Five members Illini men’s gymnasts compete at Winter Cup

By Daniel Collins

The undefeated, second-ranked Illinois men’s gymnastics was off this weekend, but a handful of individuals on the team didn’t get time to rest and recuperate.

Five members of the Illinois men’s gymnastics team had the opportunity to compete at the Winter Cup in Las Vegas on Friday and Saturday.

The meet gave each individual a chance to move up the qualifying list for the U.S. men’s senior national team. Fifteen gymnasts were chosen to represent the U.S. in August’s P&G Gymnastics Championships.

Seniors Mike Wilner and Jordan Valdez, juniors Logan Bradley and C.J. Maestas and freshman Bobby Baker represented the Illini in the event, which was won by former Illini Paul Ruggeri III. Ruggeri was selected for the national team.

Wilner’s highlight came during the preliminary stage of the competition in the still ring event, where he posted the sixth-highest score in the first session (14.050). Bradley’s high score was in the floor exercise, where he received a total of 13.950 for his routine.

Maestas was forced out of action in Illinois’ meet last weekend against Penn State due to strep throat. He qualified to perform in the finals but did not compete due to similar symptoms and fatigue.

Even though he competed Friday, it was with limited practice.

“With the level of gymnastics I do know, it just wasn’t going to work out,” Maestas said of his preparedness on Saturday.

Valdez had a second-place finish on the high bar Saturday, scoring a 14.900. Ruggeri finished first in the event.

“With C.J. being out, I feel like Jordan and I had to step it up a little bit and we did,” Baker said.

Baker finished 11th in the all-around competition with a combined score of 169.700. Ruggeri won first place with a total of 175.250. Ruggeri also finished first on the vault.

“This being his first year, he’s only going to get better,” head coach Justin Spring said of Baker. “He really made a name for himself. His strength is that he stands out in all six events.”

Baker said one of the toughest challenges when competing individually instead of with a team is having no one but himself around to help him recover from a poor routine.

Illinois commit Alex Diab also competed at the competition and finished 21st in his chase for the all-around title with a combined total of 163.600.

Daniel can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @collins_d2.