Jan. 7, 2003
The University of Illinois men's gymnastics team will open up the regular season this Saturday at the Windy City Invite in Chicago. The annual meet showcases six mid-western teams; all ranked in the Top 15 of the preseason GymInfo Coaches Poll. Ohio State leads the way with a No. 2 ranking, followed by No. 3 Illinois, No. 6 Michigan, No. 7 Iowa, No. 8 Minnesota and, the host, No. 13 Illinois-Chicago.
Illinois head coach Yoshi Hayasaki is excited to see how his squad measures up against some of the top teams in the country.
"This meet is always one of the most competitive meets of the season," said Hayasaki. "Most of the Big Ten teams, except Penn State, will be competing there. We are not quite where we would like to be right now, but we will know where we stack up against the other conference teams in the early stages of the season."
The third-ranked Illini are led by their experienced captains, senior Bob Spelic and junior Bob Rogers. In addition to Spelic and Rogers, junior Scott Wetterling, sophomore All-American Peter Shostchuk and sophomore Ben Newman return as well. That core of veterans will provide valuable leadership and experience for an outstanding group of freshman. Coach Hayasaki and his staff are excited about the three newcomers, Justin Spring, Adam Pummer and Anthony Russo, to this year's squad.
Pummer comes to Illinois after taking home the junior national all-around title at the 2002 J.O. National Championships. Spring finished right behind his new teammate at the Junior National Championships, taking second in the all-around. Russo, meanwhile, had a pretty impressive meet as well, finishing 24th at the Junior Nationals.
Shostchuk and Spring will not be able to compete this weekend at the Windy City Invite because of bruised wrists; however, they are not expected to miss extended periods of time because of the injuries.
Despite those losses, Hayasaki is excited about the upcoming season because of the addition of the outstanding freshman class to the already talented group of gymnasts returning.
"This year, we should be stronger and better on all the events except rings, where we lost All-American J.G. Ketchen, Sean Paul Crawford, and Jonathan Plante to graduation. It will take time for this team to become competitive on the rings, but I feel we're going to get there before the end of the season."
AN EVENT BY EVENT PREVIEW OF THE 2003 FIGHTING ILLINI
Bob Rogers is the top returning floor exercise performer for the Illini. He and Scott Wetterling will attempt to replace Sean-Paul Crawford, last season's top athlete on the floor. Coach Hayasaki will also be expecting big things from freshman Adam Pummer, Justin Spring and Anthony Russo, in addition to veterans Erik Garnett, Nick Hand and Ben Newman.
Floor Exercise Depth Chart: Scott Wetterling, Bob Rogers, Adam Pummer, Justin Spring, Erik Garnett, Nick Hand, Anthony Russo, Ben Newman
The pommel horse was the best event for the Illini in 2002 and with the return of All-American Peter Shostchuk and top performer Ben Newman, it may be no different this year. Bob Rogers and Mike Filla showed improvement on the event throughout last season, which should translate into success this season. Justin Spring, Adam Pummer, Bob Spelic, Casey Hayasaki and Scott Wetterling could surprise this season.
Pommel Horse Depth Chart: Peter Shostchuk, Ben Newman, Bob Rogers, Mike Filla, Justin Spring, Adam Pummer, Bob Spelic, Casey Hayasaki, Scott Wetterling
The still rings will be a key event for the 2003 Fighting Illini as they must fill the void left by Sean-Paul Crawford and All-American J.G. Ketchen, last season's top two performers on the event. Ben Newman and Scott Wetterling were solid last year and must step up to fill the shoes of the departed seniors. Bob Spelic and Peter Shostchuk, along with newcomers Justin Spring and Adam Pummer, will be looked at to step up and contribute as well.
Still Rings Depth Chart: Ben Newman, Scott Wetterling, Bob Spelic, Peter Shostchuk, Justin Spring, Adam Pummer, Erik Garnett, Nick Hand
The vault, along with the high bar and pommel horse, will also be one of the strongest events for the 2003 Fighting Illini. Coach Hayasaki will be counting heavily on his newcomers in this event. Freshman Adam Pummer, Justin Spring and Anthony Russo, along with veterans Scott Wetterling, Erik Garnett and Bob Spelic, form a sold and exciting group of performers on the vault.
Vault Depth Chart: Adam Pummer, Scott Wetterling, Justin Spring, Erik Garnett, Bob Spelic, Anthony Russo, Ben Newman, Nick Hand
The Illini have a lot of potential to impress on the parallel bars this season with Scott Wetterling, Bob Spelic and Peter Shostchuk returning on the event. Throw in the talent of Justin Spring, Adam Pummer, Erik Garnett and Anthony Russo and the Illini have all the tools to do excel on the parallel bars.
Parallel Bars: Scott Wetterling, Justin Spring, Adam Pummer, Peter Shostchuk, Bob Spelic, Erik Garnett, Anthony Russo, Ben Newman
The high bar could be the strongest event for the team in 2003, as the Illini are loaded with talent. Scott Wetterling and Bob Rogers lead the mixture of experienced veterans and young talent in the event. Justin Spring, Bob Spelic, Adam Pummer, Erik Garnett and Peter Shostchuk will all be counted on to contribute as well.
High Bar Depth Chart: Scott Wetterling, Bob Rogers, Justin Spring, Bob Spelic, Adam Pummer, Erik Garnett, Peter Shostchuk, Nick Hand, Anthony Russo
Coach Hayasaki has a strong group of gymnasts to compete in the all-around this year. Scott Wetterling is the top returning all-arounder for the Illini. Freshman Adam Pummer and Justin Spring finished first and second, respectively, at last year's junior national championships and should only improve throughout this season. Bob Spelic and Ben Newman will also be big contributors for Coach Hayasaki in the all-around.
All-Around Depth Chart: Scott Wetterling, Adam Pummer, Justin Spring, Bob Spelic, Ben Newman