One of the most decorated and respected coaches in the history of NCAA gymnastics, Yoshi Hayasaki enters his 33rd season at the helm of the Fighting Illini program. Hayasaki has been a member of the Illinois staff since 1974, and has seen incredible success. His trophy case includes seven NCAA team trophies, including the 1989 National Championship, five Big Ten team championships and countless individual honors. Hayasaki has produced three United States Olympians and 24 international competitors throughout his career.
Hayasaki's Fighting Illini teams have consistently been in contention for both the Big Ten and NCAA championships during his tenure. Recently, however, his teams have been even more prominent on the national scene, as the Illini have finished in the top-three in the country in four out of the last five years.
One of the biggest pieces in that run of success was current assistant coach Justin Spring. Spring was a 12-time All-American and four-time national champion with two titles each on high bar and parallel bars. One of two Nissen-Emery award winners under the reign of Hayasaki, Spring was also the 2006 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year. Spring has seen much success on the international scene, including bringing home a bronze medal for team USAfrom the team competition at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and is currently an assistant coach for the Fighting Illini.
Last season, Hayasaki led the Fighting Illini squad and produced another stellar campaign. The Orange and Blue entered the year with a No. 8 preseason ranking, but knew they deserved more. The Illini started out the season hot, finishing runner-up to No. 1 Stanford in their first meet of the season at the Windy City Invitational with a team score of 347.350 and continued their rise up the charts throughout the season reaching the No. 5 spot midway through. The Orange and Blue carried the No. 5 ranking with them into the Big Ten Championships, where they knew they had to take care of business. Behind a then-season high team score, the Illini finished runner-up to No. 1 Penn State, their highest finish since 2006.
The Orange and Blue carried that momentum with them to the NCAA Championships. The Illini walked away with a third place finish and were the top team in the Big Ten, surpassing No. 3 Penn State and No. 4 California for the bronze. Freshman Paul Ruggeri captured the NCAA high bar crown, becoming Illinois first NCAA champion since Justin Spring took home the honor in 2006.
Though Illinois as a long history of success in men's gymnastics, since 2004 Hayasaki's squads have taken it to a new level. During that span, Illinois has finished in the top-5 at the NCAA Championships each year, including a second place finish in 2006 and three third place finishes, and has been in the top two at the Big Ten Championships four times. In addition, Illini athletes have claimed six individual NCAA titles and 44 All-America accolades during that span.
In 2007, a young lineup finished fifth in the nation and four Illini captured a total of five All-America accolades. Hayasaki assembled one of the best teams in his coaching career in 2006. With veteran stars like Spring and Adam Pummer leading the way, Hayasaki compared the lineup to the 1989 National Championship squad. Illinois made a valiant a run at the national title, putting up a season-high team score of 220.975 at NCAAs. However, the Illini fell just short, finishing in second just .425 behind Oklahoma, marking the smallest point-margin in the history of the championships. Despite the finish, the team brought home 14 All-America honors - the most for a UI squad in 65 years - and Spring brought home national titles on parallel bars and high bar.
Spring helped Illinois walk away with another individual national title in 2005, winning the parallel bars and helping the Illini take third as NCAAs and second at the Big Tens. After capturing the Big Ten team title in 2004, the Illini hosted the NCAA Championships at Assembly Hall as the favorite to win. The Orange and Blue recorded a season-high score in front of a loud home crowd, but placed third as a team. Individually, Ben Newman, Bob Rogers, Peter Shostchuk and Justin Spring all earned All-America honors in front of the Illini faithful. To top it off, Spring took home the first of his four NCAA titles, this one on high bar, while Rogers captured the crown on pommel horse.
Hayasaki also was named Big Ten and Central Region Coach of the Year for the third time in 2004 after leading the Illini to a No. 1 ranking for most of the year. That squad won the program's first Big Ten title in 15 years and put Illinois back on the map in the gymnastics world.
In addition the success in the gym, Hayasaki has helped Illinois set a precedence of excellence in the classroom, as he has led the team to four straight years of top-10 recognition academically by the College Gymnastics Association, incluidng top-five accolades in 2005 and 2006. In 2008, eight Illini were named Academic All-Big Ten CGA Academic All-America Scholar-Athletes.
Hayasaki served as head coach of the Illini from 1974-1993, where he had a 20-year run of success, recording a 518-318 overall record. He also won four Big Ten titles and one NCAA crown in that span. He then took three years to manage both the men's and women's teams as the director of gymnastics. Upon returning as the head coach once again in 1997, Hayasaki immediately brought the program back into national prominence.
A former two-time NCAA all-around champion and U.S. national champion as a competitor, Hayasaki's crowning moment at Illinois was the 1989 NCAA national championship, earning his second consecutive Big Ten Coach of the Year and bringing Region and National Coach of the Year honors along the way. It was the first NCAA championship in any sport at Illinois in over 30 years. During the '80s, Hayasaki built a dynasty at Illinois, winning four Big Ten titles (1981, 1983, 1988, 1989) in a span of eight years. In his coaching career, he has produced 86 All-Americans, 45 individual Big Ten champions, 10 national champions and three Olympians. He begins the season with an overall record of 741-434-1 and a dual mark of 204-108-1 (.665) in 32 seasons at Illinois.
While a student-athlete at the University of Washington, Hayasaki captured two consecutive NCAA all-around titles in 1970 and '71. He placed second in the all-around the only other year he competed in 1968, then missed the 1969 season after undergoing surgery for a torn Achilles tendon. He was the Pacific Eight Conference champion in the all-around, parallel bars, horizontal bars and rings two consecutive years and a 10-time All-American. He was the first man in the history of the school to be named the school's Athlete of the Year twice, and was inducted into the Washington Hall of Fame in 1983.
In addition to NCAA competition, Hayasaki earned four Amateur Athletic Union all-around championships, one U.S. Gymnastics Federation championship and 20 individual event titles.
An international coaching figure, Hayasaki most recently served as the assistant coach and team leader for the 2007 World University Games team that finished seventh. His other coaching stints include being a member of the U.S. Olympic staff at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. He was the U.S. head coach at the 1989 Golden Sands International meet in Bulgaria, the head coach at the 1986 Moncado Cup in Havana, Cuba, and the head coach of the 1985 USA World University Games team. He coached at the 1984 Coca-Cola international tournament in London and at the U.S. Olympic Festival in 1978 and 1985. Hayasaki also served as the USA's World University Games team leader held in Daegu, South Korea, in August 2003. Hayasaki is a member of the USA Senior Elite Coaches, served on the NCAA men's gymnastics rules committee from 1991 through 1995 and chaired the East Region Committee for three years. He also served on the Big Ten Coaches Committee from 2002-04. Hayasaki recently wrapped up his second term as the chair of the NCAA rules committee.
Hayasaki came to the United States in 1965 after attending Tenri High School in Nara, Japan. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Washington in 1971 and a master's degree from Illinois in 1973, while serving as an assistant coach and teaching classes in the College of Applied Life Studies. He immediately inherited the program upon graduation, succeeding Illini legend Charlie Pond. In 1999, Hayasaki was honored with an Honorary Varsity "I" member award for his dedication to the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Hayasaki and his wife, Lisa, have four children, including three daughters, Erika, a 2000 graduate of the University of Illinois, Megan, a student at UIC, and Mia, and a son, Casey, a 2004 Illinois graduate and former gymnastics team captain.
THE HAYASAKI FILE
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