Senior Wes Haagensen made his return to the all-around and finished second against Ohio State.
Jan. 26, 2008
COLUMBUS, Ohio. - The No. 6 Illinois men's gymnastics team dominated the defending three-time Big Ten Champion Ohio State tonight in Columbus, Ohio in historic St. John Arena by a score of 355.650-348.100. The feat was the third-highest score put up by a Division I team this season under the new scoring system and a season high for the Fighting Illini, shattering their previous mark of a 347.350. On the day, Illinois charted 12 top-three finishes, claimed individual titles on four out of the six events and almost swept the team event titles against the Buckeyes.
"I am very proud of the guys tonight," head coach Yoshi Hayasaki said. "To beat Ohio State at their gym is a huge feat and something we have not done in a long time. Tonight, we had a lot of guys that came through and hit their routines and had all of the scores we needed to win. Overall, we started off slow on pommel horse, but bounced back strong the rest of the night to get the job done today."
After a sizzling start to the season where the Illini outshined its Big Ten competition and Ohio State at the 2008 Windy City Invitational by finishing second, the Illini backed-up that finish by taking down the Buckeyes in a regular season dual for the first time since 2002.
In tonight's dual, Illinois recorded season-highs on every event, winning the team event titles with scores of 61.250 on floor, 56.150 on pommel horse, 59.200 on rings, 63.300 on vault and 58.500 on high bar. Ohio State claimed one of its few highlights of the evening on parallel bars, edging the Illini 57.400-57.250 on the apparatus.
Individually, freshman Paul Ruggeri had another standout night for the Orange and Blue, leading the way with two event titles on floor (15.650) and high bar (15.500), while taking second on vault (15.950) and fourth in the all-around (85.650). In his efforts, his marks on floor, high bar and vault are all team bests in 2008, while his total in the all-around is the second-highest mark by an Illini on the young season.
Senior and the 2007 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year Wes Haagensen returned to form in his first meet back competing in the all-around, finishing second on floor exercise (15.500) and high bar (15.150) behind his Illini compatriot Ruggeri on both events, and second in the all-around (88.500) behind Ohio State's Jake Bateman (89.100). Haagensen's mark in the all-around is the highest by an Illini this season.
Freshman star on pommel horse, Daniel Ribeiro, claimed his third straight top-three finish on the apparatus, his second event title of the year with his score of a 15.100. While it is short of his career high of a 15.250 that he scored at the 2008 Windy City Invitational that won him the title there as well, the Illini youngster has continued to show why he is one of the top contenders for the NCAA title come April. Sophomore Luke Stannard also tabbed his third straight top-three finish on pommel as well, earning a 14.050 to finish tied for third on the evening.
Senior co-captain Tyler Yamauchi stole the show on still rings, rounding out the Illini individual event titles with his top performance of a 15.200 on the apparatus, also a team best in 2008. Yamauchi backed up his stellar outing on rings by finishing second on parallel bars (14.950), the second-highest mark by an Orange and Blue gymnast this year.
In other highlights, freshman Roger Pasek continued to make a name for himself in the Illini lineup, finishing third on floor (15.200) to help Illinois sweep the top-three spots on the event, while also tabbing third on vault (15.900). Senior rings specialist Jon Drollinger also had a solid night in the event, finishing fourth (14.750).
The Illini now take a break from collegiate competition and prepare to send gymnasts to the annual Winter Cup Challenge in Las Vegas, Nev., on Feb. 8-9. The event, an international showing of some of the top gymnasts in the world, is a preview of some of the competitors that could be donning their countries colors at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Illinois then returns to conference and dual action when they host defending NCAA champion Penn State on Feb. 16 at Huff Hall, for a 7 p.m. meet in Champaign.