Men's Gymnastics
#4 Illini Travel to Iowa for Big Ten Championships

 
The No. 4 Illini will look to defend their title at the Big Ten Championships this weekend.
The No. 4 Illini will look to defend their title at the Big Ten Championships this weekend.
 

April 4, 2012

Complete Notes | Live Stats | Championship Central

CHAMPIONSHIPS PREVIEW
The fourth-ranked Illinois men's gymnastics team will travel to Iowa City this weekend for the 2012 Big Ten Championships, as they look to capture their fourth straight title and league-leading 27th overall. The team and all-around competitions will take place Friday, followed by individual event finals on Saturday. Competition is slated to begin at 7 p.m. CT both nights at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where the Illini have already competed twice this season.

The Orange and Blue rank second in the Big Ten team standings with a four-score average of 352.133, checking in just behind Penn State (352.667). Minnesota (346.567) ranks third, followed by Ohio State (344.400), Michigan (343.400), Nebraska (340.900) and Iowa (335.567). The Illini are in the top three in the conference on five of six events, ranking first on parallel bars (58.733) and high bar (58.933), second on rings (60.117) and third on both pommel horse (57.067) and vault (59.133).

FOLLOW THE ACTION
Big Ten Network will broadcast both days of the Big Ten Championships live, beginning at 7 p.m. CT, with Mike Wolf, John Roethlisberger and Rob Brown calling the action. Live stats also will be linked both days on fightingillini.com.

2011 BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIPS RECAP
Last season, Illinois claimed its third straight Big Ten title in front of its home crowd at Huff Hall with a 355.550, making it the first school to win three consecutive titles since Ohio State, which accomplished the feat from 2005-07. The conference crown was the 26th in Illini history, the most among any Big Ten school.

Michigan took second place (352.750), followed by Ohio State (350.000), Penn State (349.000), Minnesota (344.400) and Iowa (339.300). Tyler Mizoguchi represented the Illini in the all-around, finishing in third place with a score of 85.700. Additionally, nine different Illini advanced to Saturday night's event finals by finishing in the top-10 plus ties with at least one Illini qualifying on each event.

In individual event finals, Ribeiro won his second straight Big Ten title on pommel horse and third overall, while Chad Wiest earned his first-career title on floor. Additionally, head coach Justin Spring was named Big Ten Coach of the Year for the second straight season.

Three Illini garnered first-team All-Big Ten accolades, including Ribeiro, Wiest and Mizoguchi. Jordan Valdez was named Illinois' Big Ten Sportsmanship honoree, while Sam Mikulak of Michigan took home Gymnast and Freshman of the Year accolades.

The Illini began the team competition on floor, where Wiest (15.500) and Mizoguchi (15.250) finished in first and second place, respectively. Next on pommel horse, the Illini earned their second-highest team score of the season with a 59.250, led by Ribeiro, who placed first with a score of 15.850. Yoshi Mori took third with a score of 14.750, while C.J. Padera tied for fifth with a 14.400, and Mizoguchi finished in ninth (14.250).

In the third rotation on rings, Illinois matched its season-best score of 59.250 and was paced by junior Anthony Sacramento, who finished in fourth place with a score of 15.250. Kyle Moe also placed in the top-10, as he tied for ninth with a career-high score of 14.800. On vault, Mizoguchi led the way with the second-best mark in school history under the FIG open-ended code, as he recorded a career-high score of 16.300 to secure a second-place finish on the event.

Illinois maintained its lead over the final two rotations, led by Padera, who placed second on parallel bars (14.900), while Valdez matched his career-high with a 14.650 to take fourth place. In the final event of the night on high bar, Austin Phillips tied for second place with a score of 15.050 and Valdez just missed his career best with a 14.800 to place fifth.

ILLINI IN THE RANKINGS
This week's GymInfo rankings are based on the average of each team's top four scores. The Illini check in at No. 4 overall (352.133) and are in the top five on four events, ranking first on high bar (58.933) and parallel bars (58.733), third on rings (60.117) and fifth on vault (59.133).

Individually, redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri tops the list on high bar and is second on vault, third in the all-around, eighth on floor and tied for 10th on parallel bars. Freshman C.J. Maestas is tied for second on rings and ranks fourth in the all-around, fifth on floor, eighth on high bar and 16th on pommel horse, while junior Austin Phillips is tied for sixth on high bar and 10th on parallel bars. Seniors Kyle Moe, C.J. Padera and Anthony Sacramento and sophomore Jordan Valdez and freshman Mike Wilner crack the top 20 on various events as well.

LAST TIME OUT
The then-third-ranked Fighting Illini men's gymnastics team captured a convincing 350.450-337.800 victory over No. 12 Iowa at Carver Hawkeye Arena to close out the regular season. As a team, the Orange and Blue won all six events, while freshman C.J. Maestas took home three event titles en route to his fourth all-around crown this season.

The Illini got off to a solid start on pommel horse, sweeping the top four spots. Junior Yoshi Mori led the Illinois effort with his fourth crown of the season and second on that apparatus with a 14.750, followed by sophomore Cole Smith (second; 14.450), senior C.J. Padera (third; 14.350) and Maestas (fourth; 14.300).

