Men's Gymnastics
Illinois Readies for Tough Road Challenge At Ohio State

Senior Jon Drollinger and the No. 6 Illini ready for tough road challenge against No. 8 Ohio State.
Senior Jon Drollinger and the No. 6 Illini ready for tough road challenge against No. 8 Ohio State.

Jan. 24, 2008

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The sixth-ranked Illinois men's gymnastics team takes on its toughest competition of the season when it heads to Columbus, Ohio to face eighth-ranked Ohio State at historic St. John Arena on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. CT. Illinois is looking to rebound against the Buckeyes after an early season loss to Minnesota at home by the narrowest of margins (.550). The Orange and Blue now enter this weekend on a mission against three-time defending Big Ten champion, Ohio State.

"Ohio State is a quality team and they are going to be ready for us this weekend," head coach Yoshi Hayasaki said. "I think Ohio State is a much more talented team than Minnesota, so we have been working hard to get healthy and prepared for them. We already faced Ohio State at Windy City and placed ahead of them. However, that was the first competition of the year, so everyone is rusty and you never know what to expect. We know we cannot take them for granted. They are going to be coming at us like Minnesota did last weekend, so we have to be ready to perform well."

The Buckeyes have had the last word against the Illini over the last three decades, winning 12 of the last 18 meetings between the two programs since 1978. The last time Illinois came close in a dual was a tie in 2005 (223.400) in Columbus against then-No. 1 OSU.

"This senior class has never beaten Ohio State," senior gymnast Chris Silcox said. "We have been talking about that a lot this week. We have not had the best of luck during the regular season against them, but we think we are due and ready to get a win this weekend to break that trend."

Illinois' meet against Ohio State begins at 6 p.m. CT, 7 p.m. local time, in Columbus. Live scoring will not be offered for this meet, but a full recap will be available at the conclusion of the night's events at

Head coach Miles Avery enters his 11th season at the helm of the program and boasts a field of veteran gymnasts as well. In 2008, however, the Buckeyes are looking to fill significant gaps in their lineup with the loss of four seniors from the 2007 Big Ten Champion squad.

On the competition floor, the team will count on its three All-America seniors to carry on the program's tradition of excellence in 2008. In all, DJ Bucher, Pejman Ebrahimi and Jimmy Wickham have combined to garner a total of nine All-America honors in their first three seasons, including Ebrahimi's national vault title in 2007. Also returning for Ohio State are juniors Jake Bateman, 2006 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and Eddie Hay, reining conference champion on floor.

While Illinois has had the better of Ohio State when it comes to the NCAA Championships the last two years, the Buckeyes have won 12 out of the last 18 duals between Illinois during the regular season since the 1977-78 season. During the regular season Ohio State might be the leader, but Illinois has had the advantage in postseason action, denying Ohio State a chance to compete for the national title in back-to-back seasons. UI's top upset at NCAAs came last season when the Buckeyes entered nationals the top-ranked team before being edged by then No. 8-Illinois in the first qualifying session for one of the top three spots that advanced to the Super Six.

In the regular season, however, the last Illinois win in a dual came in 2002 (214.375-213.325), while the closest Illinois has come since then came in 2005 when they tied then-No. 1 Ohio State, 223.400-all.

Illinois posted a then season-high score of 211.050 in the two program's last meeting in 2007. However, the effort was not enough to top Ohio State, who defeated the Illini with a score of 214.700. Illinois was led by the efforts of Wes Haagensen, who captured his third all-around title of the season.

Illinois topped Ohio State on the floor (36.850-36.000) and vault (35.650-34.550), while also carding season highs on the floor, rings (36.200), vault (35.650) and high bar (34.750). On the night, the Illini posted two scores of over 9.3000, with Tyler Yamauchi posting a 9.350 on rings, while Chad Wiest recorded a 9.350 on the floor.

