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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (March 19, 1998)
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NEBRASKA FRESHMAN GYMNAST Jason Hardabura, a 22-year-old from Oakville, Ontario, is the first foreign athlete Husker Coach Francis Allen has coached.
Canadian freshman leads NU into NCAAs
By Darren Iyt
Jason Hardabura is not your typical freshman
Unlike most freshman, Hardabura is 22 years
old has extensive international experience and is
looked up to - not looked down upon - by the
"He's a leader in the gym,” said senior Bill
Mulholland NU’s team captain. “Everybody's
been around and has leadership qualities. He just
adds to that.”
Leaving Canada to come to the United States
was a tough decision for Hardabura, but the
decline of Canadian gymnastics and the desire to
train under an Olympic coach and be part of a
strong gy mnastics tradition swayed him.
Hardabura, an Oakville, Ontario, native, is the
first foreign athlete NU Coach Francis Allen has
ever had. Allen said he tried to recruit Americans,
but there was only one last year who Allen thought
had the potential to score a 57 in the all-around and
he had already committed to Ohio State.
So Allen went searching.
And Hardabura is who he found.
It was an opportune find not only tor Allen, but
also for Hardabura.
Canadian gymnastics was on the decline as
Canada finished 14,h at the World Championships
in 1995. This meant the national team could have
only three gymnasts compete in the 1996
Hardabura. who was fifth on the Canadian
team, faced an uncertain gy m future.
While he competed in 1995. he went to college
part time, but he said Canadian gymnastics was in
trouble and he wouldn't be able to go to school and
compete in gymnastics at the same tune anymore.
When he was younger, he said, he wouldn’t
leave Canada because he didn't want to leave his
coach, Dave Arnold.
But it was Arnold who made the decision easy.
“He told me to go (to the United States),”
After that decision was made, Arnold got in
contact with Allen, his longtime friend, and told
him he had a gymnast he wanted him to look at.
“He told me, ‘My best boy wants out. and 1
want you to look at him.’” Allen said. “1 probably
wouldn't have contacted him if 1 didn't know
This wasn't die first time Hardabura and Allen
met. Back in 1994, Arnold introduced the two at
the World Championships, and Hardabura said
Allen made fun of him because he was Canadian.
But this joking around with one another is what
Hardabura enjoys about Allen and Arnold.
“Their personalities are very similar."
Hardabura said. "It is the main reason I came.”
The other reason Hardabura came was to work
under a former Olympic coach.
“It takes more than a good gymnast and a good
coach,” Hardabura said. “It takes someone who
knows what it takes to be an Olympian.”
Allen has coached 11 Olympians in his 29
years of coaching. He said if the gymnast has the
talent and desire, he has the formula to take a gym
nast to that level. Allen said Hardabura has the abil
itv to be an Olympian in 2000.
“He doesn’t have a weakness,” Allen said.
At Nebraska, Hardabura s gymnastics career
has been rejuvenated. He said he wasn’t enjoying
gymnastics the last two years, but now he is again
because of his teammates.
“i could see everyone was here for one reason
- everyone else,” Hardabura said. "That is the most
valuable part of the team.”
The camaraderie NU gymnasts share has led to
a No. 2 ranking and a shot at the National
Allen said Hardabura will be a key to a win
rung a national championship. When he first came.
Allen expected Hardabura to score above 57 in the
all-around in every meet.
But a hip injury Tie first meet set him back
three weeks, Allen said. However, he has come
back from the injury to post a career-high 57.3 in
Hardabura looks forward to the NCAAs and
thinks the Huskers have a good shot at winning it.
“If we hit when we need to hit, we will win.”
Nuemann says NU aiming for top-4 finish
Temoer Terry has his sights set on
one thing this weekend - an NCAA
And to get that he’s probably going
to face his biggest opponent - Hardell
Moore of Oklahoma State. Terry will be
looking to avenge a loss to Moore at the
Big 12 Conference meet earlier this
“I looked at the Big 12 sheet, and I
had second place,” Terry said. “I was
like, ‘Man, look at this punk.’ That
match motivated me to win.”
While NU Coach Tim Neumann
said Terry’s chances of winning the title
at 158 pounds are high, the outcome for
the 10th-ranked Nebraska wrestling
team and its shot at a team title is more
questionable. The team travels to the
Cleveland State University campus this
weekend for the NCAA Wrestling
This was supposed to be the year for
Nebraska’s chance at winning its first
ever NCAA team title, Neumann said.
But injuries and a slower progression
than expected throughout the season
have led the team to do some reevaluat
ing of goals set early in the season.
“I told the guys the other night that
my goal is for us to be on the platform at
the end of the tournament in one of the
top four positions,” Neumann said.
“I think we thought by Christmas
we would be where we are now. It just
didn’t happen as fast as we hoped, and
90 percent of that is from having guys
Of the seven Cornhuskers who
qualified for the national tournament,
three - Paul Gomez, Brad Canoyer and
Terry - were among those injured early
in the season.
Gomez (18-11 overall, 6-6 in duals),
a 118-pounder, will be entering the tour
nament for the first time after earning a
wildcard bid. Six of his losses have
come from wrestlers ranked in the top
“With Gomez being hurt all year he
didn’t get a chance tq establish himself
like I hope he’s going to do this week
end,” Neumann said.
Canoyer (18-7,12-3) and Terry (15
1, 10-0) have already established them
selves as All-Americans in previous
years, but for both, as well as All
American Ryan Tobin (27-3, 9-1) and
126-pounder Jeramie Welder (26-10, 8
6), the tournament will mark the
seniors’ final competition in collegiate
At the 134-pound weight class,
12th-ranked Canoyer has been inconsis
tent this year, Neumann said. Canoyer
missed half of November and all of
December while battling an injury.
“Brad (Canoyer) doesn’t have a lot
of different things he does,” Neumann
said. “But when we get to the national
meet, the reason he does so well is
I was like, ‘Man, look at this punk/
Thett match motivated me to win”
because he’s so good at a couple things.
I expect him to finish in the top six.”
At the weight class below Canoyer,
Neumann is expecting a surprise finish
from Welder, who will be pushing one
final time for All-America honors at 126.
At the 190-pound weight class,
Tobin is looking to end his career with
an NCAA title. Tobin, who wrestled
first semester as heavyweight, has shed
more than 30 pounds to compete at this
“We’re really glad that there’s only
one weigh-in,” Neumann said. “Tobin
will have about six hours between that
weigh-in and his first match to recover.”
Freshmen 177-pounder Brad Vering
(32-7, 14-2) and heavyweight J.R.
Plienis (30-11, 7-3) round out the NU
qualifiers. Vering captured the Big 12
crown March 7, becoming the third
Husker ever to do so. Plienis' second
place finish at the Big 12s came as a sur
prise in a weight class that highlighted
three grapplers in the top 12. Both
eagerly anticipate All-America honors
“It’s a grueling weekend,” Canoyer
said. “It’s the longest weekend of the
year by far.”
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