UI gymnast honored twice for ‘All-Around’ successes

By Jeff LaBelle

Wes Haagensen became a repeat offender on Wednesday, pulling in two prestigious awards, both for the second time in his collegiate career.

After leading the Illini to a second-place finish at the 37th annual Windy City Invitational last Saturday, the Big Ten Conference announced Haagensen their Gymnast of the Week on Wednesday – news that was then compounded by word that he was also slated as the College Gymnastics Association National Gymnast of the Week. It is the first time he has won the latter award since his freshman year in 2005.

“It was really unexpected,” Haagensen said. “I didn’t even know I won it until I got to practice. (Head coach) Yoshi (Hayasaki) told us all in a team meeting, and everyone’s really been supportive.”

Haagensen, the Windy City Invitational All-Around champion, put up solid scores in the Illini’s first away meet last weekend, as he grabbed the floor exercise title (9.350) and placed fourth (9.300) and fifth (8.650) on the parallel bars and vault, respectively, in the meet held in Chicago.

“In all honesty, I feel like I can do a lot better, that I have a lot of work to do,” Haagensen said. “It’s definitely a great start. I know with Justin (Spring) and Adam (Pummer) going out, people are going to have to step up and fill those spots. I think if everyone fills their roles, we could sneak up on some people.”

Despite the accolades, Haagensen and his coach both think the three-time All-American is capable of better scores in upcoming weeks.

“When he starts hitting all six events the way he wants to hit them, he’s going to have some big scores,” Hayasaki said. “I think he’s going to do that sometime soon.”

Hayasaki said he didn’t know what to expect from his team entering last weekend’s meet, but Haagensen’s performance, as well as the steady improvement of the Illini’s “young guys” was enough to impress their coach in an environment he said posed a difficult test for his team.

“There’s no question he’s a tough all-around gymnast,” Hayasaki said.

“Certainly he’s a threat to win the NCAA All-Around Championships this year and be the number one gymnast in the country. But Haagensen still made some mistakes last weekend, and to be able to come away as an All-Around champion anyway, it really tells you how good he is.”

Last season, Haagensen was the Big Ten’s All-Around runner-up to then-teammate Justin Spring, the 2006 Nissan-Emery Award winner.

The Illini return to action this Saturday on the road against Minnesota starting at 7 p.m.