No. 3 Illinois men’s gymnastics loses to No. 2 Penn State

Maybe it was his revamped floor routine. It could have been the family on hand to cheer him on, or possibly the pent-up energy after resting for two weeks. Whatever the cause, senior Paul Ruggeri was in his “collegiate groove” Saturday night.

Ruggeri competed in four events and won titles on three — floor, vault and parallel bars.

“I’m happy with how I did tonight,” Ruggeri said. “I hit three of my four routines and had a good night.”

It wasn’t enough, though, as the No. 3 Illinois men’s gymnastics team lost to No. 2 Penn State 347.800 to 346.500 Saturday night in University Park, Pa.

The Illini had a rough start on floor, an event they just can’t seem to hit in competition this year. Head coach Justin Spring said the turnaround happened in the final three events, with the Illini improving on parallel bars and high bar, the only two team events Illinois won Saturday. Freshman C.J. Maestas took the all-around title with an 88.100, his career high.

“In the beginning, a couple of events didn’t go as hoped,” Ruggeri said. “But we stuck together and didn’t give up. And in the end, the events started looking good.”

Maestas said it was the little details that the Illini kept losing points on: sticks, hops and steps on landings.

“I’m definitely proud of the team’s performance, but we can do a lot better,” Maestas said.

The Illini entered the meet hoping to redeem themselves after a low-scoring victory against UIC last weekend. Spring said they improved their attitude and performance, but the Illini need to up their expectations if they want to win come Big Tens and NCAAs.

“Well they beat us,” Ruggeri said. “So when Big Tens and NCAAs come around, that’s going to be the taste in our mouth. We’re not gonna wanna lose to them ever again.”

Now, the Illini have a bye week. Spring said they will use this time to make any changes to routines and perfect the little details before postseason.

“There were definitely a lot of hit routines, but a lot of them can be cleaned up,” Spring said. “There’s a lot of places to grow, a lot that can be learned by looking at the video of this meet.”

Spring said a packed house at Penn State really helped the gymnasts get a taste of what the postseason will be like.

“They weren’t giving us anything,” Spring said. “We were really in a championship environment. Scores were tight as expected and guys at the end of the lineup really turned it on.”