Ruggeri was named to the U.S. senior national team for the fourth time in his career.
Feb. 5, 2012
LAS VEGAS - Fighting Illini redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri captured the bronze medal on floor and finished in the top four on three events to earn a spot on the U.S. senior national team for the fourth time in his career late Saturday night at the 2012 U.S. Winter Cup Challenge. Freshman C.J. Maestas was selected to the team by committee following a silver-medal finish on rings, while Ruggeri and Illinois volunteer assistant coach David Sender earned automatic spots based on the national team point system.
"We're doing big gymnastics and that has been the story of our team," Illini head coach Justin Spring said. "I love that even though we're making small mistakes, everyone pushed through every single routine. Everyone really kept their heads up, and I'm really proud of the way that the guys persevered throughout the night because things were not going perfectly."
Ruggeri finished third on floor with a two-day combined total of 29.250 and just missed additional trips to the podium with fourth-place finishes on vault (32.300) and high bar (29.550). The seven-time All-American also finished seventh in the all-around with a combined 171.450, earning 52 national team points to secure his place on Team USA.
Meanwhile, Maestas captured silver on rings (30.000), tied for 10th on vault (31.300) and finished 12th in the all-around (168.900) to help him make the senior national team for the third time in his career. Illini senior Tyler Mizoguchi also competed in the Winter Cup finals, placing 10th on rings (28.550).
Sender, who joined the Illini this year as a volunteer assistant coach, made two trips to the podium, placing second on vault (32.400) and third on rings (29.950). Sender also took sixth on high bar (28.800) and in the all-around (173.550) and eighth on parallel bars (28.750) to secure 55 national team points and ensure his spot on the national team for the 11th time in his career and first since 2009.
"Being named to the national team is life altering," Spring said. "These kids put their entire lives into training to make and be part of the U.S. team. It's not just a random national team. It's a national team that has been winning World and Olympic medals for the last eight years. It's not an easy team to make. The fact that they're a part of a team that is this strong is a testament to their gymnastics."
Eight gymnasts, including Ruggeri, Maestas, Sender, Brandon Wynn, Samuel Mikulak, Jesse Silverstein, Glen Ishino and Adrian de los Angeles, were named to the national team Saturday night. They join the seven members of the 2011 World Championships team, which featured Jake Dalton, Jonathan Horton, Steven Legendre, Danell Leyva, Alexander Naddour, John Orozco and Chris Brooks. The 15-member U.S. senior national team will represent the country in international competition until the team is renamed at the 2012 U.S. Visa Championships in June.