Fighting Illini Athletics added several members to the family recently, as the early National Letter of Intent signing period started on Nov. 13. Check out the future stars for Illini baseball, basketball, golf, gymnastics, softball and tennis.
Five Sign for Illini
Two Future Illini Make Junior National Team; Ruggeri Makes Senior National Team
Illinois' 3.11 Team GPA Ranks Ninth-Best Nationally
Illinois finished sixth in team finals; Peters earned All-America recognition in all-around
The No. 6 Illini suffered a 425.400-424.250 loss to No. 11 Nebraska on March 23.
Illinois fell short to Iowa 428.45-428.40.
The Illini took down Minnesota, 21-9, in a match play meet on March 8, 2013.
Justin Spring enters his fifth season at the helm and eighth season overall with the Illinois men's gymnastics program.In four years as the head coach of the Illini, Spring has guided five gymnasts to NCAA event titles, including two NCAA champions in both 2010 and 2011. The Illini have racked up 25 All-America honors in Spring's four years. He was named National Coach of the Year in 2012 after guiding Illinois to its 10th NCAA team championship. At 28, he was the youngest coach in NCAA history to earn National Coach of the Year honors.
He has guided the Illini to three Big Ten Championships in four years and has earned Big Ten Coach of the Year in each of those years (2010-12).
Under his leadership, the 2012 Illini knocked off top-ranked Oklahoma three times throughout the season, compiling a 28-2 mark overall, and produced two NCAA event champions, 11 All-America accolades among seven individuals, three Big Ten titles between two gymnasts, two All-Big Ten honorees and their fourth-ever Nissen-Emery Award winner, senior Paul Ruggeri. Additionally, freshman C.J. Maestas earned Big Ten Gymnast and Freshman of the Year.
In 2010-11, Spring guided the Illini to a 28-5 overall record, their third straight Big Ten title and a third-place finish at the NCAA Championships. Spring's 2011 squad featured four NCAA All-Americans and two NCAA champions. After a successful 2011 campaign, he was named Central Region Coach of the Year and Big Ten Coach of the Year for the second straight season.
Following the 2009-10 season, Spring was named head coach for the Illinois men's gymnastics program after spending one year as an associate head coach.
In one season as associate head coach, Spring led Illinois to its second straight Big Ten team title and a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championships. Individually, five Illini earned All-America accolades; three took home Big Ten titles, and Luke Stannard became just the third Illini to win the prestigious Nissen-Emery Award, which is presented annually to the nation's top senior male gymnast.
Additionally, Spring helped guide Illinois to a 22-5 overall record and the top spot in the rankings on four separate occasions and never dropped out of the top five. For his efforts, Spring was honored as both Central Region Coach of the Year and Big Ten Coach of the Year.
Spring was promoted to associate head coach following the 2009 season after three years as an assistant under the legendary Yoshi Hayasaki. The promotion meant that Spring had to retire from competitive gymnastics to concentrate on coaching full time.
In 2009, Spring was named Central Region Assistant Coach of the Year along with Ivan Ivankov after helping Illinois to the Big Ten Championship, a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Championships and three individual NCAA titles.
Spring, a former Illini standout, had an amazing year in 2008 that culminated with winning a bronze medal with Team USA at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Along with his teammates, Spring defied all odds as the U.S. men brought home the bronze medal and surprised everyone, except themselves.
Spring was spectacular in the team finals in leading the Americans to the improbable bronze. He scored 15.900 on vault in the second rotation, a team-leading 15.850 on parallel bars, a spectacular 15.675 on horizontal bar, along with 15.200 on floor exercise in the three-up, three-count format.
Spring's road to the Olympics was not an easy one to say the least. Plagued by injuries throughout his career, Spring battled through constant pain in hopes of accomplishing his lifelong dream of bringing home an Olympic medal. Less than a year before his Olympic appearance, Spring tore his ACL at the 2007 Visa Championships. However, he did not let the incident hamper his dreams. After making a speedy recovery, the Burke, Va., native headed to the 2008 Olympic Trials, where he was scheduled to compete on only four events due to a nagging ankle injury.
However, he knew he needed to do more in order to make the team. He needed to show the Olympic selection committee that he had the complete package they were looking for. With his dream on the line, Spring rolled the dice and made a last minute decision to add floor exercise to his competition events. Despite not practicing on the event in nearly two months, the gutsy move paid off as he posted a score of 15.200, the second highest score of the night.
After a second strong day of competition at the Olympic Trials, all Spring could do was wait. The Olympic team would be announced the next day. In the end, the decision to add floor proved to have a huge payoff, as Spring's name was one of the six announced to the team.
Spring, one of the most talented gymnasts in Illinois history, finished his collegiate career in 2006.
In his first season as an assistant in 2007, Spring was instrumental in helping the Illini return to the NCAA Championships Super Six, as the Illini extended their streak of top-five finishes to five straight years with fifth-place finishes at NCAAs and Big Tens.
In 2008, Spring helped lead the Illini to a runner-up finish behind No. 1 Penn State at the Big Ten Championships. At the 2008 NCAA Championships, the Illini continued their success, finishing third, their sixth consecutive top-five finish. The Illini brought home nine All-America honors with freshman Paul Ruggeri winning the national title on high bar, Illinois' first high bar champion since Spring in 2006.
