Changes start now for Illinois men’s gymnastics team

Experimentation time is over for the No. 3 Illinois men’s gymnastics team. Coming off a “loss to No. 2 Penn State”:, and with three regular season meets before postseason competition, the gymnasts are taking a week off from competition to finalize their routines.

“We ran into a situation a few years ago where the start values were too high and guys weren’t hitting,” Illinois “head coach Justin Spring”: said. “We don’t want that to happen again.”

“Freshman standout C.J. Maestas”:, who was named Big Ten Freshmen of the Week on Monday, is taking small skills out of several of his routines.

“These quick fixes are really small, but will help his point value in the long run,” Spring said.

This season, scoring has been tighter on execution scores, Spring said. He believes taking down the difficulty in routines will help scores in the long run.

During the bye week, the gymnasts will have a tough week of practice, with multiple “championship days” where a meet is simulated, Spring said. He hopes this will lead to athletes hitting on the same day.

“We can’t have one athlete hitting on Tuesday and another on Wednesday,” Spring said. “They need to peak together.”

*New floor routine proves effective for Ruggeri*

It was time for “senior Paul Ruggeri”: to switch his floor routine. He had one of the highest start values in the country, but he wasn’t hitting routines, struggling with falls in every collegiate meet this season.

Saturday night, he took out his first pass, a one-and-a-half punch randy (a front flip with a two and a half twist in it) and replaced it with a one-and-a-half double front, a pass more consistent with Ruggeri’s routine that is easier to land.

It’s easier to get deductions on the new pass because it’s a double flipping skill, and points often get taken off for leg separation and keeping a low chest.

“This is something that I’m comfortable and familiar with already,” Ruggeri said. “My old routine was kind of up in the air, and I was just praying to land on my feet every pass. This one can be perfected.”

When Ruggeri tried out his new routine Saturday, he hit it for the first time this college season, good for a 15.600 and the floor title.

“I finally hit a floor set,” Ruggeri said. “It’s nice to have something under my belt and to have confidence for next time.”

*Illini see turnaround on vault*

During the Illini’s Feb. 11 “dual meet against UIC”:, not one Illinois gymnast hit his vault routine. Spring was nervous about the event because his team could just not seem to hit it.

Maestas knew there was a problem and was determined to help with the turnaround in the next week.

“It was like, ‘Enough is enough,’” Maestas said. “We’ve had so many mistakes and it was time to put that to shame, to go out there and kill it.”

At Penn State, Illinois hit four-and-a-half of its six vaults, good for a 58.700, a 4.200 point increase from the week before.

“We usually let our emotions get to us,” Maestas said. “We went into vault and said, ‘Screw that, let’s just do us.’ That energy carried out from the first guy all the way to the last guy, and it was just amazing to watch.”