Gymnasts stay confident

Adam Babcock The Daily Illini Illinois Paul Ruggeri performs on the parallel bars during the gymnastics meet at Huff Hall in Champaign, Ill, Saturday, March 8, 2008..

Adam Babcock The Daily Illini Illinois’ Paul Ruggeri performs on the parallel bars during the gymnastics meet at Huff Hall in Champaign, Ill, Saturday, March 8, 2008..

By Kyle Diller

The Illinois men’s gymnastics team is out to show that last weekend’s second-place finish was just a fluke and prove they’re the best against Ohio State on Saturday.

The team’s spirits are high despite missing out on the top finish in Chicago – an honor the gymnasts believe they were more than capable of earning.

“We were somewhat mentally ready but not as entirely mentally ready as we could’ve been,” senior Tyler Williamson said. “I think that we’ll be able to take the fact that even though we didn’t have our best meet we were still able to get second.”

The disappointment of coming up short in the Windy City has triggered a change in the mindsets of the gymnasts.

“The biggest thing I’ve noticed is the motivation because they know they are better than what they did,” head coach Yoshi Hayasaki said. “They feel that they can do, and that motivation level is totally different than previously. They just didn’t know what to expect from the weekend competition.”

Illinois enters the meet with confidence, as Ohio State was one of the four teams the Illini defeated in last weekend’s six-team tournament. However, the Buckeyes lineup could be completely different from the one that competed in Chicago, Hayasaki said. He expects several key Ohio State gymnasts that were nursing injuries or resting for the last meet to be in the mix on Saturday.

However, the confidence the Illini exude is obvious, and they are determined to show what they’re made of in front of their fans at Huff Hall.

“It’ll be huge. The home crowd is so much fun,” sophomore All-American Daniel Ribeiro said. “It pumps us up, and it gives the advantage that we need.”

For the Illini, it all boils down to hitting their routines. Hayasaki said his team hit 56 percent at the Windy City Invite, which fell short of the team goal of 60 percent.

The team remains focused and confident despite a rough start to the season and knows that a strong performance against an established conference opponent will certainly get their season back on the right track.

“I want to hit my routines being on floor, pommel horse and parallel bars, and I want the team to have more consistency,” Ribeiro said. “With the home crowd, hopefully we’ll be able to hit more.”