Illini greats return for men’s gymnastics final home meet

By Kyle Diller

Saturday afternoon will be a day of celebration for the No. 4 Illinois men’s gymnastics team. The seniors celebrate four successful years and the entire program commemorates 100 years of men’s gymnastics.

Sister school and No. 12-ranked University of Illinois at Chicago will be looking to rain on the Orange and Blue cheer as it makes the trip to Huff Hall this weekend.

The graduating class of Illini gymnasts have found a great deal of success in their time representing Illinois.

“It came up too fast and it’s going to be emotional. I just hope I have a good meet,” All-American Chris Lung said. “There are so many memories. There’s nothing better than hitting a routine in front of the Huff Hall crowd. Nothing compares to it.”

The day will also mark the celebration of 100 seasons of men’s gymnastics at Illinois, and the program will mark the occasion with the return of many Illini greats. The returning gymnasts share an outstanding amount of success and awards among themselves.

“Illinois has a very rich history in men’s gymnastics,” head coach Yoshi Hayasaki said. “We’re one of the oldest programs in the country, and we are celebrating that. Many former athletes and friends are coming back. They’ll be back to cheer for our meet against UIC.”

The most successful was Abie Grossfeld, a two-time Olympian, seven-time NCAA champion and 13-time All-American. Other famous participants include two-time national champion Travis Romagnoli and a more recent Illini gymnast, eight-time All-American Adam Pummer.

Assistant coach and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Justin Spring will be in attendance. Along with his bronze medal, Spring was also a 12-time All-American and four-time NCAA champion.

“Throughout my years as a gymnast, I was always compared to the greats from the Illinois past,” Spring said. “I’m going to finally get a chance to meet all these people that paved the way of Illinois gymnastics excellence. It’s an honor to be part of that.”

In all of the hype of the 100-year celebration and Senior Night, it’s easy to forget that the Illini have tough competition at hand, as the team will need to down UIC to end their season with a perfect record in Huff Hall.

The Orange and Blue have competed against the Flames once already this season when they matched up in the Windy City Invite for the first meet of the season. It was the Illini who triumphed on that day, as they finished runner-up and the Flames finished second from last.

“If we do our job, we should be able to beat them pretty easily,” Lung said. “I’m really competitive. I hate losing, so I do not want to go out losing on my last day at Huff Hall.”