The No. 3 Illini will take on No. 6 Minnesota and No. 10 Nebraska on Sunday.
March 10, 2012
The third-ranked Illinois men's gymnastics team will travel to No. 10 Nebraska for a Sunday afternoon showdown with the Cornhuskers and No. 6 Minnesota at the Bob Devaney Sports Center, beginning at 1 p.m. The three teams met in tri-meet action last season in Minneapolis, where the Orange and Blue took first with a 351.500. Illinois has met Minnesota once this season, capturing a second-place finish (341.900) at the Windy City Invitational, where the Gophers finished fourth (338.100).
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
The Cornhuskers are 6-4 this season, coming off a 341.750-322.600 victory over Arizona State, marking their highest team total of the year. As a team, Nebraska is ranked in the top 10 on four events, checking in at No. 7 on parallel bars, No. 8 on vault, No. 9 on floor and No. 10 on high bar.
The Golden Gophers boast a 9-3 mark this season, taking down Iowa and Brockport with a season-best 347.0 last weekend. Minnesota's only losses came to Ohio State, Illinois and Michigan at the Windy City Invitational in January. The squad is ranked second on vault an third on parallel bars.
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 No. 3 overall (352.400) and are in the top five on four events, ranking first on high bar (59.567), second on parallel bars (58.733), third on rings (60.300) and fifth on vault (59.267).
Individually, freshman C.J. Maestas ranks in the top 10 on three events and is tied for fourth in the all-around. The Illini newcomer is third on rings, fourth on floor and sixth on high bar. Paul Ruggeri tops the list on high bar and is tied for second on vault and fourth in the all-around. Ruggeri also ranks ninth on parallel bars and 10th on floor. Sophomore Jordan Valdez ranks ninth on high bar, while junior Austin Phillips ranks seventh on both high bar and parallel bars. Anthony Sacramento checked in at No. 10 on rings. Seniors Tyler Mizoguchi and Kyle Moe, junior Yoshi Mori and freshman Michael Wilner cracked the top 20 on various events.
OHIO STATE RECAP
The third-ranked Illini scored a season-high 355.100 to topple No. 5 Ohio State (341.300) Friday evening during Senior Night at Huff Hall. As a team, the Illini won five of six events and posted season-best team scores on three apparatuses. Redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri took home three titles, including his first in the all-around this season, performing for the final time on his home floor.
Illinois got off to a strong start on floor, sweeping the top four spots to earn its best score (59.700) on that event this season. Freshman C.J. Maestas led the charge, capturing his ninth title as an Illini and second on floor with a 15.300, the second-highest floor score for an Illini this year. The newcomer just edged Ruggeri, who took second with a 15.100. Senior C.J. Padera secured third with a season-best 14.700, while junior Yoshi Mori finished fourth (14.600).
The Orange and Blue continued their success in the second rotation with a season-best team score of 57.900 on pommel horse, highlighted by Mori's first-place finish with a career-best 15.200, which leads the team this season. The win marked his third title of the year and first on that apparatus. Meanwhile, Maestas tied for fourth (14.400), while sophomore Malcolm Brown took sixth with a career-high 14.300. Despite scoring a season high, the Illini could not match the Buckeyes (58.500) on pommel horse, taking their only team loss of the night.
On rings, the Illini swept the top four spots, led by Maestas who picked up his second title of the night and 11th of the season with a 15.300. Seniors Tyler Mizoguchi and Anthony Sacramento and sophomore Cameron Rogers tied for second, each scoring 15.000, which marked a career high for Rogers and a season high for Mizoguchi. Senior Kyle Moe finished sixth with a 14.600.
The Illini had a stellar night on vault as well, posting a season-best 59.700. Ruggeri captured his first title of the night and fourth on vault this season with a 15.400, matching both his personal best and the Illinois record in the modern scoring era. Mori and sophomore Alex Varga tied for second, scoring 14.800, which marked Varga's best this season. Rogers and sophomore Jordan Valdez tied for sixth (14.700), both earning their highest vault scores of the year.
