Men’s gymnastics starts season with a runner-up finish

Paul Ruggeri performs on the floor exercise at Huff Hall on Dec. 7. Ruggeri won the floor exercise at the Windy City Invite on Saturday. Erica Magda

Paul Ruggeri performs on the floor exercise at Huff Hall on Dec. 7. Ruggeri won the floor exercise at the Windy City Invite on Saturday. Erica Magda

By Kyle Diller

The No. 4 Illinois men’s gymnastics team’s season got off to a promising start in Chicago, as they took second place at the Windy City Invite on Saturday.

The Illini fell only to Big Ten rival No. 6 Michigan in the six-team meet, as sophomore All-American Paul Ruggeri brought home Illinois’ sole title in winning the floor routine. Ruggeri also finished second on the parallel bars and fourth in the all-around event.

“I competed a little bit subpar to what I thought I would; I was hoping to at least stay on the equipment, but I had quite a few falls,” Ruggeri said. “I need to improve on my mental preparation. I was just nervous and a lot of anxiety set in. I have the skills; I have the endurance; I just need to be more mentally prepared.”

The Illini felt they could have done more in the loss to the Wolverines.

“I’m happy with our finish, but we definitely should’ve been the top team,” Ruggeri said. “I really feel like we have the most talent and we have the most potential to be the best. We didn’t expect Michigan to be all that good, but they were just a little bit cleaner than us.”

While the Illini left town slightly disappointed, one bright spot was the stellar debut of the freshmen class in the first meet of the season.

“They certainly looked nervous, but I think they stuck together well,” head coach Yoshi Hayasaki said.

Freshman Anthony Sacramento earned a top-three finish on the rings with a 14.6. Tyler Mizoguchi, another freshman, performed in a variety of events and earned a sixth-place finish on the parallel bars. With the nerves now out of his system, Mizoguchi has set some high expectations for himself.

“It was probably the most exhilarating experience I’ve ever had in my life,” Mizoguchi said.

“I want to make Visa Championships again this year and be an All-American this year in all-around.”

While Illinois was excited to get an early season look at some of its biggest competition, the team is looking forward to the Big Ten slate to prove they are the top in conference.

“To be honest it was actually comforting to see the teams,” Ruggeri said. “We could’ve crushed all the teams that were in the gym.”