The Orange and Blue continued that success with a season-best floor performance (60.400), highlighted by Maestas' first title of the night and third on that event this year, matching his career-high floor score with a 15.600. Juniors Mori and Vince Smurro tied for second with 14.950s, marking Smurro's season high, while Padera rounded out the top four with a season-best 14.900.

On vault, Maestas took home his second title of the evening and first on vault this year, tying sophomore Alex Varga with a 14.700. The win marked Varga's first crown this season and second in his career.

The Illini had a solid night on rings as well, as Maestas led the charge with his third first-place performance of the night, matching his career-high score with a 15.600 to collect his team-leading sixth rings title of 2012. Meanwhile, senior Anthony Sacramento took third with a 14.600. Senior Kyle Moe, junior Austin Phillips and freshman Mike Wilner tied for fourth (14.300), marking a season-high rings score for Phillips.

Sophomore Jordan Valdez led the Illini on parallel bars, capturing his third title of the year with a season-high 15.150. Smurro finished second with a career-best 14.600, while Padera tied for fourth (14.450).

The Illini ended the night by sweeping the top three spots on high bar. Phillips collected his second title of the season and first on that apparatus this year with a 14.600, followed by Padera, who took second with a 14.250. Valdez captured his second top-three finish of the night with a 14.200 to finish third.

In the all-around, C.J. Maestas took home his fourth crown of the night with an 86.700, matching his career-high single-meet title total. With the win, Maestas leads the team this season in both all-around (four) and overall (16) titles. Meanwhile, Mori finished second, shattering his season-high all-around score with an 85.550.

Redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri, who led the Illini with 15 titles prior to this meet, did not make the trip to Iowa and instead traveled to Cottbus, Germany to represent Team USA at the Cottbus World Cup, March 22-25.

RUGGERI'S MILESTONE
Redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri passed Illini legend David Zeddies (68) on the all-time titles list 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 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).

ILLINI AT THE TOP
The Illini boast 44 titles this season. Freshman C.J. Maestas leads the squad with 12, winning the all-around and rings crowns at both the Windy City Invitational and on his first trip to 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. Maestas finished out the regular season with four titles on his return trip to Iowa, winning the vault, floor, rings and all-around competitions.

Redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri follows close behind 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.

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. Valdez recently added another parallel bars title at Iowa, while Mori won on pommel horse against Ohio State and at Iowa.

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 and at Iowa.

WEEKLY HONORS FOR THE ILLINI
The Illini led the league with 10 weekly conference awards this season, including four Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honors and six 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 also taking home the conference accolade one week earlier (Jan. 30). 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 three straight titles March 5, 12 and 19 after solid showings at Penn State, Nebraska and Iowa. Maestas' six newcomer accolades are the most by a Big Ten gymnast since the award's inception in 2010.

RUGGERI AT COTTBUS WORLD CUP
University of Illinois redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri captured silver on high bar at the 2012 World Cup, March 22-25 in Cottbus, Germany, as one of three gymnasts competing for Team USA. The Manlius, N.Y., native posted a 15.525 during the high bar final to finish just behind Epke Zonderland (15.725) of the Netherlands and ahead of fellow American John Orozco (third; 15.375). Ruggeri also tied for sixth on vault with a two-score average of 15.825.

In prelims, Ruggeri topped the high bar leaderboard with a 15.725 and ranked fourth on vault (15.900). The hardware marks Ruggeri's third international medal during the 2011-12 season, as the seven-time All-American won gold on high bar and silver on parallel bars at the 2011 Pan American Games last October.

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.

MIZOGUCHI REMOVED FROM ROSTER
University of Illinois senior Tyler Mizoguchi was removed from the Fighting Illini men's gymnastics team by head coach Justin Spring on March 12 after Spring evaluated Mizoguchi and the team as a whole.

"Tyler is an outstanding athlete and his gymnastics skills will be greatly missed," Spring said. "But we now need to focus on the postseason, competing well and achieving our goals at both the Big Ten and NCAA Championships."

The removal came nearly three weeks ago, and Mizoguchi has competed in only one meet since Winter Cup, which took place the first week in February. Mizoguchi will still have access to the academic services provided to the gymnastics team.

"I think it's best for Tyler to focus on school at this time," Spring said. "He will have the academic support he needs, and I wish him the best in his endeavors."

INTERNATIONAL SUCCESS AT PAN AM GAMES
Seniors Paul Ruggeri and Tyler Mizoguchi and freshman C.J. Maestas represented the United States at the 2011 Pan American Games last October in Guadalajara, Mexico, where they helped secure a bronze medal in the team competition. Head coach Justin Spring served as the coach for Team USA.

Ruggeri and Maestas each took home individual hardware, as Ruggeri captured gold on high bar and silver on parallel bars. Maestas added a bronze medal on rings and just missed the podium with a fourth-place finish in the all-around.

NEXT UP
The Orange and Blue will have a two-week break before traveling to Norman, Okla., for the 2012 NCAA Championships, April 19-21, where they will look to win their first national title since 1989.

HEADLINES