Men's Gymnastics
Maestas Named Big Ten Gymnast, Freshman of the Year

Redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri won Big Ten titles on vault and floor during Saturday's event finals.
Redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri won Big Ten titles on vault and floor during Saturday's event finals.

April 7, 2012

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IOWA CITY, Iowa - Only one day after helping the Illini men's gymnastics team to its fourth straight Big Ten title, freshman C.J. Maestas earned Big Ten Gymnast and Freshman of the Year accolades, while redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri captured the conference crowns on vault and floor Saturday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The awards continued for the Orange and Blue, as head coach Justin Spring garnered his third straight Big Ten Coach of the Year honor, and Maestas and Ruggeri earned first-team All-Big Ten recognition.

"Paul and C.J. are going to be the competitive leaders at the NCAA Championships," Spring said. "Paul is absolutely deserving of every award he gets and is going down in history with more and more accolades under his belt because he has truly been an incredible athlete for this program."

Ruggeri broke the Illini record on vault with a 15.500 to earn his second-career Big Ten vault title, marking his seventh win on that apparatus this season. The Manlius, N.Y., native also secured the floor crown with a 15.800, earning his second conference title on that event and his third title on floor this year. The seven-time All-American also earned a third trip to the podium with a third-place finish on parallel bars (14.900) to place in the top three on every event in which he competed. Ruggeri now owns six Big Ten titles all-time.

Maestas also had a stellar night for the Orange and Blue. Coming off his win in Friday's Big Ten all-around competition, Maestas continued his success at the Big Ten Championships with runner-up finishes on floor (15.350), rings (15.500) and high bar (15.300). His Gymnast of the Year award marks Illinois' first since Wes Haagensen won in 2007, while his newcomer accolade is the first for an Illini since Yoshi Mori earned the title in 2010.

"C.J. is such a team player," Spring said. "He really stepped up to the challenge in the team competition to be that heavy hitter for us on all six events when it really counted. As a freshman, that's impressive to take that kind of pressure on willingly and do as well as he did."

Sophomore Jordan Valdez made a podium appearance as well with a third-place performance on high bar (14.700), while freshman Mike Wilner matched his career high to tie for fifth on rings (15.200).

Freshman Josh Wilson was Illinois' Big Ten Sportsmanship honoree. The student-athletes chosen are individuals who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior. In addition, the student-athletes must be in good academic standing and have demonstrated good citizenship outside of competitive sport.

The Orange and Blue will return to action in two weeks when they travel to Norman, Okla., for the 2012 NCAA Championships, April 19-21, where they will look to win their first national title since 1989.

Big Ten Individual Event Finals - Illinois Results

1. Paul Ruggeri (15.800)
2. C.J. Maestas (15.350)

Pommel Horse
T-8. Yoshi Mori (13.250)

2. C.J. Maestas (15.500)
T-5. Mike Wilner (15.200)
8. Anthony Sacramento (14.900)
9. Kyle Moe (14.800)

1. Paul Ruggeri (15.500)

Parallel Bars
3. Paul Ruggeri (14.900)
6. C.J. Maestas (14.350)

High Bar
2. C.J. Maestas (15.300)
3. Jordan Valdez (14.700)
8. C.J. Padera (14.050)
10. Austin Phillips (13.250)