Illini rout Owls in Philadelphia

By Mike Czapar

The No. 1 men’s gymnastics team came out with a vengeance Saturday, easily dominating No. 13 Temple in Philadelphia. The Illini took the meet with a team score of 221.075 – compared to Temple’s 203.900.

Illinois was again led by a mix of upperclassmen and talented freshmen, and took the top three spots in every event.

Freshman Wes Haagensen kick-started the Illini by taking the floor title with a 9.300, and would go on to win the all-around competition, as well. The Illini never looked back. They were led by junior Adam Pummer’s two titles on the vault and the parallel bars, senior Ben Newman’s first-place pommel horse finish, freshman Tyler Yamauchi’s rings title and freshman Ross Bradley’s first event title on high bar.

Illinois head coach Yoshi Hayasaki was pleased with the teams’ effort, and attributed the squad’s improvements to a good week of training.

“Any time you score over 221 as a team it’s very respectable,” Hayasaki said. “Our training in the week before was much more focused and more intense. We did much better this week than we did at Oakland, and I think the team is just going to get better and better as the season goes on.”

The Illini posted a strong score despite being without junior standout Justin Spring, who was competing for the national team at the American Cup in Long Island, N.Y. Hayasaki accompanied Spring at the American Cup, and then raced to catch the end of the team meet in Philadelphia.

Hayasaki said the fact that the Illini posted such a strong score without one of their top performers shows the depth and talent of the squad.

“A team without Justin Spring that posts that high of a score is very talented,” Hayasaki said. “We have a lot of guys who can put up big scores, and there were even some performances like Ben Newman’s pommel horse that were underscored. Ross Bradley showed a lot of improvement on the high bar and ended up taking the title. We bounced back quickly from our last performance, and we showed a lot of improvement on our timing.”

The Illini have only two more meets before the Big Ten championships, and will be performing at Huff Hall from here on out. The squad is looking forward to competing at home, and will begin preparing for the postseason in practice.

“We’re coming down to the last stretch of the season, with there being only two weeks left,” Hayasaki said. “I think we all realize that training will be more intense as we prepare for postseason competition; our performance this weekend proves that we’re going to be in good shape.”