Two former Illini vying for Olympic spot


Ruggeri was on Team USA at the Pan-American games

Paul Ruggeri and C.J. Maestas will compete at the 2016 Olympic Team Trials in St. Louis, Missouri. Ruggeri and Maestas are matched up against 16 others contending for the five available roster spots in Rio this August. Three may also travel as alternates.

Both Ruggeri and Maestas secured individual national championships in their tenure at Illinois. Ruggeri had four national championships and finished with the third most event titles in program history. Two of his titles came in 2009 when he finished first overall in the parallel and high Bars. He ended his Illini career in 2012 a champion in the vault, amounting nine career NCAA All-American accolades and was named the Nissen-Emery Award winner – the gymnastics equivalent of the Heisman. Ruggeri holds all of the top-five recorded scores on the high bar in Illinois history.

In 2013, Ruggeri won gold on the vault and high bar, earning recognition as the United States Olympic Committee’s male athlete of the month. At the 2015 Pan-American games, Ruggeri led Team USA to their first Gold medal in 20 years.

Maestas left Illinois in 2015, a year in which he was a national champion in the high bar. His other NCAA championship was on the still rings his freshman year in 2012. Maestas also earned both Big Ten Gymnast and Freshman of the Year honors. He concluded his Illini career seventh all-time in titles, receiving a nomination for the Nissen-Emery Award and still holds five of the six highest recorded program scores on the still rings.

The competition is set for Thursday and Saturday with both days beginning at 7 pm central time at Chaifetz Arena. Coverage begins live Thursday at 7:30 on NBCSN and Saturday’s NBC broadcast is set for 8.