Junior Wes Haagensen and the Illini are Ready for competition to begin at the 2007 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships.
April 10, 2007
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The eighth-ranked University of Illinois men's gymnastics team is set to compete in the 1 p.m. ET afternoon qualifying session of the 2007 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships on April 12 at Rec Hall in University Park, Pa. Illinois joins fellow Big Ten teams No. 1 Ohio State, No. 5 Michigan and No.9 Iowa, as well as No. 4 Stanford and No. 12 Army in the hunt for a qualifying team finals bid.
"We had a great training week and are prepared to have the best meet of the season," head coach Yoshi Hayasaki said. "That's what is going to take for us to make it to the final six on the last day. Once you make it to the super six, it's anybody's competition. However, I am confident that we are ready to step-up and compete with the best of them."
The Orange and Blue will begin their qualifying session on parallel bars and end on vault, an event the Illini experienced great success in at the 2007 Big Ten Championships last weekend as junior Tyler Yamauchi took home the individual title.
The 65th annual NCAA Championships' schedule includes the team qualifying rounds at 1 and 7 p.m. ET on Thursday, April 12. Team Finals follow on Friday at 7 p.m. ET, while the event finals are scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 14.
Full recaps of the Illini's performances throughout the championships will be available at fightingillini.com, while live scoring for the event will be available through the Penn State official meet web site at gopsusports.com.
The 12-team field for the 2007 National Collegiate Men's Gymnastics Championships includes Army, California, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Stanford and Temple. The top-three seeds include two-time defending national champion Oklahoma, second-seeded Ohio State and third-seeded Nittany Lions, who are hosting the event for the seventh time, sixth at Rec Hall (First in 1960).
Oklahoma will be going for its third straight title becoming only the fourth team to do so in the history of collegiate gymnastics. Illinois first achieved the feat when it won four straight from 1939-42, Penn State followed with the triple crown from 1959-1961, while Nebraska owns the record with five straight from 1978-83. Army, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, and Stanford will comprise Session I, while California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Penn State and Temple comprise Session II.
Tickets can be purchased at the Bryce Jordan Center ticket office or by calling 1-814-865-5555 or 1-800-833-5533. Also, ticket applications can be found online at www.GoPSUsports.com.
Heading into this weekend, the Illini will face their toughest competition on all six events. Leading the nation on floor exercise is Michigan's Kent Caldwell, posting a three-score average 9.750. Paving the way for the Illini on the event is freshman-phenom Chad Wiest, who is ranked fourth nationally and owns a total of four event titles on the apparatus and finished second behind another national contender in Eddie Hay of Ohio State at Big Tens a week ago.
Another person to watch out for will be defending national champion junior Jonathan Horton of Oklahoma. Hurt for part of the season, the Sooner gymnast will be ready to defend his title come Thursday despite coming in ranked second.
An event that the Orange and Blue have struggled on all season, the team will look toward freshman Luke Stannard to carry the load, claiming two top-three finishes already this season. The Waukegan, Ill., native holds the Illini's top season score of a 8.950, which will have to improve should he look to compete against No. 1 ranked Casey Sandy of Penn State and Big Ten champion Kit Beikmann of Minnesota.
Also in the mix will be California's Tim McNeill, who is looking to be a repeat titlist this season and comes into the weekend ranked second.
The Illini are paced by junior Tyler Yamauchi on rings, who has been ranked in the top 10 all season on the event and currently stands eighth. Yamauchi, however, will be met with stiff competition by defending still rings champion Jonathan Horton of Oklahoma, who despite entering the event ranked 11th, is not to be overlooked.
Both will have to contend with the current nation's best in Tommy Ramos of Penn State, who is coming off a runner-up finish against Jacques Bouchard of Iowa, who is ranked sixth, at Big Tens.
The strongest event for the Illini this season, the Orange and Blue head into NCAA competition with a second-place ranking as a team, just behind national title contender Oklahoma. Leading the Illini on the event is junior Tyler Yamauchi, who currently ranks second and is coming off a stellar performance to win the title at Big Tens. Ohio State's Jimmy Wickham comes in ranked first over the Illini junior, while defending national champion and national team member David Sender of Stanford rounds out the top-three.
David Bucher of Ohio State, the 2007 Big Ten champion, and Andrew Elkind of Michigan lead the country on the event in first and second, respectively. Parallel bars is the only event this season that is not featuring the returning champion, 2006 graduate Justin Spring of Illinois.
Leading the way for the Fighting Illini is junior all-arounder Wes Haagensen, who is 10th nationally on the event. Haagensen also comes in looking to vie for the national title as he finished .200 behind Bucher at Big Tens.
With two gymnasts earning the title in 2006, Justin Spring of Illinois and Dylan Carney of Stanford, Carney is the only returner to defend the crown ranked No. 1 heading into the weekend as Spring graduated last season.
Defending NCAA all-around champion Jonathan Horton will be looking to challenge for the trophy, as he is ranked second, while the Big Ten's champion, Aaron Rakes of Michigan, looks to enter the mix as well. Perhaps the deepest field of all six events, David Sender of Stanford, a U.S. Senior national team member with Horton, is ranked fourth coming into the weekend, while Ohio State's Willie Ito also will be looking for a spot on the podium as all five will compete for the crown. For Illinois, Big Ten runner-up Wes Haagensen carries the torch with two title already on the apparatus this season.
If prior competition at Winter Cup, the Pacific Coast Classis and Windy City is any indication, the all-around competition is going to be highly contested this season. Illinois' top hope is No. 2-ranked Wes Haagensen, who has won the title at every meet he has competed except one, where he finished runner-up. Others looking to crowd the podium race is defending national champion Jonathan Horton of Oklahoma, who is unranked due to early-season injury, top-ranked David Sender of Stanford and third-ranked Jacob Lee of Minnesota.
ILLINOIS AT THE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
Illinois has won nine national titles and a total of 47 individual champions in its storied history. Its nine crowns are second all-time behind host Penn State's 11, while 47 is second behind the Nittany Lions 50. Illinois' last title came in 1989 under head coach Yoshi Hayasaki, while its total almost became an even 10 last season when the Fighting Illini finished just behind Oklahoma for the team crown in 2006. Illinois has finished no lower than third the past three seasons, twice a runner-up in 2005 and 2006.
The results of the 2007 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships will be posted on Penn State's official championships website at www.gopsusports.com/NCAAGymnasticsM. Live scoring also will be available for both qualifying and final sessions.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS ON TV
The 2007 NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championships team and all-around finals are scheduled to air on ESPN2 Tuesday, April 17 at 2 p.m. (ET). Individual event finals will air on Sunday, April 15th at 5:30 p.m. (ET) on CN8 (The Comcast Network).