Men’s gymnastics falls short of expectations in 10-point win

Multiple falls on every event, botched landings and a low energy level plagued the normally consistent No. 2 Illinois men’s gymnastics team Saturday night at Huff Hall.

Despite the mistakes, Illinois pulled out a 10-point win against No. 13 UIC, 339.00-329.000. It was the Illini’s lowest score of the season, partially because Illinois was “missing its top performers”:, but mainly because of a lack of hit routines.

“I think we can all agree that we were kind of off,” junior Yoshi Mori said. “We came into the meet with the wrong mentality.”

The lower level of competition may have sparked the lack of focus, Illinois head coach Justin Spring said. When the Illini last faced UIC, at the season-opening “Windy City Invitational”:, they beat the Flames by nearly 15 points.

“A lot of times, people do tend to play up to their competition,” Spring said. “I think maybe the tone was set somehow. But I expected this to be like every other competition, a competition against yourself, putting up national scores.”

Freshman Josh Wilson, senior Devin Regan and junior Malcolm Brown made their first appearance in the lineup this season. Seniors and all-arounders Paul Ruggeri and Tyler Mizoguchi were resting, while “freshman C.J. Maestas”: only competed in the rings.

Mori competed in the all-around for the first time since his junior year and took the all-around title (81.8) and the floor title (15.0). Sophomore Jordan Valdez won the parallel bars and high bar titles, posting his career high on the high bar with a 15.1.

There were still many veterans in the lineup, athletes expected to be top contributors at Big Tens and NCAA’s, who didn’t play their part, Spring said.

“I feel like we went out there and created a little anxiety around the team, rather than reinforcing how solid and consistent they are,” Spring said.

The crowd was significantly smaller than Illinois’ last home meet, when Illinois “faced No. 1 Oklahoma”: and No. 8 Michigan.

“A lot of guys had a different mindset coming in, being against Oklahoma two weeks ago,” Valdez said. “It was a bigger meet for us, it was our main competition of the year. We just kind of came into (Saturday) a little more relaxed than we should have.”

Valdez said the gymnasts will work on picking up their energy in the gym at practice this week and maintaining a strict and structured mentality.

Next weekend, the Illini travel to Penn State, where a better performance is necessary if Illinois wants to pull out a win, Spring said.

“We’re not as ready as we think we are,” Spring said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”