Freshman Paul Ruggeri captured the all-around title with his 85.450 performance against the No. 7 Gophers.
Jan. 19, 2008
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The No. 8 Illinois men's gymnastics team opened the season strong today against No. 7 Minnesota, with four Illini coming away with individual titles, including the all-around by freshman Paul Ruggeri. The Illini also outperformed the Golden Gophers on floor exercise, rings, pommel horse and parallel bars, but a solid vault rotation for Minnesota proved the difference as the Golden Gophers took the meet, 344.400-343.850.
"We were a little banged up heading into the meet, but were still able to put up a lineup that was competitive tonight," head coach Yoshi Hayasaki said. "Right now, we are not at full strength, but we had some mistakes on key events that hurt us tonight as well. We knew heading into this meet that Minnesota was a talented team and we couldn't overlook them. Today, we had a few more mistakes than they did, which cost us in the end."
Ruggeri, along with his first-place all-around finish, tabbed the floor title with a 14.900, while also finishing second on both vault (15.650) and high bar (14.400). The freshman standout rose to the occasion overall, as he turned in a team season-high 85.450 in the all-around, while his marks on on floor, rings and horse were his season highs in the young 2008 campaign.
Senior co-captain Michael Boyer also came through for the Illini in their first dual of the season, coming in second on floor with a 14.750. The other senior captain, Tyler Yamauchi, served up a highlight performance of his own. The two-time still rings All-American wowed fans and the judges on rings tonight, claiming the individual title with a 14.900.
Sophomore Brian Liscovitz had a stellar night of his own for the Orange and Blue, helping the Illini sweep the top-three spots on parallel bars with his score of a 14.350, good enough for the event title. Seniors Wes Haagensen and Yamauchi, along with Minnesota's Sergei Dmitriev, tied for second on the apparatus, recording a 14.300.
Other Illini superlatives included Haagensen adding a second-place finish on pommel horse (14.650) and a third-place outing on both high bar (14.250) and rings (14.600) to close out a top-notch evening for the senior.
Freshman Daniel Ribeiro continued his success on pommel horse, finishing third on the event to mark his second straight top-three finish on the year. Ribeiro won the event at the 2008 Windy City Invitational last weekend.
The meet also marked the return of 2006 high bar All-American Ross Bradley, who appeared in the lineup for the first time this season to display his leadership on the team in the high bar lineup. Freshman Roger Pasek also made his collegiate debut against the Gophers as well, charting scores of 13.900 on floor and 15.100 on vault for a solid opening meet for the youngster.
"Preparing for next weekend, we are going to have to work on getting healthy and cleaning up our routines," Hayasaki said about their road trip to Ohio State. "Ohio State is a great team, and they will be ready to go when we come into town. For us, working on our routines and getting everybody back in the lineup is going to be our No. 1 priority."
Illinois returns to the gym when the take on No. 4-ranked Ohio State next weekend, Jan. 26, at 6 p.m. CT in Columbus, Ohio. The meeting will mark the second time the two Big Ten powerhouses have met, as the Illini finished ahead of the two-time defending Big Ten champion Buckeyes at the season opening Windy City Invitational on Jan. 12.