Men to take on No. 6 Iowa

Illinois gymnast Adam Pummer competes on the parallel bars Feb. 12 at Huff Hall. Online Poster

Illinois gymnast Adam Pummer competes on the parallel bars Feb. 12 at Huff Hall. Online Poster

By Mike Czapar

After students finish drinking enough water to reverse the effects of being Irish today, they’ll be just in time to the catch the No. 2 Illinois men’s gymnastics team in action Saturday night. The squad returns to Huff Hall to face off against Big Ten rival No. 6 Iowa, as well as a select group of eight Japanese gymnasts known as the Japan All-Stars.

Illinois is coming off a dominating win at Temple, and are looking to maintain their undefeated record at home this weekend.

Senior Ben Newman said the Illini look forward to being back at Huff, and are hoping to have a high scoring meet.

“We’ve only got two more regular season meets left in the year, and we want to post some good scores this week and the next to help prepare for the postseason,” Newman said. “We’ve been slowly stepping it up every week – not doing it all at once to wear ourselves out, but making sure that we’ll be ready to peak at the right time.”

The last meeting between Illinois and Iowa was at the Winter Cup in December, where the Illini finished first and the Hawkeyes chalked in at fourth. Iowa is led by junior Michael Reevis, who boasts the No. 5 all-around score in the nation, as well as several top scores in individual events.

Head coach Yoshi Hayasaki said although Illinois handled Iowa in their previous matchup, the Hawkeyes have not shown their full potential and are a talented squad.

“Iowa has some good individuals,” Hayasaki said. “I know Michael Reevis has done especially well for Iowa, placing at the Winter Cup and some other competitions. They could be a threat this weekend – they are not a weak team.”

The Illini will also face a tough Japanese team that is known for its dedication to consistency and error-free performances. In the last meet the Japan All-Stars competed, they posted an impressive 224.300 to defeat defending national champion Penn State.

Hayasaki said Illinois is excited to host an international meet, and fans should look forward to seeing the different style of competition the Japan team will bring.

“We haven’t had an international meet at Huff Hall in quite some time, so this is definitely going to be something special,” Hayasaki said. “Any time you bring an international team you get a different type of gymnastics. It’s a rare occasion to see such great competition between Illinois, the No. 2 team in the country, and Japan one of the top teams in the world.”

Junior Adam Pummer said that with the post season looming, the Illini are hoping to finish the next two meets healthy and ready for the Big Ten Championships.

“We talked about how a lot of guys are getting tired right now and there’s a lot of mental fatigue as well,” Pummer said. “Coming down to these next couple meets we just want to maintain a level of competition and make sure everybody is healthy at the end. Right now we want to get through our next couple meets performing well, so we’ll be ready kick it up for Big Tens.”