Reigning Big Ten Gymnast of the Year and all-around champion Wes Haagensen.
Nov. 8, 2007
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The University of Illinois men's gymnastics team opens the year at No. 8 in the GymInfo Coaches' Preseason Poll. With six returning All-Americans and the 2007 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year and all-around champion Wes Haagensen joined by All-Big Ten selection and vault champion Tyler Yamauchi, the Illini are looking forward to a stellar season.
The Illini will have their work cut out for them, as the Big Ten Conference again will be a tough league this coming season. All six conference teams are listed among the top nine in the preseason poll, with defending NCAA champion Penn State leading the pack ranked No. 2 with four first-place nods, followed by No. 4 Ohio State, who received one first-place vote, No. 6 Michigan, No. 7 Minnesota, Illinois and No. 9 Iowa. Stanford tops the preseason list with eight first-place votes.
The Illini kick off their 2008 season with their annual Mixed Pairs Exhibition in conjunction with the Illinois women's gymnastics team on Dec 7, at 7 p.m. at Huff Hall. The team's first regular-season competition will be at the Windy City Invitational in Chicago, Ill., on Jan. 12. Illinois hosts its first home meet of the season when it welcomes the Gophers on Jan. 19, while their remaining home appearances include hosting the Nittany Lions on Feb. 16 and the Iowa Hawkeyes on Feb. 29.
The Illini squad enters the season with high expectations under the direction of Hayasaki, who enters his 31st year at the helm of the program, 2004 National Assistant Coach of the Year Jon Valdez, who is in his eighth year, and second-year assistant coach and Pan American Games gold medalist Justin Spring.
The coaching staff will lead one of the nation's most highly-touted freshman signing classes that includes Nate Luketin (Roselle, Ill./Lake Park), kyle Moe (Champaign, Ill./Central), Roger Pasek (Sleepy Hollow, Ill./Dundee-Crown), Daniel Ribeiro (Chestnut Ridge, N.Y./Northern Highlands), Paul Ruggeri (Manlius, N.Y./Fayetteville Manlius) and Johnny Schell (Gaithersburg, Md./Gaithersburg).
The young group will then complement quite possibly the most talented senior class in the nation. That group includes high bar All-American Ross Bradley, who sat out last season with a shoulder injury, rings specialist Jon Drollinger, six-time All-American and reigning Big Ten Gymnast of the Year Haagensen, 2007 high bar All-American Chris Silcox and three-time All-American and league vault titlist Yamauchi.
With a senior class that has combined for a total of 11 All-American honors between them leading this title-hungry squad, the Illini are prepared for a successful season.