#7 Illinois Falls Short to #1 Penn State, 438.90-436.25
March 2, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The seventh-ranked Fighting Illini men's gymnastics team came up short to top-ranked Penn State Saturday evening in a 438.900-436.250 battle at Huff Hall. Illinois gymnasts notched event titles on five of six apparatuses, highlighted by senior Yoshi Mori's two-title performance, which included wins on both floor and pommel horse, and Mike Wilner's school record-breaking night on rings.
The meet marked the first week of competition under an NCAA-wide scoring change. The new format features a five up, five count formula, meaning teams are no longer allowed to drop their lowest score on each apparatus. Prior to this meet, the 2013 format included six gymnasts for each team on every event and allowed each team to count only its top five scores.
"This is a different team from the one that was competing for me four weeks ago," head coach Justin Spring said. "The energy was high. They were hitting sets and taking ownership of what they were doing rather than crossing their fingers and hoping for the best. They really went out and attacked. When you do that, you build momentum."
The Illini got off to a strong start on floor, capturing four top-five finishes individually to post a season-best team score of 74.550. Mori nabbed his first floor title of 2013 with a career-high 15.200, edging junior Alex Varga, who placed second with a 15.100. Freshman Fred Hartville finished fourth with a career-best 15.000, followed by senior Vince Smurro in fifth with a 14.950.
In the following rotation, the Orange and Blue turned in a 68.950, led by Mori, who captured his second event title of the evening and third on pommel horse this year, earning a 14.900. Redshirt freshman Jacob Tilsley also placed in the top five, tying for fourth with a 14.300.
On rings, Illinois earned its second-best score of the season with a 75.700. Wilner led the way with a 15.900 to rank first all-time at Illinois, topping the 15.850 that reigning NCAA and Big Ten rings champion C.J. Maestas scored to take home the conference crown last year. The win marked Wilner's fourth rings title of the season, which is the most for any Illini this year on a single apparatus. Meanwhile, freshman Joey Peters posted a career-high 15.500 to place fifth.
In the fourth rotation, the Illini notched a 72.750 on vault. Hartville won his third vault title of the season with a 15.200, marking Illinois' second-best individual vault score of 2013 and just missing his career high by one tenth. Hartville was the lone Illini to place in the top five on that apparatus.
Illinois scored its highest parallel bars mark of the season in the following rotation, posting a 74.250. Mori placed second with a career-high 15.200, matching a team high for the Orange and Blue this year. Smurro set a career high as well, posting a 14.900 to place fifth.
In the final rotation, the Illini earned a 70.050, led by Peters, who took home his first career high bar title and fifth title overall this season with a 14.800 to tie for first. Senior Austin Phillips placed third with a 14.500.
Mori took second in the all-around with an 86.800, marking Illinois' highest all-around score this year.
The Orange and Blue will host No. 6 Minnesota next Friday at 7 p.m. CT at Huff Hall. The meet will feature an experimental match-play format, which will include five gymnasts from each team going head-to-head on each event.