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    Three Illini Advance at U.S. Winter Cup Challenge
    Redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri was one of three Illini to advance to the final competition at the Winter Cup Challenge.

    Redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri was one of three Illini to advance to the final competition at the Winter Cup Challenge.

    Feb. 3, 2012

    All-Around | Events | National Team Points

    LAS VEGAS - Three members of the second-ranked Fighting Illini men's gymnastics team advanced to Session III at the 2012 U.S. Winter Cup Challenge Thursday night at the Las Vegas Sports Center. Seniors Tyler Mizoguchi and Paul Ruggeri and freshman C.J. Maestas will each compete in the final round on Saturday for a chance to retain their spots on the U.S. men's senior national team. The competition will begin at 9:30 p.m. CT.

    "I didn't really know where we stood score-wise until the end," Illini head coach Justin Spring said. "But one thing I knew was that these guys were consistent. They didn't make any major breaks, and I'm extremely proud of the fight. They really just kept plugging away. I hope to see a little bit cleaner gymnastics during finals, but this was a solid first day for them."

    Ruggeri led the Illini gymnasts in the preliminary session with an 86.200 all-around score to rank seventh overall and fourth in National Team Points with 25. The Manlius, N.Y., native finished in the top four on three events with a season-high 14.700 on floor (fourth), 16.100 on vault (third) and 15.300 on high bar (third).

    Meanwhile, Maestas finished day one in first on rings (15.450) and eighth on pommel horse (13.850) to earn an 85.400 in the all-around (10th), ranking 13th in National Team Points with 14. Mizoguchi had a solid night as well, ranking 12th in the all-around (84.600) and 28th in National Team Points (2) with the ninth-highest score on parallel bars (14.650).

    Illini volunteer assistant coach David Sender also advanced to the final round, ranking sixth in the all-around (86.350), first on vault (16.250) and third on rings (14.950), earning 20 National Team Points to rank fifth.

    Winter Cup performances will help determine the 15-man roster for the U.S. men's senior national team through the 2012 Visa Championships in June, which is the final time the national team will be named before Olympic trials.

    The seven gymnasts who represented the U.S. at the 2011 World Championships, including Jake Dalton, Jonathan Horton, Steven Legendre, Danell Leyva, Alexander Naddour, John Orozco and Chris Brooks, will automatically retain their spots. The remaining eight spots will be filled following the Saturday-night session based on the following criteria: the top all-around gymnast who was not on the 2011 World Championships Team, the top four gymnasts based on the National Team Point Program; two athletes selected by the Men's Program Committee; and one athlete selected by the national team coordinator. National Points are given to the top 10 finishers on each event on each night and to the top 10 all-arounders based on their two-day combined scores.

    The top 42 gymnasts, according to the Men's Program Committee's points system, will compete in the final competition, along with the top three gymnasts on each apparatus. The all-around and individual event champions will be determined by a combined two-day score.

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