Finishing his collegiate career in 2006, Spring strung together one of the best seasons in Illinois gymnastics' history. The season culminated with him earning the 2006 Nissen-Emery Award, an honor that goes to the top senior male gymnast in the nation. A double titlist at the 2006 NCAAs, Spring took home the crown on the high bar and defended his title on parallel bars. In addition, he carded five total All-America honors with a second-place finish in the all-around, third on floor exercise and fourth on vault.
Along with his individual honors, Spring helped the Illini to runner-up finishes at the 2006 NCAA and Big Ten Championships. The finish at NCAAs came less than a half-a-point shy of team-champion Oklahoma, and just short of the Orange and Blue's 10th national title.
Overall, the Burke, Va., native is a four-time NCAA Champion, winning a pair of titles on high bar in both 2004 and 2006 and back-to-back crowns on parallel bars in 2005 and 2006.Along with his national recognition, Spring earned 2006 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year accolades after winning the all-around crown at Big Ten Championships. In all, Spring finished his illustrious career with three All-Big Ten first team honors, six Big Ten Gymnast of the Week laurels and three Inside Gymnastics' NCAA Gymnast of the Week honors.
During his four-year career, Spring garnered three Big Ten Championships with titles on parallel bars and in the all-around in 2006 and on the floor exercise in 2004. Spring is a two-time recipient of the Dike Eddleman Athlete of the Year award (2004, 2006), which goes to Illinois' top male and female athlete. A face and name that will forever be remembered in Illini record books, Spring left the Fighting Illini a 12-time All-American, the most since Abie Grossfeld earned 13 from 1957-59, and holds Illinois records on floor exercise, vault, parallel bars and high bar. Spring's success has extended far beyond his honors in collegiate competition, as he won the national title on parallel bars at the 2008 Visa Championships, his third overall honor. In 2005, Spring became the first Illini gymnast to win a National Title at the Visa Championships, winning the gold on high bar. With his two-day combined high bar score of 18.750, Spring took home the title on the event.
He competed at the 2007 World Cup meet in Moscow, taking home second on high bar at the event. The Illini great was chosen to the 2007 U.S. Pan American Games team, bringing home the United States' first gold medal at the games in 16 years when he claimed the crown on parallel bars. He also helped lead the U.S. team to a bronze medal finish at the Games hosted in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Spring then followed the performance with a stellar outing at the 2007 Visa Championships, where he collected his second U.S. title on high bar - first since 2005 - and was a silver medalist on floor exercise.
Spring is a five-time U.S. Senior National Team member after his fifth straight selection in 2008. Spring also represented the U.S. at the 2005 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Melbourne, Australia, on floor exercise, parallel bars and high bar. At the 2005 World Championships, Spring finished 10th to qualify as a reserve on high bar and finished 12th on parallel bars.
At the 2005 American Cup, Spring scored a 9.500 on high bar and brought home the silver medal behind only Olympic champion Paul Hamm.
The Illini gymnast finished fourth on the high bar at the 2004 Visa U.S. Championships and competed for Team USA at the 2003 World University Games in Daegu, South Korea, advancing to the finals on floor.
Spring graduated from the University of Illinois in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in speech communication and is currently pursuing his master's in recreation, sport and tourism. Spring and his wife, Tori, and son, Cody, reside in Champaign, Ill.
THE SPRING FILE
High School: Lake Braddock High School (Lake Braddock, Va.)
College: University of Illinois (2003-06)
2010-present Head Coach, University of Illinois Men's Gymnastics
2009-10 Associate Head Coach, University of Illinois Men's Gymnastics
2006-09 Assistant Coach, University of Illinois Men's Gymnastics
2012 National Coach of the Year
2012 Big Ten Coach of the Year
2011 Big Ten Coach of the Year
2011 Central Region Coach of the Year
2010 Central Region Coach of the Year
2010 Big Ten Coach of the Year
2009 Central Region Assistant Coach of the Year
2008 U.S. Olympic Team Member - Bronze Medal
2008 Visa U.S. Championships Gold Medalist - Parallel Bars
Eight-time U.S. Senior National Team Member
2007 Pan American Games Team Member - Bronze Medal
2007 Pan American Gold Medalist - Parallel Bars
2007 Visa U.S. Championships Gold Medalist - High Bar
2007 Visa U.S. Championships Silver Medalist - Floor Exercise
2007 Moscow World Cup Silver Medalist - High Bar
2005 World Championships U.S. Team Member
2005 Visa U.S. Championships Gold Medalist - High Bar
2005 Winter Cup Champion - High Bar
2005 American Cup Silver Medalist - High Bar
2003 World University Games Team Member
2006 Nissen-Emery Award winner
2006 NCAA Parallel Bars Champion
2006 NCAA High Bar Co-Champion
2006 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year
2006 Big Ten Parallel Bars Champion
2006 Big Ten All-Around Champion
2005 U.S. National High Bar Champion
2005 NCAA Parallel Bars Champion
2004 NCAA High Bar Champion
2004 Big Ten Floor Exercise Champion
Three-time All-Big Ten Team Member
Six-time Big Ten Gymnast of the Week
Three-time Inside Gymnastics NCAA Gymnast of the Week
Two-time UI Dike Eddleman Athlete of the Year (2004, 2006)
Illinois School Record Holder (FX, VT, PB, HB)
Two-Year Team Captain