2009 Big Ten Champions.
April 3, 2009
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - The fourth-ranked Illinois men's gymnastics team came from behind to win its first Big Ten team championship since 2004 in thrilling fashion Friday night at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich., behind a team score of 357.100. The Illini made a dramatic comeback in the final rotation to share the title with the fifth-ranked Michigan. The Orange and Blue trailed the Wolverines by 2.35 points heading into the last event and strung together their highest total on still rings this season, 59.100, to catch the hosts and claim the Big Ten Championship trophy.
"It was a classic Big Ten finish," Illinois head coach Yoshi Hayasaki said. "The best part about tonight was that our guys were behind all evening and didn't give up. They kept fighting. It was so great to see our last three events coming back to win the title. I expected a close competition, but I didn't expect it to be this close. We are champions and neither team had to lose. I think Michigan did a great job on their home floor and they had a good performance."
The Conference Championship is the 24th in Illinois history, the most among any Big Ten school. In total, nine different Illini advanced to Saturday night's event finals by finishing in the top-eight plus ties, with at least one Illini in the hunt for an individual title on every apparatus. The Orange and Blue posted 13 top-ten finishes on the night.
Illinois began the championships on vault, where they tallied a 61.350. Sophomore Paul Ruggeri led the way, coming in fourth with a score of 15.600, followed by sophomore Roger Pasek's score of 15.350 (14th) and freshman C.J. Padera's 15.300 (t-16th) The Orange and Blue led the first rotation by 2.5 points ahead of Ohio State and Michigan.
The Illini moved on to parallel bars in the second rotation where they scored a 58.200. Freshman Tyler Mizoguichi hit a career-high 15.050 on p-bars for first place to lead the Orange and Blue. Ruggeri was not far behind, finishing in fourth place, with a 14.750. Junior Brian Liscovitz tied for eighth place with a score of 14.350 to advance to Saturday's event finals.
In the third rotation, the Illini headed to high bar where Ruggeri, the reigning NCAA champion on the event, scored a team high 15.450 to place second. Liscovitz tied for fifth on high bar with a 14.550. The Illini as a team scored a 58.100 on the event. After three rotations, the Illini sat in the middle of the pack with a team score of 177.650, behind Michigan (179.250) and Ohio State (179.050).
Ruggeri continued to lead the Illini into the fourth rotation as they moved to the floor exercise. The Manlius, N.Y., native scored a 15.300, the second-highest score of the night on floor. Mizoguichi and sophomore Daniel Ribeiro each scored 14.950's to add to the Illini team total of 60.050, but just missed out on making finals, finishing in a tie for 10th place.
In the fifth rotation, the Illini headed to their top team event, pommel horse. Ranked No. 1 in the nation heading into the championships, the Fighting Illini did not disappoint the faithful fans who traveled to Ann Arbor, posting a score of 60.300, the highest team total on the event all evening. Ribeiro and junior Luke Stannard, ranked No. 1 and 2 in the conference, posted scores of 15.700 and 15.400 on the event for first and second place.
The Illini were in second place heading into the final rotation, 2.35 points behind the host Wolverines, and would need a spectacular performance on the still rings to claim the title. They did just that, as feshman Tyler Mizoguichi started the Illini off on the right foot, scoring an impressive 14.750, a career-high. Senior Nick Stango made his last Big Ten Championships count, posting another career high for the Illini with a 14.700. Next up, senior Tyler Williamson put together his strongest ring set this season, scoring a 15.000 to ty for fifth place on the event. Freshman Anthony Sacramento posted his second-highest rings score of the season, 14.650, to give the Illini the final push for the Big Ten title.
Illinois scored a season-high 59.100 on rings and that, combined with Michigan's 56.750 on parallel bars, was enough to give the Fighting Illini a share of the title.
"The fight in our last three events was unbelievable and something we hadn't done all season," Hayasaki added. "We had a good season, but that was the best comeback we've had all year. I can't wait to see what we can do next at the NCAA Championships."
Ruggeri took fourth in the all-around competition with a score of 86.850.
The individual event finals will take place Saturday night (April 4) at 6 p.m. CT and will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.
Big Ten Team Championships - Results
Apr. 3, 2009
1) ILLINOIS 357.100
3) Ohio State 349.900
4) Minnesota 348.000
5) Penn State 340.800
6) Iowa 337.750
1) Thomas Kelley (MICH) 89.350
2) Chris Cameron (MICH) 89.100
3) Jake Bateman (OSU) 88.550
4) Paul Ruggeri (ILL) 86.850
5) Aaron Fortunato (MINN) 85.950
6) Philip Onorato (OSU) 82.650
7) DJ Repp (MINN) 81.750
8) Noam Shaham (PSU) 81.550
9) Jonathon Buese (IOWA) 79.800
Individual Event Qualifiers
Paul Ruggeri - FX, VT, PB, HB
Daniel Ribeiro - PH
Luke Stannard - PH
Chris Lung - PH
Tyler Williamson - SR
Tyler Mizoguchi - PB, FX, SR
Brian Liscovitz - PB, HB
C.J. Padera - PH
Nick Stango - SR