Redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri led the Illini, capturing titles on vault and high bar Saturday evening.
Jan. 28, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The second-ranked Fighting Illini men's gymnastics team took down No. 1 Oklahoma (347.700) and No. 7 Michigan (339.100) Saturday night at Huff Hall with an overall team score of 349.800. Redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri captured titles on vault and high bar, passing head coach Justin Spring (59) on the all-time titles list with 60 career wins to rank fourth in school history.
"It was a battle of who was going to turn it on and start hitting some solid gymnastics," Spring said. "I was a little worried after the first three events, but we built some energy coming off vault and realized we were still in the mix. We really turned it up on high bar. I was really proud that the guys came with a ton of energy at the end of a long day."
Ruggeri captured his fourth and fifth titles of the season, taking his second-straight crown on vault (15.100) and third-straight victory on high bar with a season-high 16.000 in the final performance of the night. The Manlius, N.Y., native just edged freshman C.J. Maestas and junior Austin Phillips to help the Illini sweep the top three spots on high bar in the evening's final rotation.
"To be able to be at the same level with Justin Spring is a great honor," Ruggeri said. "I am respectful of his career. He's an Olympian, so I always look up to him."
Meanwhile, Maestas finished in the top four on three events, highlighted by a clutch performance on high bar, earning a season-high 15.600 to finish second on the apparatus and help clinch the Orange and Blue victory. The Illini newcomer also finished second on pommel horse (14.700) and fourth on vault (14.700).
Phillips also rose to the occasion, capturing second on parallel bars (14.800) and third on high bar (15.000), while classmate Yoshi Mori led the Illini on floor with a third-place score of 15.000, matching his career high. Senior Tyler Mizoguchi also aided the Orange and Blue, finishing fourth on both floor (14.800) and rings (14.700), while newcomer Mike Wilner took second on rings (15.200).
As a team, the Illini finished first on two events, including vault (58.900) and high bar, where they captured a season-high 61.400. The win marks only the sixth time the Illini have defeated the Sooners in school history and is their first victory over the Sooners with Spring at the helm.
Several Illini, including current U.S. senior national team members Ruggeri, Mizoguchi and Maestas, will compete at the U.S. Winter Cup Challenge, Feb. 2-4 in Las Vegas, Nev. The next U.S. national team will be named following the event. The Illini will resume regular-season action Feb. 11 at Huff Hall, hosting UIC at 5 p.m. CT.