Illinois signs seven top-25 NCAA recruits

Illinois+signs+seven+top-25+NCAA+recruits

By Bradley Zimmerman, Contributing Writer

The Illinois men’s gymnastics team signed seven recruits on Nov. 13 to form its 2021 recruiting class.

All seven signees rank among the top-25 NCAA men’s gymnastics 2021 recruits. Illinois landed more top-25 recruits than any other collegiate team in the nation. Penn State landed the next-highest amount with five. Oklahoma and Stanford, the latter entering the 2020 season as defending national champions, landed three each. Stanford also signed the top recruit of the 2021 class.

Illinois ranks No. 3 as a team in recruiting class rankings for 2021. Penn State landed the No. 1 ranking and Stanford clinched the No. 2 rank.

“This year was a really good year for us. We had a lot of guys who were all in,” said head coach Justin Spring. “We normally wouldn’t bring in this many guys, but because we found ourselves with the right pool of money for the right amount of guys that were seeking to come to Illinois, we had to make it work. If we want to win a Big Ten championship or a national championship, we need those high-caliber, blue-chip recruits.”

The typical size of a gymnastics recruiting class is four athletes, but Illinois signed seven including No. 7-ranked Josh Cook, No. 12-ranked Will Hauke, No. 14 Logan Myers, No. 16 Sebastian Ingersoll, No. 19 Ethan Boder and two walk-on recruits. Due to NCAA regulations, their names have not been announced.

Although Cook, who’s a Wales-native, signed his National Letter of Intent with other 2021 recruits, he will compete for the Illini in the upcoming 2020 season. Men’s gymnastics is one of the few sports with a midyear admit period. This allows athletes to sign NLIs after the usual signing day but before the next season begins.

“We just wanted to tie him in. He deserves it,” Spring said. “He’s an amazing athlete and recruit.”

With a class of seven recruits, the 2021 squad will be young, but Spring is excited for the talent and depth the new Illini have.

“We have to compete in six events, and you count five scores from all six events,” Spring said. “That’s a lot of positions that need to be filled, a lot of routines that are counting. Having great depth, people fighting for those lineup spots is really critically important to have. With this big group coming in, we’re going to have that and then some.”

During recruitment season, Spring and his staff, consisting of associate head coach Dan Ribeiro and assistant coach Don Osborn, attempt to be as transparent as possible with recruits. When recruits visit Champaign, the coaches run the recruits through the program’s typical week in the span of a weekend, which included having the recruits be present at team meetings and team practices, allowing them to get an idea of the team culture.

“We’re very proud of our team culture,” Spring said. “We spend a lot of time at human development as equally as gymnastics development. Some people are really into that and some people aren’t ready for that. And that’s fine. I believe that really allows us to recruit a high-caliber, committed, focused athlete.”

Team culture was one of the factors that influenced recruits to sign with Illinois.

“Illinois’ team has an unmatched team culture and even on my visit I felt like a part of the team,” Boder said per fightingillini.com.

Even on recruiting trips to Illinois, Hauke said the team’s chemistry was evident.

“I chose Illinois because I felt like I connected with the team really well. I love the team culture that has been built and how strong the bond is that they share,” Hauke said per figthingillini.com. “I was very impressed with the training environment that I witnessed on my recruiting trip; it was very motivating and inspiring to watch.”