OSU redshirt senior Jake Martin competes during a meet. Credit: Courtesy of OSU Athletics

After a win against No. 4 Illinois to round out the regular season, the Ohio State men’s gymnastics team is gearing up for the Big Ten Men’s Gymnastics Championship. The Buckeyes enter the competition with the best four-score average out of the seven conference schools (417.867), a No. 2 ranking on pommel horse (70.350), a No. 3 ranking on parallel bars (70.683) and a 7-1 Big Ten record.

The 2017 championships will be hosted by the University of Illinois. They begin on Friday and conclude on Saturday at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Illinois.

The team and all-around competitions will be featured on Friday, while the individual events will be held on Saturday evening.

The Buckeyes are looking to win back-to-back titles for the first time since 2006 and 2007, and are hoping to repeat last year’s accomplishments.

“I think we are as ready as we can be … I think the guys are hungry to not just prove themselves but also go against other teams from the Big Ten,” said OSU coach Rustam Sharipov. “We really, really want to repeat our success from last year and keep the Big Ten trophy in the house, but, deep inside, they know that they just need to do their job and not focus on winning or beating anybody. If they do their job, we’re going to be where we should be.”

Last season, the Buckeyes received their 13th Big Ten team title — the first since 2007 — and 78 event titles, including four from last year.

“Freshman year, I competed and it was just an energy like I hadn’t felt before,” sophomore Alec Yoder said. “We were lucky enough to hold Big Ten’s at St. John’s here in Columbus on campus … it was just an awesome time and we competed really well, and I’m hoping that we can redo what we did last year this weekend and, you know, it’s an honor anytime that I get selected to compete for this university.”

Four Big Ten standouts return this season to defend their individual event titles. The Buckeyes return with a pair of first-team All-Big Ten selections in redshirt junior Sean Melton and Yoder.

Last season, Yoder captured gold for pommel horse and the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award. Melton received four first-place performances on floor, still rings, parallel bars and the all-around, earning Gymnast of the Year.

The Fighting Illini return first-team All-Big Ten selection and still rings champion Alex Diab, while Michigan returns with vault champion Anthony McCallum.

Additionally, on Monday, the best gymnast title in the Big Ten conference was awarded to two athletes. OSU redshirt senior and team captain Jake Martin and Justin Karstadt of Minnesota were named the Co-Big Ten Gymnasts of the Year, an award that is voted on by head coaches throughout the league.

Martin is the seventh athlete in the program to earn the title. He also is a finalist for the Nissen-Emery Award because of his athletic and scholastic achievements.

The two-day meet will start on Friday at 8 p.m.