Gymnastics joins basketball at no. 1 spot

By Mike Czapar

Move over men’s basketball, there’s a new No. 1 ranked team in town. In the most recent batch of rankings, the Illinois men’s gymnastics team checked in a notch higher than their previous No. 2 ranking.

The Big Ten conference was not far behind the top ranked Ilini as Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Iowa and Minnesota clocked in at No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, No. 5 and No. 9 respectively, demonstrating the abundance of talent in the Big Ten conference.

Junior Adam Pummer said the Illini are glad to be on top of the national spotlight, but stressed the importance of hard work as a team to maintain their ranking.

“It’s great to be number one, but we’ve kind of learned from last year that it doesn’t really mean that much,” Pummer said. “The rankings are great and they help build confidence, but we’re not really leaning on it – mostly we use it as a reminder to work hard in the gym so that we’ll stay there.”

The Illini moved up after posting a team score of 221.800 during an impressive early season showing at the Windy City Classic over winter break. They look to continue their success this Sunday at No. 9 Minnesota.

Freshmen Tyler Yamauchi is excited about his first No. 1 team ranking, but also echoed the team emphasis of not letting the ranking affect performance.

“Being ranked number one is something that as a team we kind of knew we were capable of, but its not something we want to make us overconfident,” Yamauchi said. “We still have to stay on top of our practices and not get cocky.”

Head coach Yoshi Hayasaki was pleased with the ranking and excited to get the Illini squad back in action this weekend at Minnesota.

“We want to keep up the pace for what we started at our first competition,” Hayasaki said. “I think the rest we got over last weekend really helped us get in some good training to help us prepare for the rest of the season, which we’ll be competing every weekend from here on out.”

Minnesota has remained steady in the polls maintaining its preseason ranking of No. 9, and features a squad of nine returning letter-winners.

Hayaski said the Illini are focused and ready to compete after their break of competition and expects great things from the squad.

“We have a lot of guys that made personal and team goals for this weekend’s meet,” Hayasaki said. “The fact that we have done so well without performers like Justin Spring is a confidence booster. It’s going to be a good season.”