Mizoguchi, Illinois gymnasts ready to ‘put everything on the line’ against Michigan

Thinking back on last year’s Big Ten Championships, sophomore Tyler Mizoguchi is left with a sour taste in his mouth. The Illinois men’s gymnastics team appeared to have won the title outright until a late scoring change brought it into a tie with Michigan.

“I feel like we got gypped last year,” Mizoguchi said. “They did some things they weren’t supposed to do in the meet, and they know it.”

When the No. 4 Wolverines (7-3) roll into town Saturday, Mizoguchi and the No. 3 Illini (10-0) will be looking to prove that they were the rightful winners.

“This is going to be the meet that decides who really deserved that Big Ten ring last year,” Mizoguchi said.

The implications run even deeper than settling a score, as the Illini will look to preserve their unbeaten record against their biggest rivals on their home floor and try to establish themselves as the favorites for this year’s Big Ten Championships, just three weeks away.

“It’s a pretty cool feeling knowing that we’re an undefeated team, and we’re not looking to let Michigan come into our house and take that from us,” junior Daniel Ribeiro said.

After several consecutive weeks fielding a short-handed lineup, associate head coach Justin Spring indicated that all the personnel will be in place for the first time this season, with senior Chad Wiest and sophomore Anthony Sacramento returning from injury.

The team will aim to reach its peak for a period starting this week and running through the NCAA Championships in mid-April, a goal its been moving toward all season.

As everything falls into place for Illinois, the gymnasts are excited to finally see the team’s potential realized.

“Routines are coming together now,” Ribeiro said. “I think everything’s coming together, and we’re finally putting up a full lineup, so I think we could put up a huge score.”

Illinois already defeated Michigan once this year by winning the Windy City Invitational, the first event of the season.

Illinois posted a 353.750, while Michigan was the runner-up with a 351.350 mark.

But this weekend carries much greater significance for the team.

“We took (the Windy City Invitational) and that was very exciting, but to have a dual meet now hosting Michigan, we’ve been training for this all season,” Spring said.

With an intense rivalry to look forward to, practice has heated up and the Illinois gymnasts are raring to go.

“(Tuesday) was awesome,” Spring said. “I saw guys going after it like I haven’t seen yet. It was exciting to see. Every time I turned around there was another guy hitting and rocking out their set. The guys are pumped and motivated.”

The team’s goal is to score in the 359 to 360 range this weekend, and it appears ready to do so.

“We’re going to put everything on the line this weekend,” Mizoguchi said. “I feel really confident about this weekend. Everybody’s looking really good, and I’m extremely excited.”