On parallel bars, the Illini finished first, second and third, as junior Austin Phillips won his first title of the season with a career-best 15.100. Mori matched his career high with a 14.800 to finish second, while Maestas tied his career high with a 14.600 to take third. Senior C.J. Padera and Ruggeri tied for fifth (14.200).
In the final rotation, Ruggeri claimed his second title of the night and fourth on high bar this season with a 15.800 in his final routine at Huff Hall. Padera and Phillips tied for second (14.400), matching Padera's season high, while senior Devin Regan placed fourth with a season-high 14.200.
In the all-around Ruggeri matched Illinois' season-best with an 88.100 to take home the title for the first time this year, just edging Maestas (85.200). The title was Ruggeri's team-leading 11th of the season and 66th of his career, just two shy of David Zeddies, who ranks third on the Illinois all-time titles list.
Ruggeri, Mizoguchi, Moe, Padera, Regan and Sacramento were recognized for Senior Night following the event.
Redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri passed current head coach and former Illini standout Justin Spring on the all-time titles list five 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 victories, Ruggeri tied and passed Spring on the same night, moving into fourth place in career titles at Illinois. After back-to-back three-title performances at Penn State and Ohio State, Ruggeri is now only two away from former Illini great David Zeddies, who ranks third.
RUGGERI, MAESTAS SWEEP BIG TEN WEEKLY HONORS
Illinois redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri earned his 10th career Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honor, while newcomer C.J. Maestas garnered Freshman of the Week accolades for the fourth time this season. Both Illini gymnasts took home multiple titles at Huff Hall to lead No. 3 Illinois to a convincing 355.100-341.300 victory over No. 5 Ohio State, marking a season-high team score for the Orange and Blue.
Ruggeri took home three titles for the second straight meet, winning on vault for the fourth time this season with a 15.400, which ties the Illinois record on that apparatus under the current scoring system. The Manlius, N.Y., native also claimed his fourth high bar crown this season with a 15.800 and finished second on floor with a 15.100. Ruggeri matched Illinois' season-high all-around score with an 88.100 to take home his 11th title of the year and his first in the all-around this season.
Maestas led the charge on floor, capturing his second title on that event this season with a 15.300, the second-highest floor score by an Illini gymnast this year. Maestas picked up his second title of the night and 11th of the season with a 15.300 on rings. He also tied his career-high parallel bars score with a 14.600 to take third on that apparatus en route to a second-place finish in the all-around (85.200).
Ruggeri's Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honor marked his third of the season and first since Feb. 6. Maestas' award marked his first since Feb. 20. The Illini last swept the weekly conference awards on Jan. 23, when Maestas earned both honors.
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 fifth 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 30 titles this season. Freshman C.J. Maestas and redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri lead the Orange and Blue with 11 apiece. Maestas won the all-around and rings crowns at both the Windy City Invitational and Iowa. The Illini newcomer also secured titles on pommel horse and floor at Iowa to win four titles in his second collegiate competition. Maestas won the rings title on day one at the Winter Cup Challenge and continued that success with wins in the all-around and on high bar at Penn State. The Corrales, N.M. native recently added titles on floor and rings against Ohio State.
Meanwhile, redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri boasts four crowns on both high bar and vault, winning high bar at Windy City and both events at Iowa and in the Oklahoma-Michigan tri-meet. The Manlius, N.Y., native also won on floor, parallel bars and vault at Penn State before adding titles in the all-around and on high bar and vault in the Senior Night showdown with Ohio State.
Seniors Tyler Mizoguchi, Anthony Sacramento and Kyle Moe and junior Austin Phillips 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. Moe won on rings (15.000) against UIC, and Phillips won on parallel bars against Ohio State.
WEEKLY HONORS FOR THE ILLINI
The Illini lead the league with eight weekly conference awards this season, including four Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honors and four 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 third NCAA weekly honor. The Manlius, N.Y. native earned his third conference honor of the season and 10th of his career on March 5.
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 newcomer earned his third Freshman of the Week honor on Feb. 20, following a strong performance at Penn State and took home his fourth on March 5 after an outstanding showing against Ohio State.
The Orange and Blue will wrap up the regular season next Saturday, March 17, traveling to Iowa for the second time this year. The Illini and Hawkeyes will square off at 7 p.m.