Men's Gymnastics
#1 Illini Set to Open Season Saturday at #15 UIC

The top-ranked Illini will start their season at No. 15 UIC on Saturday.
The top-ranked Illini will start their season at No. 15 UIC on Saturday.

Jan. 10, 2013


The defending national champion Fighting Illini men's gymnastics team will kick off the 2013 season this Saturday in Chicago, taking on No. 15 UIC at 5 p.m. CT. Illinois leads the all-time series, 63-16, after taking down the Flames at the Windy City Invitational and in dual-meet action last season. The Orange and Blue claimed a 339-329 victory at Huff Hall in the last meeting between the two teams.

The Flames finished the 2012 season ranked 13th with a National Qualifying Average of 331.825. The 2013 squad returns seven of its nine 2012 NCAA qualifiers, including Dan Zerbel (FX, PB), Lukasz Adamczyk (PH) and Brett Valin (VT), who each advanced to the second day of competition at the NCAA Championships. Saturday's contest will mark the first meet of the season for the Flames.

The reigning NCAA and Big Ten champion Illini start the season ranked first in the nation in the GymInfo Preseason Coaches' Poll, which was released in early October. Michigan came in at No. 2, followed by Oklahoma in third, Penn State in fourth and Stanford in fifth.

Illinois checked in at No. 2 in December's Big Ten Preseason Coaches' Poll. Michigan took the top spot, while Penn State came in third, Ohio State in fourth, Minnesota in fifth, Nebraska in sixth and Iowa in seventh. Individually, 2012 All-Americans Yoshi Mori and Jordan Valdez were named Big Ten Gymnasts to Watch.

Four of seven 2012 Illini All-Americans will return to the Orange and Blue lineup this season, including seniors Mori (AA, PH), Valdez (HB) and Austin Phillips (HB) and junior Chad Mason (PH).

Sophomore C.J. Maestas will miss the 2013 season due to a tricep injury sustained during practice last fall. In his freshman year, the three-time All-American won the conference all-around crown to earn Big Ten Gymnast and Freshman of the Year honors before capturing Illinois' first-ever NCAA still rings title. Maestas underwent surgery over Thanksgiving weekend. He is expected to compete at the 2013 U.S. Visa Championships this August and will return to the Illini lineup for the 2013-14 collegiate season.

The 2012 Fighting Illini strung together an unforgettable season, highlighted by their first NCAA team title since 1989 and the first national championship for any Illinois program since 2003. The Orange and Blue also took home their fourth straight Big Ten crown and knocked off the top-ranked team in the nation three times throughout the season en route to a 28-2 overall mark.

The squad produced two NCAA event champions, 11 All-America honors, three Big Ten individual titles, two All-Big Ten selections, the Big Ten Gymnast and Freshman of the Year and its fourth-ever Nissen-Emery Award winner. Head coach Justin Spring was named National Coach of the Year after notching his third straight Big Ten Coach of the Year honor.

The Illini will return to Chicago next weekend for the annual Windy City Invitational, which will take place Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. CT.