Illinois men’s gymnastics team adjusts to injuries

C.J. Maestas performs the rings routine at Huff Hall on Sunday, Jan. 26. Maestas will compete in his final home meet Sunday against Nebraska. 

By Daniel Collins

Lineup juggling continues to be a theme of the season for the Illinois men’s gymnastics team this season.

Heading into two meets this weekend — Stanford on Friday and Nebraska on Sunday — head coach Justin Spring hasn’t decided on his lineup yet due to ongoing injuries.

Currently, the team’s only injured gymnast is sophomore Chandler Eggleston — out for the remainder of the season with a ruptured patella tendon. But a few key contributors are still in the process of fully recovering from previous injuries.

“Physically we’re a little beat up,” Spring said. “There’s a big question mark concerning our top three all-arounders.”

Illinois’ top three all-arounders are junior C.J. Maestas, freshman Bobby Baker and junior Joey Peters. 

Maestas, who only competed in one event in the Illini’s last meet against Oklahoma, is hoping to shoulder a heavier workload this time around. 

“I’m back,” Maestas said. “Let the beast out of the cage.”

Maestas received a cortisone shot in his left shoulder Monday and increased his training regimen since being diagnosed with an inflamed bursa sac that he suffered roughly two weeks ago at the Winter Cup, where he competed for a spot on the senior U.S. national team.  

Sunday’s meet against Nebraska is senior night. The NCAA All-American hopes he can cap off his Huff Hall career in successful fashion.

“It’s the last time I’m going to be able to suit up for the orange and blue at home,” Maestas said. “I want to go out with a bang.” 

Peters, while likely to compete, suffered a dangerous fall at practice during his high bar routine.

“It was one of the scariest landings I seen in a while,” Spring said. “He flipped over and spit some of his teeth out on the mat.”

Also recuperating from a fall is Baker. His occurred during his still rings routine against Oklahoma where he got tangled up during his dismount and landed awkwardly on his neck. 

Spring said that sophmore Thomas Gibbs will be asked to pick up a bulk of the work. Gibbs competed alongside Baker for the all-around title against Penn State when the team was without Maestas.

Illinois’ meet against Stanford will cause the biggest lineup questions for Spring. The meet will be played in a head-to-head format with no set lineups.

This format still requires that five gymnasts compete per apparatus for each team. Coaches select which gymnast they want to compete after a member of the opposing team completes their routine.

“In an ideal world this would be an off weekend,” Spring said. “Instead it’s a double-header weekend.”

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