Men’s gymnastics welcomes No. 11 Iowa to Huff Hall

The No. 5 Illinois men’s gymnastics team’s seven-meet win streak will be on the line Saturday when No. 11 Iowa visits Huff Hall.

The Illini have already downed Big Ten opposition in home wins over Ohio State and Penn State, and the matchup against the Hawkeyes will provide another opportunity to assert their authority in the conference. The Orange and Blue have already faced Iowa this season at the Windy City Invite, where the Illini finished as runners-up and the Hawkeyes finished last.

“I think all the Big Ten teams, other than Michigan, we have mastered. We want to continue that,” head coach Yoshi Hayasaki said. “We always have a very good competition against all of the Big Ten teams. Certainly, Iowa has been one of them.”

The meet will provide a platform for the gymnasts to gain competitive experience while others attempt new, higher-difficulty routines before the NCAA and conference championships arrive in April.

“We’re getting closer to the Big Ten Championships. Although we have a little over five weeks, I think now is the time for us to start preparing for that,” Hayasaki said. “You may see a little bit of a different lineup. Some of them need some breaks, some of them need to compete.”

Illinois also hasn’t lost at home this season, as the Illini faithful have transformed Huff Hall into a fortress for the gymnasts. With two home meets left in the season, the gymnasts know they must make the most of their home advantage while they can.

“I wish that we could have Big Tens at home,” junior Brian Liscovitz said. “Traveling takes a lot out of you. Getting a good night’s rest in your own bed and having the home crowd behind you always gives you that extra edge on any routine.”

Confidence has been pulsing through the Illini’s veins this season. They have set their goal to capture Big Ten and NCAA titles, but the gymnasts have remain grounded despite early success and have admitted there is plenty of work yet to be done.

“We’re confident, but we also know you can’t overlook anyone,” senior Chris Lung said. “Every year we get beaten by a team that we shouldn’t be beaten by. We don’t overlook them, but we take this as an opportunity to get ready for Big Tens, to rest up, to get people new experience, and to really take advantage of this opportunity.”