NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships : UCLA No. 2 Qualifier; Schlesinger Wins Title

Times Staff Writer

UCLA, clearly comfortable amid the surroundings, had the second-best score of the night Friday to qualify for today's NCAA Men's Gymnastics finals at Pauley Pavilion.

The Bruins, who won their only NCAA title at Pauley Pavilion in 1984, also placed three gymnasts among the top eight in the all-around competition.

The winner of the all-around title was Tom Schlesinger of Nebraska, who was tied with Big Eight champion Mike Rice of Oklahoma going into the optional exercises, the second element in the two-day competition that began with the compulsory exercises Thursday night.

Schlesinger's score of 113.25 made him a winner by 1.2 points over teammate Kevin Davis, who scored 112.05. UCLA's Curtis Holdsworth, who became the first freshman to win the pommel horse title last year, was third with a score of 111.25.

Rice wound up fifth.

The all-around finals were the highlight of Friday night's competition, but the action was important for two other reasons.

First, the optional exercises served as a qualifier to the individual event finals, which will be contested tonight, beginning at 7:45 p.m.

Second, it served as a qualifier to the team championships, sending the top three from the 10-team field into today's finals, which begin at 1 p.m.

UCLA, which placed five gymnasts among the top 11 going into the second day of the all-around, will be joined in today's team championships by Nebraska, which finished second the last two years after winning five straight NCAA titles between 1979 and 1983, and Penn State, a nine-time NCAA champion.

Nebraska, a loser by 2.25 points to Oklahoma in the Big Eight championships three weeks ago at Norman, Okla., scored 284.90 Friday night to UCLA's 283 and Penn State's 282.30. The scores do not carry over to today.

Cal State Fullerton, seeded behind only top-ranked Oklahoma going into the meet with an average of 283.17, scored less than its season average in all six events and finished 10th with 273.70.

Oklahoma was fourth with 281.2.

Schlesinger, who lost by two-tenths of a point to Rice in the Big Eight championships, improved upon his compulsory marks in five of six events. Except for a 9.4 on the vault, he scored no lower than a 9.55 and his 9.9 on the high bar was equaled only by Alfonso Rodriguez of Houston Baptist, a 1984 Olympian from Spain who finished fourth.

"I stayed consistent and that was the name of the game," Schlesinger said. "I went out aggressively, and that helped."

Schlesinger, 21, a junior from Boulder, Colo., tied for fourth with Davis on the parallel bars at last year's NCAA meet and placed eighth in the all-around at the U.S. Gymnastics Federation Championships last June to earn a spot on the national team.

UCLA's David St. Pierre, third after the compulsories, slipped to eighth. Teammate Tony Pineda was seventh.

It was a disappointing meet for Pineda, who was second in the all-around two years ago, but the 1984 Olympian from Mexico rallied nicely after a fall and a poor dismount off the rings Thursday night produced a score of only 6.5 and took him out of contention for the all-around title.

Pineda blamed his fall on a new pair of hand grips. The pair he had worn for two years broke this week.

A pep talk from Coach Art Shurlock lifted his spirits, Pineda said, and Friday he scored 9.5 on the rings.

His goal was to place in the top six, which he didn't do, but he reached another goal by helping his team reach the finals.

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