Men’s gymnastics dismisses Big Ten rival Ohio State


Donald Eggert The Daily Illini Illinois’ Paul Ruggeri performs on the rings at the gymnastics meet at Huff Hall on Saturday, January 24th 2009. Ruggeri won the all-around, helping the Illini defeat the Ohio State Buckeyes 351.950-349.050

By Kyle Diller

The Illinois men’s gymnastics team got their home season off to a strong start as they defeated No. 7 Ohio State 351.950-349.050 on Saturday.

Sophomore All-American Paul Ruggeri led the Orange and Blue, edging Ohio State’s Jake Bateman, 87.950-87.050, in the all-around event. Ruggeri also took tops honors in the high bar.

“It feels good especially after last weekend because I had a bunch of falls, and this week I only had one real fall,” Ruggeri said. “I was able to get my confidence up because now I’ve been able to stay on the events. Maybe I’ll start adding more difficulty to my routines.”


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Men defeat Hawkeyes

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Ohio State put in a strong performance, but in the end, the Illini triumphed as the freshmen also stepped up on their first night in front of the home crowd. Freshman Austin Phillips had a stellar night as he grabbed third place in the all-around.

“It was really important because I know last weekend we didn’t have the best meet that we could’ve had,” Phillips said. “I hit more routines in the gym after last week, so coming into this meet I knew I was going to do a lot better. I just worked harder in the gym and just knew I had to come in and do my job.”

Two other Illini also took individual titles, as junior Luke Stannard won the pommel horse, and freshmen C.J. Padera won parallel bars. The Orange and Blue also won four of the six events, while also matching the Buckeyes’ score on the floor event.

Defeating Ohio State will be a big boost for the Orange and Blue as they downed a team that was ranked higher than them in the preseason polls. The team insists that this early season victory over Big Ten opposition doesn’t translate into postseason success at the Big Ten Championships.

“I know Ohio State is a really strong team, they have really good competitors, but we’re good; we hit our stuff,” Phillips said. “Towards the end of the year we just got to keep getting better and better, and hopefully win a championship.”

With eyes on the prize for the Big Ten Championships, this glimpse of one of their toughest opponents could be valuable, but head coach Yoshi Hayasaki doesn’t think the result at Huff Hall showcased Ohio State’s true ability.

“Ohio State has always been a very good team, and they were actually ranked higher than us in preseason rankings, but I think they had a little rough time in some events today,” Hayasaki said. “They’re going to be up there towards the end of the season. I think they’re going to be a very good challenge for when the Big Ten Championships come.”