Men's Gymnastics
#6 Illini Travel to #8 California for Final Road Trip of Regular Season

Illinois will travel to Berkeley, Calif., this weekend to take on No. 8 California on Saturday at 9 p.m. CT.
Illinois will travel to Berkeley, Calif., this weekend to take on No. 8 California on Saturday at 9 p.m. CT.

March 15, 2013


The defending national champion and sixth-ranked Fighting Illini men's gymnastics team will travel to Berkeley, Calif., this weekend to take on No. 8 California on Saturday at 9 p.m. CT. Illinois leads the all-time series, 16-15, after downing the Golden Bears twice last year at the NCAA Championships. The Orange and Blue won prelims and team finals, while California finished third in prelims and fourth in team finals.

California checks in at No. 8 in the nation with a three-score average of 427.000 and is ranked in the top 10 on every event except parallel bars, checking in at No. 6 on vault (73.400), No. 7 on floor (74.150), pommel horse (70.667) and high bar (71.067) and No. 10 on rings (71.333). Individually, the Bears hold nine spots on the top-20 lists for various events, while three crack the top 10. Jeffrey Langenstein is No. 3 on floor (15.667), while Kevin Wolting is tied for ninth (15.267) on the same apparatus. Meanwhile, Jonathan Liu is ranked 10th on parallel bars (15.017). The Bears are coming off a 428.650-405.150 win over Temple on March 10.

The Illini remained at No. 6 in this week's national team rankings, owning a three-score average of 435.150. Illinois is in the top five on four events, coming in at No. 3 on rings (75.650), No. 4 on both pommel horse (72.883) and parallel bars (72.683) and No. 5 on high bar (71.800).

Sophomore Mike Wilner leads the nation on rings with a three-score average of 15.767, while freshman Fred Hartville is ranked fourth on vault (15.267). Fellow newcomer Joey Peters checks in at No. 7 in the all-around (85.000), No. 9 on high bar (14.917) and No. 12 on both rings (15.367) and parallel bars (14.917). Senior Yoshi Mori is ranked sixth in the all-around (85.217) and ninth on pommel horse (15.017). Overall, eight Illinois gymnasts hold a combined total of 12 spots on the top-20 lists.

Illinois captured a 21-9 victory over No. 7 Minnesota in its historic match play meet on March 8 at Huff Hall. The Orange and Blue clinched the win on parallel bars in the fifth rotation after winning all five vault matchups in the fourth. The Illini notched four event titles, including two by freshman Fred Hartville. The meet format, which was created by head coach Justin Spring and assistant coach Daniel Ribeiro, featured five head-to-head contests on each apparatus with no set lineups. Each matchup was worth one point.

This meet will mark the third week of an NCAA-wide scoring change. In the beginning of the season, the scoring format featured six gymnasts competing for each team on each event. Until March 1, all teams could drop their lowest score on each apparatus, counting only five of six scores. As of March 1, only five gymnasts can compete on each event, and every competitor affects the team total.

Fighting Illini newcomer Joey Peters garnered his first 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). The award marked Illinois' first Freshman of the Week honor since C.J. Maestas earned the title on March 19, 2012.

Classmate Fred Hartville earned his first Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor on Feb. 18 for his strong performance in No. 7 Illinois' 428.450-428.400 loss to No. 8 Iowa. Hartville captured the vault title with a 15.100. The Atlanta native also placed second on floor with a 14.750.The award marked the first time since 2011 and second time since the award's inception that two Illini gymnasts earned the honor in the same season. Current juniors Jordan Valdez and Alex Varga were each named Big Ten Freshman of the Week in 2011.

Hartville notched his second Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor on March 11, following his two-title performance in Illinois' 21-9 match play victory over Minnesota. In the experimental meet, he earned his fifth vault title of the season, matching his career-high score with a 15.300, which ranks fourth all-time at Illinois. He also captured his first career floor title with a 14.900. Hartville won both of his head-to-head battles under the experimental match play format, posting two of Illinois' 21 points.

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).Valdez and Mason missed the last four meets due to injury and will miss this weekend's meet as well.

Sophomore C.J. Maestas will miss the 2013 season due to a tricep injury sustained during practice last fall. In his freshman year, the three-time All-American won the conference all-around crown to earn Big Ten Gymnast and Freshman of the Year honors before capturing Illinois' first-ever NCAA still rings title. Maestas underwent surgery over Thanksgiving weekend. He is expected to compete at the 2013 U.S. Visa Championships this August and will return to the Illini lineup for the 2013-14 collegiate season.

The Illini will return to Huff Hall to celebrate Senior Day and take on No. 10 Nebraska in Illinois' home finale on March 23 at 4 p.m. CT. The Orange and Blue will honor seniors Malcolm Brown, Yoshi Mori, Austin Phillips and Vince Smurro prior to the meet.