Illini men’s gymnastics in recovery mode after Winter Cup

During a six-day span, six Illinois men’s gymnasts traveled nearly 4,000 miles, competed in one of the biggest gymnastics meets of the year in the 2012 U.S. Winter Cup Challenge and did a little bit of sightseeing.

“It’s really just a whirlwind of events,” senior Paul Ruggeri said. “Everything leading up to the meet and getting there, then actually competing and then processing what happened. It goes so fast.”

After preparing for this meet for the past month, now it is time for the gymnasts to take a breather. The gymnasts who competed — Ruggeri, seniors Tyler Mizoguchi and Anthony Sacramento, junior Austin Phillips and freshmen C.J. Maestas and Mike Wilner — now get a much anticipated light week in the gym.

“We’re ready to tone it down,” Maestas said. “But we have a lot to work on.”

Maestas, who was named to the U.S. Senior National Team based on selection, was not entirely happy with his performance at Winter Cup. He botched routines during both sessions and had one podium appearance, a bronze medal on the rings.

“I just need to get back in the gym and work a little harder,” Maestas said. “It’s fun to ride along and stuff, but it’s important to put in those details and really hit my routines pretty solid now. No excuses.”

Head coach Justin Spring hopes to rest all the gymnasts who competed in Winter Cup during Saturday’s dual meet against UIC so they can focus on resting and improving their routines.

They will take these two weeks to look at their routines, deciding which skills should stay, be added or removed. Spring said the sole focus can now be on the NCAA season and making sure all routines are at the highest possible start value for the NCAA Championships.

“By not allowing them to compete this weekend, they can have almost two weeks that they can work on a variety of elements and things that they need to get a lot of extra turns on,” Spring said. “Whereas, if they had just routines and routines and routines, they wouldn’t get a chance to do that.”

Spring said Winter Cup was unusual, with gymnasts on all levels making uncharacteristic mistakes. He said everyone will strive for perfect routines come VISA Championships in June, when the results directly influence gymnasts’ placing on the Olympic team.

“There were a lot of mistakes out there,” Spring said. “And that can’t happen and we need to make sure it doesn’t in the future. Obviously for our season, for NCAA Championships and for our guys gunning for an Olympic spot.”