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    #4 Illini Set to Compete at 2012 NCAA Championships
    The Illini will look to capture their first NCAA title in more than two decades.


    The Illini will look to capture their first NCAA title in more than two decades.

    April 17, 2012

    Complete Notes | Championship Central

    #4 Illinois at the 2012 NCAA Championships

    Norman, Okla. // Lloyd Noble Center

    Thursday, April 19 // Qualifying Session II // 7 pm CT | Watch | Live Stats
    Friday, April 20 // Team & AA Finals // 7 pm CT | Watch | Live Stats
    Saturday April 21 // Individual Event Finals | 7 pm CT // Watch | Live Stats

    CHAMPIONSHIPS PREVIEW
    After capturing its fourth straight Big Ten title, the fourth-ranked Fighting Illini men's gymnastics team will travel to Norman, Okla., for the 2012 Big Ten Championships, April 19-21 at the University of Oklahoma's Lloyd Noble Center. Illinois enters the weekend with a national qualifying average of 352.337 and will compete in the evening qualifying session on Thursday. Team and all-around finals will take place Friday, followed by individual event finals on Saturday. Action is slated to begin at 7 p.m. each night.

    The Orange and Blue will compete in the second session alongside No. 1 Oklahoma (354.525), No. 5 Minnesota (346.900), No. 8 California (344.762), No. 9 Temple (342.425) and No. 12 Air Force (336.312), while the early session features No. 2 Penn State (354.200), No. 3 Stanford (352.512), No. 6 Michigan (345.512), No. 7 Ohio State (345.017), No. 10 Nebraska (341.587) and No. 11 Iowa (338.325).

    Three teams along with the the top three all-around competitors not on one of the qualifying teams and the top three individuals on each event not already qualified on a team or as an all-around competitor will advance from each pre-qualifying session to the finals session on Friday.

    2011 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS RECAP
    The Illinois men's gymnastics team placed third at the 2011 NCAA Championships with a season-high score of 360.150 to secure its highest finish since 2008. Individually, five Illini, including Daniel Ribeiro, Chad Wiest, Tyler Mizoguchi, C.J. Padera and Anthony Sacramento, finished in the top 10 to advance to individual event finals. Mizoguchi placed second in the all-around (90.150) competition to earn his second straight All-America honor.

    The following night, Ribeiro took home his second NCAA title on pommel horse, while Mizoguchi claimed the first of his career on parallel bars. Ribeiro, who also claimed the pommel horse title as a sophomore in 2009, tied with defending national champion Alex Naddour of Oklahoma for the top spot with a 15.550, while Mizoguchi recorded a 15.200 to secure his first NCAA title and Illinois' first on the event since Paul Ruggeri in 2009. It also marked the second time in three years Illinois produced at least two national champions.

    Four Illini earned All-America accolades for finishing in the top eight. In addition to Mizoguchi and Ribeiro, Sacramento and Padera also earned All-America honors, as Sacramento tied for second on rings (15.400) and Padera tied for eighth on parallel bars (14.250). It was the second straight All-America accolade for Sacramento, while it was the first for Padera and third for both Ribeiro and Mizoguchi.

    ILLINI IN THE RANKINGS
    This week's GymInfo rankings are based on each team's national qualifying average. The Illini check in at No. 4 overall (352.337) and are in the top five on four events, ranking first on high bar (58.800), second on rings (60.487), third on parallel bars (58.562) and fourth on floor (59.175).

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

    LAST TIME OUT - Illini Win 4th Straight Big Ten Title
    The Fighting Illini men's gymnastics team captured its fourth straight Big Ten title on April 6 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena with a 352.950, making it the first program to win four in a row since Minnesota claimed the crown from 1977-80. The win marked Illinois' 27th championship all-time, which is the most among Big Ten schools. Michigan (351.850) took second place, followed by Penn State (350.000), Minnesota (345.800), Ohio State (343.650), Iowa (342.800) and Nebraska (340.700).

    Freshman C.J. Maestas led the way, securing the all-around title with a career-high 89.500, making him the first Big Ten all-around champion for Illinois since Wes Haagensen took the crown in 2007. The win marked Maestas' team-leading fifth all-around title this season. Redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri took third with an 86.850.

    The following night, Maestas earned Big Ten Gymnast and Freshman of the Year accolades, while Ruggeri captured the conference crowns on vault and floor during individual event finals. The awards continued for the Orange and Blue, as head coach Justin Spring garnered his third straight Big Ten Coach of the Year honor, and Maestas and Ruggeri earned first-team All-Big Ten recognition.

    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. After winning vault on both nights of the Big Ten Championships and floor during individual event finals, the seven-time All-American now ranks third all-time with 73 titles, 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 49 titles this season. Freshman C.J. Maestas and redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri lead the squad with 18 apiece. Maestas won 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 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. At the Big Ten Championships, he took the all-around crown and won floor during team finals.

    Redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri boasts five wins on high bar and seven on 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 and recently took the floor and vault Big Ten crowns after winning vault during team finals.

    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.

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