Illini Advance to NCAA Team Finals for 11th Straight Season
April 19, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The reigning national champion Fighting Illini men's gymnastics team advanced to NCAA Team Finals for the 11th straight season after placing third in the Session I Qualifier of the NCAA Championships Friday afternoon at Penn State's Recreation Building. Michigan won the session with a 443.850. Oklahoma placed second with a 433.850, followed by Illinois (426.900), Minnesota (424.700), Air Force (417.900) and Nebraska (417.550). The Wolverines, Sooners, Illini and top three finishers from tonight's Session II Qualifier will compete for the national title on Saturday at 6 p.m. CT.
"I'm relieved but not surprised that we're here," head coach Justin Spring said. "I certainly was nervous, but I expect my team to go out and hit. Pommel horse was unexpected. You don't plan on hitting half a routine out of five. A couple misses are to be expected, but our pommel horse performance was uncharacteristic. However, I knew we could battle back and do our job."
The Illini got off to a rough start in the first rotation with a 68.800 on parallel bars, marking their second-lowest parallel bars score of the season and lowest score on that event by any team during the opening session.
Illinois recovered in the following rotation, earning a 70.200 on high bar. Senior Austin Phillips led the squad with a 14.550 to tie for fourth place on that apparatus. Freshmen Max Mayr and Joey Peters finished just outside the top 10, tying for 11th with 14.050s.
In the third rotation, the Illini posted their third-highest floor score (74.150) of the season and the second-highest floor mark in Session I. Senior Yoshi Mori tied for fifth with a 15.050, and fellow senior Vince Smurro finished in eighth with a 15.000.
The Orange and Blue had a rough fourth rotation, posting a season-low 66.200 on pommel horse. Freshman Logan Bradley was the lone bright spot for the Illini on that event, placing ninth with a 14.250.
Illinois had a fifth-rotation bye and stormed back in the sixth rotation after its pommel horse struggles with a solid 74.350 on rings, which was the second-highest score on that apparatus in Session I. Three Illini placed in the top 10 on rings. Sophomore Mike Wilner tied for second with a 15.300, while junior Cameron Rogers tied for fifth with a career-high 15.200 to edge Peters, who finished in eighth with a 15.150.
In the final rotation, the Illini notched their second-highest vault score (73.200) of the season and secured two of the top 10 spots individually. Freshman Fred Hartville placed fifth with a 15.100, while sophomore Josh Wilson finished in ninth with a 14.800.
Mori competed in the all-around, placing fourth with an 81.300.
The Orange and Blue will be back in action tomorrow night to defend their NCAA title. Competition is slated to begin at 6 p.m. CT. NCAA.com will stream the meet live.