Prior to tonight’s meet against OU, the Cyclones last competed on Jan. 26, scoring 193.95 in a fourth-place finish at then-No. 12 Minnesota (196.8) with No. 1 Michigan (196.775) and No. 20 Central Michigan (194.65).
At the previous “Beauty & the Beast” in 2011, 3,206 fans were in attendance. The number set a program-high for wrestling and was the third-largest crowd in gymnastics history.
Free shuttle bus service for WVU students will be available from the Mountainlair & the Brooke/Braxton Towers loop for an hour leading up to the event’s start time. Return service to the Mountainlair & the Brooke/Braxton Towers will also be available at the conclusion of the meet.
Fans unable to attend the “Beauty & the Beast” can follow the Mountaineers via a free WebStream and presented by Kroger at WVUsports.com. Live stats for gymnastics will also be available on WVUsports.com