The third-ranked Orange and Blue will take on No. 2 Penn State Saturday at 6 p.m. CT.
Feb. 17, 2012
The third-ranked Illini men's gymnastics team will travel to Penn State this Saturday for a conference showdown with the No. 2 Nittany Lions at 6 p.m. CT. The Orange and Blue went 1-1 against Penn State last year in the regular season, capturing a 359.100-356.750 victory in their last meeting. The Illini are 1-0 this season when facing higher-ranked opponents, taking down No. 1 Oklahoma when Illinois was ranked second. The competition will be aired on Big Ten Network, Saturday, Feb. 25 at 2 p.m. CT.
SCOUTING PENN STATE
The Nittany Lions are coming off a 350.500-323.500 win over Springfield College last Saturday, posting their highest dual score of the season. Penn State is ranked in the top five on six events, topping the list on rings and parallel bars and checking in at No. 2 on floor and pommel horse. The Nittany Lions boast 12 gymnasts in the top 20, led by Scott Rosenthal, who ranks first on rings, while Tony Beck ranks second on pommel horse.
ILLINI IN THE RANKINGS
This week's GymInfo team and individual rankings are based on the average of each team's top three scores. The Illini check in at third overall (348.000) and are in the top three on four events, ranking first on high bar (58.967) and third on parallel bars (57.200), vault (58.667) and rings (59.900).
Individually, freshman C.J. Maestas is ranked in the top 10 on five events and is fourth in the all-around. The Illini newcomer ranks second on rings, seventh on floor and pommel horse and 10th on high bar and vault. Paul Ruggeri tops the list on high bar and is second on vault and fifth in the all-around. Sophomore Jordan Valdez ranks third on high bar, while junior Austin Phillips ranks fourth on high bar and ninth on parallel bars. Seniors Tyler Mizoguchi, Anthony Sacramento, C.J. Padera and Kyle Moe, junior Yoshi Mori and freshman Michael Wilner also cracked the top 20 on various events.
The Illini took down then-No. 13 UIC, 339.000-329.000, last Saturday night at Huff Hall. Orange and Blue gymnasts captured the crown on four of six events and in the all-around, while the team was victorious on floor (57.600), rings (58.500), parallel bars (55.800) and high bar (56.200).
Junior Yoshi Mori led the Illini, capturing his first titles of the season with first-place finishes in the all-around (81.800) and on floor (15.000), matching his career high on that event. The Irvine, Calif., native also finished second on high bar (14.000) and tied for third on vault (13.900).
Meanwhile, sophomore Jordan Valdez claimed his first titles of the season, posting a career-high 15.100 to secure the high bar crown and a 14.300 to win on parallel bars for the first time in his career. The Louisville, Colo., native also tied Mori for third on vault.
Senior Kyle Moe rounded out the Illini event-winners with a victory on rings (15.000), edging freshman C.J. Maestas (14.900), who took second, and sophomore Andrew Margolis and freshman Michael Wilner, who tied for fourth (14.300).
Junior transfer Vince Smurro finished second on floor with a 14.600, marking his highest score on that event as an Illini. The Manasquan, N.J., native also took fourth on parallel bars (13.400) and fifth on high bar (13.500), while senior C.J. Padera finished second on parallel bars (14.100) and fourth on floor (14.200).
Sophomore Chad Mason also posted a top-five finish for the Orange and Blue, taking third on pommel horse (14.200). Classmate Cameron Rogers finished third on parallel bars (14.000) and fifth on both floor (13.800) and pommel horse (14.100), while senior Devin Regan took fourth on high bar (13.600).
Redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri passed current head coach and former Illini standout Justin Spring on the all-time titles list three weeks ago against No. 1 Oklahoma and then-No. 7 Michigan with wins on vault (15.100) and high bar (16.000), marking his fourth and fifth crowns of the season. The Manlius, N.Y., native began the year with 55, which ranked fifth in Illini history and was just four behind Spring (59). With his recent victories, Ruggeri tied and passed Spring on the same night, moving into fourth place in career titles at Illinois and is eight away from former Illini great David Zeddies, who ranks third.
WINTER CUP TO SENIOR NATIONAL TEAM
Fighting Illini redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri captured the bronze medal on floor and finished in the top four on three events to earn a spot on the U.S. senior national team for the fourth time in his career at the 2012 U.S. Winter Cup Challenge. Freshman C.J. Maestas was selected to the team by committee following a silver-medal finish on rings, while Ruggeri and Illinois volunteer assistant coach David Sender earned automatic spots based on the national team point system.
Ruggeri finished third on floor with a two-day combined total of 29.250 and just missed additional trips to the podium with fourth-place finishes on vault (32.300) and high bar (29.550). The seven-time All-American also finished seventh in the all-around with a combined 171.450, earning 52 national team points to secure his place on Team USA.
Meanwhile, Maestas captured silver on rings (30.000), tied for 10th on vault (31.300) and finished 12th in the all-around (168.900) to help him make the senior national team for the third time in his career.
Sender, who joined the Illini this year as a volunteer assistant coach, made two trips to the podium, placing second on vault (32.400) and third on rings (29.950). Sender also took sixth on high bar (28.800) and in the all-around (173.550) and eighth on parallel bars (28.750) to secure 55 national team points and ensure his spot on the national team for the 11th time in his career and first since 2009.
ILLINI AT THE TOP
The Illini boast 17 titles after four meets this season. Freshman C.J. Maestas leads the Orange and Blue with six, winning the all-around and rings crowns at both the Windy City Invitational and Iowa. The Illini newcomer also took the titles on pommel horse and floor at Iowa to win four titles in his second collegiate competition.
Meanwhile, redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri boasts five titles this season with three on high bar and two on vault, winning high bar at Windy City and both events at Iowa and in the Oklahoma-Michigan tri-meet.
Seniors Tyler Mizoguchi, Anthony Sacramento and Kyle Moe round out the list of Orange and Blue title-winners. Mizoguchi took first on parallel bars at Iowa, while Sacramento tied Maestas for the rings crown at Windy City, and Moe won on rings (15.000) against UIC.
WEEKLY HONORS FOR THE ILLINI
The Illini lead the league with five weekly conference awards this season, including three Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honors and two Freshman of the Week accolades. The 2012 squad also boasts two NCAA Gymnasts of the Week.
Redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri was named both NCAA Gymnast and Big Ten Co-Gymnast of the Week for the week of Feb. 6, after taking home the conference honor one week earlier (Jan. 30), marking his career ninth conference award and third NCAA honor.
On Jan. 23, freshman C.J. Maestas earned both Big Ten Gymnast and Freshman of the Week honors after being named Big Ten Freshman and NCAA Gymnast of the Week for the week of Jan. 16.
The Illini will take a week off before returning to Huff Hall, Friday, March 2 to take on Ohio State at Gym Jam. The event starts at 7 p.m. and will also feature the No. 18 women's gymnastics team in a clash with Kentucky.