Illini Place Fifth at Big Ten Championships to End Four-Year Win Streak
April 6, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS - The sixth-ranked Fighting Illini men's gymnastics team ended its four-year reign as conference champion with a fifth-place finish in the 2013 Big Ten Championships Friday night at Minnesota's Sports Pavilion. Michigan took home the title with a 438.900, followed by Penn State (434.050), Minnesota (430.350), Ohio State (426.600), Illinois (424.450), Iowa (422.500) and Nebraska (416.250).
Despite the disappointing team finish, freshman Fred Hartville posted a 15.550 on vault, marking the highest-scoring vault in Illinois history and second-highest in the NCAA this season. The Atlanta native finished first on that apparatus and advanced to individual event finals along with five other Illini, including sophomore Mike Wilner, who placed first on rings. The top 10 gymnasts on each event advanced to event finals, which will take place Saturday at 7 p.m. CT.
"We had huge highs and huge lows," head coach Justin Spring said. "I'm really proud of the way the guys were resilient today. We came back after our rough pommel horse, did alright on rings and had a great night on vault. We also were great on parallel bars, but high bar sucked the wind out of us. We were good on floor, but the damage was done on pommel horse and high bar. The guys fought hard, but you can't miss that many routines. Our next challenge is to get everyone to hit on the same day and build confidence before the NCAA Championships."
Illinois got off to a rough start in the opening rotation, posting a season-low 66.550 on pommel horse. Freshman Logan Bradley was the lone Illini to finish in the top 10 and advance to the pommel horse final, scoring a 14.150 to place seventh.
In the next rotation, the Orange and Blue posted a 72.550 on rings, led by first-place finisher Wilner. The Buffalo Grove, Ill., native posted a 15.550 to notch his seventh rings title of the season and earn a spot in Big Ten event finals for the second time in his career.
On vault, the Illini earned a season-high 73.600. Hartville improved his career high by a fourth of a point with his 15.550 and broke former Illini standout and reigning Big Ten and NCAA vault champion Paul Ruggeri's scoring record by five hundredths of a point. The win marked Hartville's sixth vault title of the season and seventh title overall. Sophomore Josh Wilson finished just outside the top 10, placing 12th with a career-best 14.850.
In the fourth rotation, Illinois secured a 71.800 on parallel bars, and junior Cameron Rogers earned his first career trip to Big Ten event finals with a score of 14.850 to place seventh. The Orange and Blue posted a season-low 65.800 on high bar, and no Illini finished in the top 10.
Illinois scored a 74.150 on floor, and two Orange and Blue gymnasts placed in the top 10 to advance. Junior Alex Varga tied for third and matched his career high with a 15.400 to earn his second career Big Ten event final appearance and edge fifth-place finisher Vince Smurro (15.200), who secured a chance to compete in Big Ten event finals for the first time in his career.
The six event finalists from Illinois will compete tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Sports Pavilion. Big Ten Network will air the competition live.
Illinois Event Finalists