Despite win over top-ranked Oklahoma, Illinois remains at No. 2

Even though the Illinois men’s gymnastics team “upset No. 1 Oklahoma”: on Saturday, it remained ranked second. With such a strong team on paper, the Illini believe a No. 1 ranking will come eventually, but know it serves as only a small foreshadowing for the future.

“I’ve been on teams where we’ve been ranked No. 1 all year and then get like fifth at NCAA’s,” senior “Paul Ruggeri”: said. “We gotta keep coasting and keep fighting and not letting things get to our head.”

The NCAA rankings will most likely remain the same for two weeks, as most schools are taking a break from collegiate competition to focus on the U.S. Winter Cup Challenge in Las Vegas this weekend.

*Gymnasts learn lessons before U.S. Winter Cup Challenge*

Illinois head coach Justin Spring took a different approach before Saturday’s meet against powerhouses Michigan and Oklahoma. He put the athletes who are attending the U.S. Winter Cup Challenge in their weakest events, giving them one more opportunity to work out the kinks in their routines.

The plan worked well for “freshman C.J. Maestas”:, who landed his high bar routine for the first time all season.

“With the momentum that was building on high bar, it was kind of expected that he’d hit,” Spring said. “But for me, I know behind the scenes that’s been an event he’s struggled with. So I’m really proud of C.J. to come in and hit high bar for us.”

Saturday’s high bar routine should give Maestas added confidence entering the Winter Cup Challenge. It’s different for Ruggeri, who decided he needed to rework his floor routine after not hitting it again Saturday. With one of the highest start values in the world, his routine has potential — but not if he falls, which has happened time and time again.

“You can’t get good scores with ugly looking gymnastics,” Ruggeri said Saturday. “Obviously today, for floor as example, for all of

*Maestas adjusts to college competition*

After two straight weeks of competing in the all-around, Maestas was happy to take a break. He only competed in four events during Saturday’s meet — high bar, pommel horse, vault and parallel bars. Maestas has never experienced back-to-back-to-back competitions before.

“A little bit here and there,” Maestas said. “I was like, ‘Man, I wanna go out on floor.’ I was like, ‘Oh I wanna go, I have the energy.’ But it was nice to sit back and watch my teammates carry

the team.”

He had his personal fan club for his first home meet, with friends from his dorm and his family — who drove from Albuquerque, N.M. — in the audience.

“When I came out of the tunnel, my dad was just looking at me like he always is,” Maestas said. “Same face since when I was a little kid — nervous. I think (my parents) are more nervous than I am.”