Men's gymnastic faces reigning Big Ten champs


Sonny An | Assistant photo edito

Illinois’ Brandon Ngai performs a routine on the pommel horse during the meet against Stanford at Huff Hall on Friday, March 6, 2015.The Illini lost 21-9.

By James Boyd

The team is reminded of just how close it came to winning at every practice. Head coach Justin Spring made sure of that, plastering a poster of the small point differential on a wall at Kenney Gym.

Sophomore Chandler Egglestonss said that even with the 0.6 staring back at them every day, facing Penn State on the road will definitely provide his squad with added incentive to get things right this time.

Eggleston admitted that the loss last year didn’t affect him as much as it did the rest of the team. He sat out last season due to a leg injury, but has performed well in his return thus far. Coming off two event wins in the meet against Iowa, the sophomore looks to not only return to his old self, but become even better than he was before his injury.

Penn State and Illinois headed into last weekend with 6-0 records ssand faced Minnesota and Iowa respectively. But while the Illini stayed perfect against the Hawkeyes, the defending Big Ten Champions fell to the Golden Gophers — a team Illinois defeated at the Windy City Invitational.

Associate head coach Daniel Ribeiross is not interested in keeping track of who beat whom. Instead, he believes his team should be aware of its upcoming opponent, regardless of record. He knows the Nittany Lions have lost, but they are still the team that edged the Illini out as Big Ten Champions last season.

“Going against Penn State at home is really hard,” Ribeiro said. “If you look at their record at home, they win almost always.”

He said the Minnesota team Illinois defeated in the Windy City Invitational is not the same team Penn State faced just a few days ago — the Golden Gophers did not have their full team at the Invitational.

“(Penn State) is going to do a little better,” Ribeiro said. “We can’t do what we did against Iowa, against Penn State, and still pull out a win.”

One of Illinois’ biggest concerns has been its performance on pommel horse.

Sophomore Brandon Ngaiss is coming into his own, but even with his impressive scores, one man can’t beat five. Freshman Blake Martin is coming off an Illini season low, 10.900, on the apparatus and sophomore Tyson Bull has only averaged a score of 12.100 in the event over the last two competitions — scores that will likely not get the job done against Penn State.

The Illini will have their full line up Saturday, after resting a few gymnasts last meet to prepare for the Nittany Lions.??

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