Men’s gymnastics vindicated by win over UIC despite absence of high scorers

By Daniel Johnson

CHICAGO – In what was their most lopsided victory of the season, the Illini men defeated UIC 354.850-342.950 on Saturday in Chicago.

The victory was never in doubt for an Illinois team that led after all six rotations in the dual meet.

The Illini were resting two of their most prolific scorers in Wes Haagensen and Paul Ruggeri, but they still managed to come away with a very convincing victory in their penultimate regular-season meet. The victory came as vindication to head coach Yoshi Hayasaki who had been waiting for his team to meet its full potential.

“Finally, all the training, the workouts, what we have been doing for the last four or five weeks is really starting to pay off,” Hayasaki said after the meet. “But I think that we still need to work on fine tuning our execution. Just hitting our routines won’t be good enough to win a Big Ten Championship.”

After the meet, UIC head coach CJ Johnson said that his team wasn’t focusing on winning but rather they were paying attention to “their routines.”

“Gymnastics, if you follow it, is not like football or basketball; a top-seven team will never lose, unless they don’t show up, to a team that’s tenth or eleventh as we are,” Johnson said. “I look at the team that Yosh has and some of those kids I recruited, but they have their love and their heart (at Illinois). I take two of those kids off of that team that competed today and put them on mine, and we would have been a lot closer to Champaign’s team. I know that today there’s no way that we would have beaten Illinois. Even in my dreams, I know that.”

For the Illini, Daniel Ribeiro took the pommel horse crown, Roger Pasek took the event title in floor exercise and vault and Tyler Yamauchi score of 15.500 on the still rings was the best on the night.

“This meet really just increases our confidence even more after last week,” Yamauchi said Saturday night. “After last week, hitting 85 percent (of our routines), we knew that there would be questions of whether it was a fluke or not, but I know hitting 93 percent isn’t a fluke.”

Pasek was another integral part of the Illini’s victory with his two wins and strong contributions to the team. His performance was one that he said made him proud because of the pressure that had been on him as of late to perform.

“I think that being here and being able to show that I can step up shows what I, and our team, can do,” Pasek said.

With the all-around athletes out, the team is confident their high-scoring performance is something it will still be able to improve upon when its lineup is full healthy and ready.

“We won’t really talk about it much but it will be in the back of our minds that we know we can still do better,” Yamauchi said.