Sophomore Wes Haagensen and the Illini head to the NCAA Team Finals on Friday.
April 6, 2006
Norman, Okla. - The fourth-ranked University of Illinois men's gymnastics team concluded preliminary competition in second place behind top ranked Oklahoma and in front of No.5 California on Thursday night advancing to tomorrow's Team Final. The Fighting Illini will now compete for the NCAA Championship at 7 p.m. (CDT) at Oklahoma's Llyod Noble Center.
"The most important thing today was getting into the finals," veteran head coach Yoshi Hayasaki said. "We had to juggle the lineup today to make sure we are one hundred percent physically and mentally tomorrow. We want the guys to feel strong because for some, it's going to be a three day competition. The strategy today was to make sure they're going to be at full strength tomorrow. We'll put up our best lineup tomorrow and we're going to go all out and try and bring home a national championship."
The Illini had a solid start with a season-high 36.925 on parallel bars to take an early lead. The Orange and Blue moved on to high bar where they extended their lead behind senior Justin Spring's 9.650 with a 38.050. The Illini's parallel bars and high bar scores were both high scores of the day. After two rotations, the Fighting Illini led second place California by over two and a half points. After a bye in the third rotation, the Illini resumed competition on floor exercise posting a 35.875, but California narrowed Illinois' lead and Oklahoma moved into first with a bye still remaining.
The Illini posted a 33.450 on pommel horse and with two events remaining fell to third place behind Oklahoma and California who stood at first and second place, respectively. The Illini rings team posted a 35.190 to maintain the team's third place standing. In the final rotation, Illinois vaulted into second place with a 35.325 to seal their bid in tomorrow's Team Final.
In Session II, No. 1 Oklahoma (217.225) finished first, followed by Illinois (214.775) and California (213.900) joining the top three teams from Session I.
In Session I, No. 2 Stanford was the top qualifier (215.900) followed by No. 6 Penn State (213.240). The surprise of the day came in the final rotation which saw No. 7 Iowa overtake No. 3 Ohio State with a score of 36.750 on high bar to raise their team total to 212.425. The Hawkeyes ended the Buckeyes streak of 25 consecutive team final appearances.
It was no surprise that Nissen-Emery winner Justin Spring highlighted the first day of competition concluding the session in the top-five on three events. The two-time NCAA Champion finished first on high bar (9.650), tied for first on floor exercise (9.300) and tied for second on parallel bars (9.525).
Adam Pummer bolstered the Illini lineup returning from injury that withheld the senior from the Big Ten Championships. Pummer's 9.625 on high bar placed him in second place in the second session while his 9.525 on parallel bars tied him with Spring for second place. He also posted an eighth place 9.200 on vault. In addition, sophomore Wesley Haagensen had a strong meet concluding the first day in first place on vault (9.375), and tied for first on floor exercise (9.300).
Senior Ted Brown (8.600) and freshman Chris Lung (8.500) finished tied for fourth and sixth on pommel horse, respectively. Sophomore Tyler Yamauchi's 8.975 on rings placed him in sixth and sophomore Jon Drollinger's 8.850 rings score put him in 11th.
Coach Hayasaki noted that there is still room for improvement and that the team can put up a better score in the team final.
"I think we'll have to perform better on pommel horse and rings and even on floor," Hayasaki said. "We had a very good start in the first two events and then we started to coast. It was not an all out effort from us today on certain events and tomorrow there will be no excuse - we have to go all out, one hundred percent and try and win the championship."
The Illini hope to ride the momentum they built in the qualifying session when they begin the team finals and vie for their first national title since 1989. Visit www.ncaasports.com for live stats.
2006 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships
Hosted by University of Oklahoma
SESSION I Team Scores Total FX PH SR VT PB HB 1. Stanford* 215.900 36.425 34.150 36.800 36.650 35.625 36.250 2. Penn State* 213.240 35.950 33.700 36.725 36.050 34.950 36.075 3. Iowa * 212.425 36.025 33.300 35.300 36.200 34.850 36.750 4. Ohio State 211.700 36.357 32.650 34.700 36.500 35.275 36.300 5. Minnesota 206.950 34.025 31.800 33.700 36.175 35.725 35.525 6. W&M 202.025 34.125 29.850 32.550 36.175 34.475 34.850
SESSION II Team Scores Total FX PH SR VT PB HB 1. Oklahoma* 217.225 33.650 37.550 36.800 35.675 37.700 37.700 2. Illinois* 214.775 35.875 33.450 35.150 35.325 36.925 38.050 3. California* 213.900 35.775 33.550 34.400 35.725 36.675 37.775 4. Michigan 208.850 36.250 31.050 35.450 36.575 33.850 35.675 5. Nebraska 204.925 33.950 33.825 33.100 35.700 33.625 34.725 6. Temple 196.925 33.550 30.750 31.700 34.725 32.800 33.400
* advances to Team Finals