The University of Illinois men's gymnastics team took to competition without the defending national champion Travis Romagnoli and freshman standout J.G. Ketchen and it proved to be costly as the fifth-ranked Illini finished sixth at the 1999 Big Ten Championships in Iowa City, Iowa Friday night. Sophomore Leo Oka finished sixth in the all-around with a score of 56.925 and was named to the all-Big Ten team.
Michigan won the team title with a score of 230.275, followed by Iowa (229.475), Ohio State (229.25), Penn State (227.65), Michigan State (226.70), Illinois (223.725) and Minnesota (217.225).
Illinois did have some standout performances from individuals who qualified for the event competition to be held Saturday evening. Sophomore Jonathan Ham qualified on floor with a fourth- place score of 9.60. Senior All-American Kyle Zak scored a 9.60 on vault for fourth place, while junior Linh Hoang and sophomore Eric Nishimoto also qualified with scores of 9.550. Oka placed fifth on parallel bars with a 9.675 to also qualify. Hoang also put up a career-high score of 9.70 on pommel horse for 10th place.
"We knew this was going to be a difficult task without Travis (Romagnoli) and J.G. (Ketchen)," head coach Yoshi Hayasaki said. "But we've struggled in a couple of events (rings and high bar) which could have given us a much better score."
The qualifying individuals will be back in action tomorrow night for the event finals beginning at 7 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.