Late charge keeps men’s gymnastics alive in nationals

The No. 4 Illinois men’s gymnastics team had a rough start to the afternoon session of the NCAA Championships on Thursday afternoon in Columbus, Ohio.

Not one Illinois gymnast truly hit his routine on the high bar, the team’s weakest event.

However, Illinois picked up its pace in the rest of the meet and pulled through in the final rotation, pommel horse, where the Illini scored a school-record 60.500. The score propelled Illinois to a second-place tie with No. 5 Penn State. The Illini, along with Penn State and No. 1 Oklahoma, advanced to the finals session, which takes place Friday at 6 p.m.

Senior Daniel Ribeiro opened for Illinois in the second rotation, floor, and helped turn Illinois’ meet around.

“Daniel gave us a lot of courage and momentum to do better with his floor routine,” junior Tyler Mizoguchi said. “From then on it was all uphill.”

The high scores did not reflect the team’s performance accurately, head coach Justin Spring said. He said some events, parallel bars in particular, were scored higher than usual.

“It doesn’t show exactly how everyone performed but it’s all in front of the same judging panel,” Spring said.

In an effort to put their focus on Friday’s competition, Mizoguchi was resting pommel horse and floor while junior Anthony Sacramento was resting on the rings.

“Today’s supposed to be easy,” junior C.J. Padera said. “Tomorrow’s when things get real. It’s more intense, more high-paced, just more fun.”

In order for the Illini to win Friday, they will have to pick up several points on different events, Spring said. Though Illinois tallied a season-high score — 356.00 — it was still seven points behind top-ranked Oklahoma.

Spring thinks the Illini have the ability to make up those points tomorrow.

“We just had a good meet, not a great meet,” Spring said. “We rested some guys and we bombed high bars. We have the greatest potential of any team to grow. We just gotta do a little bit better tomorrow and hope it’s enough.”

The gymnasts took the night to rest, some choosing to watch the evening session while others took a break from gymnastics to get mentally prepared for the finals.

“If you surround yourself with gymnastics, it just engulfs you and you start thinking too much about things,” Padera said. “That’s never good. It’s important to be relaxed and focused for tomorrow.”