Haagensen added to his all-around first-place finish with a second-place outing on high bar (9.150) and pommel horse (8.550), tied for fourth on parallel bars (8.800) and third on vault (9.000). Yamauchi also took home an individual title, posting a 9.150 on vault, while he also finished fourth on rings (9.350). On the rings, the Illini swept the top-three places. Other individual highlights included the dual match debut Luke Stannard on pommel horse (8.550), tying for second on the event.

The No. 8 Illinois men's gymnastics team opened the season strong against Minnesota, with four Illini coming away with individual titles, including the all-around by freshman Paul Ruggeri. The Illini also outperformed the Golden Gophers on floor exercise, rings, pommel horse and parallel bars, but a solid vault rotation for Minnesota proved the difference as the Golden Gophers took the meet, 344.400-343.850.

Ruggeri, along with his first-place all-around finish, tabbed the floor title with a 14.900, while also finishing second on both vault (15.650) and high bar (14.400). Senior co-captain Michael Boyer placed second on floor with a 14.750. The other senior captain, Tyler Yamauchi, served up a highlight performance of his own, claiming the individual title on rings (14.900). Sophomore Brian Liscovitz had a stellar night of his own for the Orange and Blue, helping the Illini sweep the top-three spots on parallel bars with his score of a 14.350, good enough for the event title. Senior Wes Haagensen added a second-place finish on pommel horse (14.650) and a third-place outing on both high bar (14.250) and rings (14.600) to close out a top-notch evening for himself. Freshman Daniel Ribeiro continued his success on pommel horse, finishing third on the event to mark his second straight top-three finish of the year. Ribeiro won the event at the 2008 Windy City Invitational last weekend.

The Illinois men's gymnastics team improved in the rankings this week, moving up two spots to No. 6 in the year's first GymInfo poll that was decided by team averages. The Illini also rank in the top 10 in the country on every event, including a top-five status on floor, pommel horse and still rings.

Individually, sophomore Luke Stannard and freshman Daniel Ribeiro, who are ranked 13th and third individually on pommel, respectively, lead the way. Freshman Chad Wiest has paved the way on floor; ranked third in the nation (15.450), while senior co-captain Michael Boyer comes in at 12th (14.950) followed by Tyler Yamauchi (14.900) in 13th. On rings, co-captain Yamauchi is 13th (14.725), while senior Wes Haagensen is 16th (14.575). Haagensen also is tabbed eighth on parallel bars (14.650).

Rounding out the Illini in the rankings is freshman Paul Ruggeri, who has his named notched in the polls on three different events, his highest a seventh-place showing (15.700) on vault, followed by ninth (83.400) in the all-around and 13th (14.400) on high bar.

Men's collegiate gymnastics has elected to adopt the International Gymnastics Federation's (FIG) "Code of Points" as its new scoring system, beginning in the 2008 season. Previously, the sport had been using a modified version during the 2006 and 2007 seasons, which still put a maximum value of 10 points on each routine. In the newly adopted system, a gymnast's final score will be the sum of his Difficulty and Executing Scores [Explained Below]. The scores for each routine will be open-ended, with most scores earning between 13-16 total points, depending upon the apparatus.

Difficulty Score
The Difficulty Score will award gymnasts points for the difficulty and technical content of a routine. Two judges on an A Panel will be responsible for crediting the athletes for connections (two high-level skills that are connected) and for completing element group requirements for an apparatus. The nine most difficult skills and the dismount will account for the Difficulty Score. All skills have a set value and are categorized into six groups, depending upon the difficulty aspects of the element. Connection values can be earned on floor, rings and high bar for an extra 0.100 or 0.200 points.

Execution Score
The Execution Score will be decided upon by two to four judges on a B Panel. Beginning with 10 points, deductions for errors, faults in execution and presentation will be made by all judges independently. The Execution Score will be computed by taking a varied average of the B Panel marks. The range of deductions will be from 0.100 points for a small error and 0.800 points for a fall.