Men's Gymnastics
#3 Illini Wrap Up Regular Season Saturday at #12 Iowa

The No. 3 Illini will close out the regular season this Saturday against the No. 12 Hawkeyes.
The No. 3 Illini will close out the regular season this Saturday against the No. 12 Hawkeyes.

March 15, 2012

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The third-ranked Illinois men's gymnastics team will close out the regular season this Saturday, March 17, making its second trip of the year to No. 12 Iowa. Action begins at 7 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, which also is the site of the 2012 Big Ten Championships, April 6-7.

The Hawkeyes are 2-10, coming off a second-place tri-meet finish against Minnesota (first) and Brockport (third) on March 3, scoring a season-high 338.200. They defeated UIC on Jan. 28 for their first win of the season. The squad boasts two nationally ranked gymnasts - Javier Balboa, who ranks eighth on parallel bars, and Broderick Shemansky, who ranks 19th in the all-around.

The Illini have met the Hawkeyes twice this season, taking a second-place finish (341.900) over sixth-place Iowa (316.800) at the Windy City Invitational on Jan. 14 before defeating them head-to-head, 352.300-326.200, the following weekend at Iowa.

This week's GymInfo rankings are based on the average of each team's top three scores. The Illini check in at No. 3 overall (353.683) and are in the top six on every event, ranking first on high bar (59.900), third on parallel bars (58.783), third on rings (60.450), fifth on vault (59.400) and sixth on both floor (59.067) and pommel horse (57.083).

Individually, Paul Ruggeri tops the list on high bar and is second on vault, third on floor, fourth in the all-around and sixth on parallel bars. Freshman C.J. Maestas is second on high bar, fourth on rings and sixth on floor and in the all-around. Junior Austin Phillips ranks ninth on high bar and 10th on parallel bars, while freshman Mike Wilner is ninth on rings. Seniors Kyle Moe, C.J. Padera and Anthony Sacramento and sophomore Jordan Valdez crack the top 20 on various events as well.

The third-ranked Fighting Illini men's gymnastics team took down No. 6 Minnesota (346.900) and No. 10 Nebraska (344.700) Sunday afternoon at the Devaney Center with a score of 353.650, marking its second-highest score of the season. As a team, the Illini won on pommel horse (56.950), rings (60.250) and high bar (59.500) and tied for first on floor (58.800).

Ruggeri captured titles on three events and in the all-around, which marks the third consecutive meet in which the seven-time All-American claimed at least three crowns, bringing his season total to a team-leading 15. The Manlius, N.Y., native finished first on floor for the second time this season with a personal-best 15.900 and won on vault for the fifth time this year, scoring a 15.400, which matches the Illinois record.

Ruggeri also secured his fifth high bar title of 2012 with a season-high 16.100 to earn an all-around score of 89.800, which leads the team this year. With his wins, Ruggeri moved into third place on the Illinois all-time titles list with 70, passing former standout David Zeddies (68).

Freshman C.J. Maestas had a solid night as well, capturing his fifth rings title this season with a 15.450. The Illini newcomer also took second on high bar (14.850), while sophomore Cole Smith placed second on pommel horse with a career-high 14.550.

Senior C.J. Padera posted a pair of top-four finishes, placing third on parallel bars (14.900) and tying for fourth on pommel horse (14.300). Meanwhile, freshman Mike Wilner finished third on rings (15.000), followed by sophomore Cameron Rogers in fourth (14.950) on the same apparatus. Classmate Alex Varga rounded out the top-four finishers for the Orange and Blue, taking fourth with a 14.850 on vault.

Redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri passed Illini legend David Zeddies (68) on the all-time titles list last weekend against No. 6 Minnesota and then-No. 10 Nebraska with a season-high four titles. The seven-time All-American won high bar, floor, vault and the all-around and now ranks third all-time with 70, behind only Charlie Lakes (112) and Travis Romagnoli (89). Ruggeri passed head coach and former Illini standout Justin Spring six weeks ago against No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 7 Michigan with wins on vault and high bar. The Manlius, N.Y., native began the year with 55, which ranked fifth in Illini history and was just four behind Spring (59).

Fighting Illini newcomer C.J. Maestas earned his second straight Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor for his solid performance against No. 6 Minnesota and No. 10 Nebraska. The Corrales, N.M., native took home one title and finished in the top six on three events to help the Orange and Blue to a dominating victory on Sunday afternoon.

Maestas captured the crown on rings (15.450), marking his 12th title overall this season and fifth on that apparatus. The Illini newcomer also took second on high bar (14.850) and sixth on pommel horse (14.100).

The award marks Maestas' fifth Freshman of the Week accolade, which is the most for an Illini all-time and passes current junior Yoshi Mori, who took the title four times in his freshman season.

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.

The Illini boast 35 titles this season. Redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri leads the Orange and Blue with 15, including five on both high bar and vault. The seven-time All-American won 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 his Senior Night showdown with Ohio State. Ruggeri followed that up by winning the high bar, vault, floor and all-around competitions at Nebraska.

Meanwhile, freshman C.J. Maestas boasts 12 titles, winning 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 and won on rings at Nebraska.

Sophomore Jordan Valdez and junior Yoshi Mori each secured two titles apiece against UIC. Valdez took the crown on high bar and parallel bars, while Mori won the all-around and floor competitions.

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.

The Illini lead the league with nine weekly conference awards this season, including four Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honors and five 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 back-to-back titles on March 5 and 12 after solid showings at Penn State and Nebraska.

The Orange and Blue will take a two-week break before traveling to Iowa for the Big Ten Championships, April 6-7 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where they will look to win their fourth straight conference title.