Sophomore Bob Spelic is one of the young leaders on this No. 5 Illini men's gymnastics squad
Feb. 2, 2001
On Saturday night, the fifth-ranked Illinois men's gymnastics team will take on No. 3 Ohio State in a showdown of two of the best teams in the Big Ten this season. The two teams met once this season at the Windy City Invitational on Jan. 13 and the Illini edged the Buckeyes, 207.20-205.40, in Chicago. The Illini look to add to its top score of the season, 209.30. Meet time is set for 7 p.m. at Huff Hall, Saturday night.
THE RANKINGS The Illini are ranked fifth in the nation, but have yet to put together a solid performance on all six events. Illinois holds onto first on still rings, second on parallel bars, fourth on high bar and vault and fifth on floor.
Ohio State is ranked third in the nation behind a 210.40 total score posted against Michigan on Jan. 20. The Buckeyes also are ranked first on vault, second on high bar, fourth on still rings, and third on parallel bars. OSU also boasts one of the best all-around gymnasts in Jamie Natalie, who also was an alternate for the Olympic team this year in Sidney, Australia. Natalie ranks in the top-15 on three events.
RINGING IN THE TOP SCORES After an impressive performance last week at Michigan, the Illini posted the nation's best rings score with a 36.90. In the feat, Linh Hoang and Leo Oka placed first in the event with 9.40s, while J.G. Ketchen wasn't far behind at 9.10 and Sean-Paul Crawford at 9.0. The next day at Michigan State, Linh Hoang followed up his performance with a 9.20 to win the event.
LINH-DING A HELPING HAND One of the most productive gymnasts on the 2001 Illini team is senior captain Linh Hoang. In the past two meets, Hoang took first on rings each night and added a win on parallel bars. He currently is ranked first in the nation on vault, third on rings and fourth on parallel bars.
THE BIG TEN CONFERENCE Once again the Big Ten Conference is the most dominant in men's gymnastics. Currently, all seven competing teams in the conference rank in the top eight in the country, with Michigan taking the top spot. Oklahoma is the only non-league team wedged in the Big Ten sandwich. Ohio State is rated third, Iowa is fourth, ILLINOIS takes fifth, followed by the defending national champions Penn State at sixth, Michigan State at seventh and Minnesota is eighth.