Season-best performance fuels win

Trevor Greene The Daily Illini Illinois Andres Saavedra competes on the parallel bars during the meet against Iowa in Huff Hall on Saturday, Feb. 28. The Illini defeated the Hawkeyes 353.000 to 337.500.

Trevor Greene The Daily Illini Illinois’ Andres Saavedra competes on the parallel bars during the meet against Iowa in Huff Hall on Saturday, Feb. 28. The Illini defeated the Hawkeyes 353.000 to 337.500.

By Daniel Johnson

If putting up a season-best 353.00 point total wasn’t enough for men’s gymnastics head coach Yoshi Hayasaki, he can take solace in the fact that Saturday’s lineup against Iowa wasn’t what he would considers the Illini’s best possible rotation of gymnasts.

“We’re resting some people still; it’s still a bit off, but we’re getting to the point where we need to be considering Big Ten (Championships) and NCAAs,” Hayasaki said. “We’re still getting Paul (Ruggeri) healthy, still trying to find any new combinations.”

The team’s previous high of 351.950 against Ohio State was with the standout Ruggeri in the lineup.

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“It’s encouraging to see people like Austin Phillips doing more, people like CJ Padera, Ross Bradley, they’re all doing more now,” Hayasaki said. “People have been polishing and improving their routines so much, and I don’t think there have been events that haven’t seen improvement in general, except the vault. But even with that it’s just going to take some practice working things out.”

The shuffling of the team isn’t anything new for Hayasaki, who routinely changes his rotations to find a spark from a different gymnast or, more importantly, give the gymnasts a break.

“It’s difficult. We’ve just been having meet, after meet, after meet,” Phillips said. “Some guys needed the rest. I know I would have liked some, and Tyler (Mizoguchi) needed it. But seeing a score like this when we have people resting, it’s very encouraging.”

Daniel Ribeiro, who posted the meet-high score on the pommel horse, was happy to get the chance to work on events other than horse.

“It’s been awesome for me, just because I hate when people call me a specialist, because I’m more than able on other events,” Ribeiro said. “Over the summer and the past couple months, I’ve been working on floor, working on parallel bars, and I do want to get into vault eventually. The funny thing about floor, too, is I hurt my quad, so I downgraded my routine, but I’m scoring higher now than I would before because the new routine is so much easier, so, I’m probably just going to stick with it.”

Bradley’s analysis of the match was brief, but he was optimistic there will be more to come after seeing the new lineups produce season-high points.

“If we’re hitting like this when we’re all healthy, we will be putting up astronomical numbers,” Bradley said.