Men’s gymnastics confident after weekend win

Illinois%E2%80%99+Paul+Ruggeri+performs+on+the+vault+at+the+gymnastics+meet+at+Huff+Hall+on+Jan.+24.+The+Illinois%E2%80%99+men%E2%80%99s+team+defeated+Ohio+State+351.950-349.050.%0A

Illinois’ Paul Ruggeri performs on the vault at the gymnastics meet at Huff Hall on Jan. 24. The Illinois’ men’s team defeated Ohio State 351.950-349.050.

By Kyle Diller

The No. 4 Illinois men’s gymnastics team’s win at No. 5 Michigan Saturday was important for continuing its undefeated season in head-to-head matchups, but everything will be on the line during the return trip. The Orange and Blue will travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., again, this time to compete in the Big Ten Championships on Apr. 3 and 4.

The No. 4 Illinois men’s gymnastics team’s win at No. 5 Michigan Saturday was important for continuing its undefeated season in head-to-head matchups, but everything will be on the line during the return trip.

The Orange and Blue will travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., again, this time to compete in the Big Ten Championships on Apr. 3 and 4. In the buildup to Saturday’s meet, many believed that the Wolverines were the team to beat in the conference, but Illinois proved that they are the favorites after pulling off the win in Michigan.

“Big Ten will be a huge challenge, because they know now that they’re beatable. It’s still going to be a very close competition in the Big Ten,” Illini head coach Yoshi Hayasaki said. “We all know where we are right now and what we have to work on to be able to come out on top.”

Sophomore Daniel Ribeiro starred for the Fighting Illini yet again as he took the pommel horse crown for the third week in a row. The reigning Big Ten pommel horse champion is now ranked No. 1 in the country for the event, a feat that showcases the talent of the Illinois gymnasts.

“We beat what was the favorite in the Big Ten, Michigan, so our confidence right now is really high,” Ribiero said. “They kind of had the home judging, and still to be able to go in there an beat them, it definitely gave us that confidence. We honestly believe that we can do this.”

Not only has Ribeiro dominated the competition on the pommel horse, but Illinois’ pommel horse team has also been named No. 1 in the country for the event with junior Luke Stannard finishing just behind Ribeiro.

The Michigan meet also marked the return of sophomore Paul Ruggeri to competition. The Illini ace has been out of action since Feb. 7, but in his return to competitive action, Ruggeri was quick to remind opposition of his presence with crowns for the parallel bars and the vault. Ruggeri admits that he hasn’t gotten back to his best following the injury, a note that should worry Big Ten rivals,

“It definitely made (Michigan) angry because we beat them at home on their senior night,” Ruggeri said. “There’s definitely going to be a fire for them and we have to remember that they’re fighting for the same thing we are and they’re going to be right on our tails. We have to take it as a loss almost because we have to keep motivation, keep that fire.”

The All-American team is ready to add another Big Ten title to the Illini’s resume, believing the team has had a drought over the past couple decades.

“It’s really important because we haven’t had a Big Ten Championship since 2004 and before that 1989,” Ruggeri explained. “There’s just been very few in between, so we’re trying to get one more.”