2013 Season in Review
July 15, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Fighting Illini men's gymnastics team finished the 2012-13 season with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Championships after advancing to its 11th straight NCAA team final. Fred Hartville won the Big Ten and NCAA titles on vault, becoming Illinois' fifth NCAA vault champion in program history and first-ever Illini freshman to take the title.
Four Illini earned All-America honors at the NCAA Championships, and two Illinois gymnasts set school records during the season. Illinois also hosted a groundbreaking match play dual meet, topping Minnesota 21-9.
The Illini started the season as the nation's top-ranked team and opened with a pair of meets hosted by UIC. In the season-opening dual, the top-ranked Illini cruised to an easy win over UIC, winning all six event titles. In the season's second meet, Illinois tied for second at the Windy City Invitational. Yoshi Mori won on pommel horse at both meets and placed third in the all-around at the Windy City Invite.
Illinois finished third at the Metroplex Challenge. Jordan Valdez won on high bar for the second time in three meets, and freshman Joey Peters won the all-around for the second time. Peters earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors for his effort.
Three Illini went to the U.S. Winter Cup Challenge with Yoshi Mori and Jordan Valdez advancing to the final day of competition. Meanwhile, former Illini Paul Ruggeri retained his spot on the 15-man U.S. senior national team.
The Fighting Illini returned home for the annual Gym Jam meet on Feb. 16. More than 2,300 fans attended Huff Hall for the event, but Illinois fell to Iowa, 428.450-428.400. Logan Bradley won on pommel horse for his first career victory, and Mike Wilner (rings) and Fred Hartfille (vault) also won events at the meet. Hartville was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week after his performance at Gym Jam.
After dropping to No. 7 in the rankings, Illinois rebounded with a 438.600-438.000 win over No. 5 Ohio State. Vince Smurro won on floor, posting the program's third-best score in history in the event with a 15.900. Mike Wilner also posted a top-three score in school history, scoring a 15.800 on the still rings. Illinois' team score was more than 10 points higher than the previous season best and was the highest team score the Illini achieved in 2013.
No. 1-ranked Penn State was up next. The Illini fell shy of the upset, dropping a 438.900-436.250 decision. The meet marked the first of an NCAA-wide scoring change, moving from a six-up, five-count format to a five-up, five-count format.
Yoshi Mori won on both pommel horse and floor. Wilner broke the school rings record with a score of 15.900, breaking C.J. Maestas' 15.850 mark from last season. The Illini posted season-best team scores on both floor (74.550) and parallel bars (74.250).
Illinois and Minnesota competed in Justin Spring's experimental match play meet on March 8. Each event featured five head-to-head contests, and each matchup was worth one point. The Illini held a 9-6 leading over the Gophers before pulling away by sweeping vault and high bar. Fred Hartville earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors after posting the top score on vault.
In the season's final road trip of the regular season, eighth-ranked California pulled off a 427.000-425.650 upset over Illinois. Vince Smurro (floor) and Joey Peters (high bar) each won for the second time in 2013, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Golden Bears.
On Senior Day, fifth-year senior Austin Phillips captured his first high bar title of the season, and Chad Mason also captured his first title of the season on pommel horse in Illinois' 425.400-424.250 loss to Nebraska.
The Illini placed fifth at the Big Ten Championships, ending a four-year Big Ten title streak. Fred Hartville set an Illinois record on vault in the team finals, posting a 15.550, the top score on the apparatus. Mike Wilner also won an event during the team finals, posting a 15.550 on rings.
Hartville proved his win on vault during the team finals was no fluke by dominating the vault in the individual finals. He was the second straight Illini to win the Big Ten vault title after Paul Ruggeri in 2012 and gave Illinois an individual event title for the 11th consecutive year. He was named first-team All-Big Ten along with Yoshi Mori, who finished fourth in the all-around, while Mike Wilner was a second-team All-Big Ten honoree after finishing second in the rings.
At the NCAA Session I Qualifier, Illinois advanced to its 11th straight NCAA team final but could not defend the national title, finishing sixth. Fred Hartville won the NCAA individual title on vault, becoming Illinois' first freshman NCAA vault champion. He gave Illinois an NCAA individual event champion for the third straight year and was Illinois' fifth NCAA vault champion all-time.
Hartville was one of four Illini to earn All-America status. Austin Phillips earned his second straight All-America nod after finishing second on high bar. Mike Wilner (rings) and Joey Peters (all-around) also earned All-America honors.