Illinois men’s gymnastics prepares for meet against Penn State


Daily Illini file photo

Illinois’ Alex Diab performs his routine at the meet against Michigan on March 12, 2016.

By Will , Gerard

Fresh off a team title for its dance routine during the eight annual Jock Jams, the Illinois men’s gymnastics team is ready to turn its attention to Friday’s dual meet against Penn State.

On Monday, the team took home the Jock Jams honor before performing again Tuesday at State Farm Center during halftime of the men’s basketball game.

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“Everything just clicked,” redshirt senior Joey Peters said. “It could have either been a great performance or a terrible performance. It turned out to be an awesome experience.”

Peters has had to overcome many challenges as he continues to rehab from an injury he suffered last season. After sitting out for more than a year, Peters has seen steady improvement.

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    “Each meet I look at as another practice to get in better shape, have better fitness so when I’m out there I’m feeling good and can put up the huge numbers that are required – especially during Winter Cup,” Peters said.

    Peters joked about being one of the oldest members of the team, whereas freshman Sebastian Quiana, on the other hand, has only been with the program for a relatively short while.

    Despite his youth, Quiana stood out in the team’s victory over fifth-ranked Minnesota, taking home his first collegiate floor title with a 14.650.

    “I was finally able to put a set together that I could stick my landings and come out on top,” Quiana said. “It’s time to upgrade right now. Hopefully, I can put together an upgraded set for this weekend.”

    Friday’s dual meet will be the first Big Ten meet for the Nittany Lions (8-0). Penn State has not won at Huff Hall since 2013. Last season, Illinois edged out the visitors in a 441.300-434.500 decision.

    However, one strength of this year’s squad has been the pommel horse as the team has yet to lose the event. The Nittany Lions rank second in the nation for team average in both the parallel bars and pommel horse.

    These events were an area the Illini struggled in during their most recent meet.

    “Parallel bars and pommel horse were a point of emphasis (this week) coming off (what was) – I wouldn’t say a meltdown – but it was pretty close,” head coach Justin Spring said. “We very much underperformed against Minnesota and it’s something we have to do better.”

    The Illini had a short week to prepare for Friday’s meet as a result of competing last Saturday. Despite a shaky performance in those particular events, Spring appeared relatively unconcerned about the possibility of a repeat showing.

    After taking a brief break from setting his team’s lineup within the confines of his nearby office, the head coach showed confidence in the preparation he has seen.

    “Everything got moved up so they came off their day off and got thrown into their heavy routines right away,” Spring said. “I think they handled it pretty well for the most part. I don’t think there’s any reason we shouldn’t have a great meet against Penn State.”

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