Redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri took home the top individual honor in NCAA men's gymnastics on Wednesday night.
April 18, 2012
NORMAN, Okla. - University of Illinois redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri became the fourth Illinois gymnast to win the prestigious Nissen-Emery Award Wednesday night at the 2012 College Gymnastics Association/NCAA Championships Banquet. The award is presented annually to the nation's top senior male gymnast and honors excellence in gymnastics along with good sportsmanship and high academic performance throughout the winner's entire collegiate career.
"It's an honor just to be considered for the award," Ruggeri said. "Many Olympians have received the Nissen-Emery, so to be considered among that elite group of gymnasts is an incredible honor to me. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to be here and represent Illinois and be going down in the record books for the Illini."
"The Nissen-Emery is our Heisman," Spring said. "It speaks to Paul's athleticism and commitment to academics. Paul is known as one of the most personable and sportsmanlike athletes in college gymnastics and is one of the greatest Illinois gymnasts of all time. I know this means a lot to him."
Ruggeri is a seven-time All-American, three-time NCAA champion, five-time U.S. senior national team member and six-time Big Ten champion. After sustaining a season-ending injury last season, the Manlius, N.Y., native posted a strong comeback in 2012, capturing a team-leading 18 titles. Ruggeri recently took home the Big Ten crowns on vault and floor and currently ranks third in all-time titles at Illinois with 73.
The Nissen-Emery Award is named in honor of George Nissen, a three-time NCAA Champion at the University of Iowa and inventor of the trampoline, for his contributions to the sport and for Dr. Bob Emery, the 1969 recipient of the award.
"The only Illinois gymnast to win the award before me was David Zeddies," Spring said. "We went from only one to now four, and that's a big increase. I'm proud of Paul and Luke. They're great athletes and great people, and I'm honored to be in a class with them."
The fourth-ranked Illini begin competition at the 2012 NCAA Championships in the evening qualifying session Thursday at 7 p.m. CT. Every session will be streamed live on NCAA.com.