Injuries to top gymnasts result in defeat; Ruggeri takes all-around first for Illini men

 

 

By Daniel Johnson

In a situation that was all too familiar for the men’s gymnastics team, the Illini dropped their season-opening dual meet to Minnesota for the second consecutive year.

The team was highly confident heading into the meet, but a rash of both fresh and nagging injuries either partially or completely sidelined some of the team’s best performers. The team did its best to fill in for the injured, but mistakes throughout the meet put the victory out of reach.

“We’re a little banged up, but I think that we were still able to be competitive, and we were competitive,” head coach Yoshi Hayasaki said. “We just made more mistakes than Minnesota.”

Mistakes came early for the Illini; on the first rotation, the apparatus that hurt the team in last year’s meet did so again – the pommel horse. The Illini outscored the Gophers in the event, but Hayasaki felt that there were missed opportunities by his team.

“We had our two big guns who didn’t hit their routines,” Hayasaki said. “Daniel Ribeiro and Luke Stannard, those two are our big point-getters for us on the pommel horse.”

Minnesota capitalized in the third rotation of the meet when the Gophers captured a 62.800 on the vault, outscoring Illinois by 2.3 points in the event and putting the Illini in a hole. Heading into the meet, the Gophers expected to do well in the event, one that Mitchell Mays said the Gophers are best at.

“Vault and floor are two of our best events, and we knew coming into this gym that they were going to be ours,” Mitchell Mays said.

The mistakes made by the Illini weren’t too glaring; it was the smaller ones that ended up hurting the team.

“I almost feel like we’re not quite as prepared as we want to be as a team,” senior Wes Haagensen said. “We’re still pushing hard to hit sets, but I think we’re taking some little stuff for granted. I had a stupid mistake on parallel bars. That’s never happened to me before. It’s things like that. All of those things add up.”

While he was disappointed with the outcome of the meet, barring more unexpected injuries, Haagensen said he is confident this early season slip-up won’t affect the team.

“I told the guys after the meet, it’s early in the season, you have to get the kinks out of the chain,” he said. “You take care of all of this stuff now and polish everything up, and then it’s just refinement.”

Ruggeri brings home first-place

In the first home competition of his career, freshman Paul Ruggeri stepped up for the injury-ladden Illini and took the all-around title.

Place Gymnast Team Score

1 Paul Ruggeri Illinois 85.450

2 Aaron Fortunato Minnesota 82.550