Men's Gymnastics
#7 Illini Welcome #8 Iowa for Gym Jam this Saturday

Illinois will host Gym Jam this Saturday, taking on No. 8 Iowa at 4 p.m. CT at Huff Hall.
Illinois will host Gym Jam this Saturday, taking on No. 8 Iowa at 4 p.m. CT at Huff Hall.

Feb. 14, 2013

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The defending NCAA champion and seventh-ranked Fighting Illini men's gymnastics team will open its home schedule this Saturday with Gym Jam, presented by Fox 55/27. The Orange and Blue will battle No. 8 Iowa at 4 p.m. CT at Huff Hall, and fans will receive free food and prizes. The meet also will feature a showdown between the Illinois and Iowa women's teams.

The Hawkeyes are coming off a 422.750-419.450 win over Minnesota last week and currently check in at No. 8 in the nation with a three-score average of 422.617. The squad is tied for third on rings and ranked fifth on parallel bars. Individually, Anton Gryshayev leads the nation on still rings with a three-week average of 15.450, while Lance Alberhasky is ranked fourth in the all-around (82.683). The Illini lead the all-time series, 141-78, after edging the Hawkeyes last month at the Windy City Invitational, where Illinois tied for second and Iowa finished fifth, and at the Metroplex Challenge, where the Orange and Blue took third and the Hawkeyes took fourth.

The Fighting Illini men's and women's gymnastics teams will host their annual Gym Jam meet, presented by FOX 55/27, this Saturday at Huff Hall. The No. 7 Illini men and No. 21 Illinois women will square off with Iowa at 4 p.m. The meet will feature free food and an Illini gymnastics water bottle for each of the first 500 fans in attendance and will also include games, prizes, face painting and post-meet autographs. Admission is free, and doors open at 3 p.m.

After three meets, the Illini check in at No. 7 in the national team rankings with a three-score average of 427.167. Illinois is ranked in the top five on two events, coming in at No. 2 on rings (73.883) and No. 5 on pommel horse (70.900).

Individually, freshman Joey Peters is ranked third in the all-around (84.067) and in the top 20 on two events, checking in at No. 9 on rings (14.967) and No. 13 on parallel bars (14.450). Meanwhile, senior Yoshi Mori is ranked fifth in the all-around (81.350), 10th on pommel horse (14.750) and 15th on vault (14.667). Sophomore Mike Wilner is fourth on rings (15.233), while junior Alex Varga is tied for fifth on floor (15.100). Juniors Jordan Valdez and Cameron Rogers round out the list of ranked Illini, checking in at No. 8 on high bar (14.617) and No. 9 on parallel bars (14.633), respectively. Overall, Illinois holds 10 spots on the individual top-20 lists.

Illinois finished third on Jan. 25 at the Metroplex Challenge, scoring a 428.300. No. 4 Oklahoma took the crown with a 441.500, followed by No. 5 Ohio State in second (429.400) and No. 8 Iowa in fourth (422.750). Texas A&M's club team placed fifth, and a team of Texas collegiate all-stars placed sixth. Freshman Joey Peters and junior Jordan Valdez highlighted the meet for the Orange and Blue, taking home individual titles. Peters won the all-around for the second time in three meets, while Valdez claimed his second high bar win of the season with a 15.050, just missing his career-high score by one hundredth of a point.

Fighting Illini newcomer Joey Peters garnered his first career Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor on Jan. 28 after winning the all-around at the Metroplex Challenge. There, Peters placed third on high bar (14.800) and tied for third on rings (15.300), earning season highs on both apparatuses. The Danville, Pa., native captured his second all-around title in three meets with an 84.500. The award marked Illinois' first Freshman of the Week honor since C.J. Maestas earned the title on March 19, 2012.

Former Fighting Illini All-American gymnast Paul Ruggeri retained his spot on the 15-man U.S. senior national team on Feb. 11, following his solid performance at the U.S. Winter Cup Challenge. Current Illini Jordan Valdez and Yoshi Mori each finished in the top 20 on two apparatuses, while volunteer assistant coach and 2010 graduate Luke Stannard placed in the top 10 on two events.

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

The Orange and Blue will head to Ohio State next weekend to take on the fifth-ranked Buckeyes on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 3 p.m. CT.