Illinois men’s gymnastics face No. 3 Ohio State team at home

By Kieran Hampl

The Illinois men’s gymnastics team came into this season hoping to rebound and return to the national championship after a subpar season that concluded with a last-place finish in the NCAA tournament.

They started the season with a victory against Illinois-Chicago and then a second-place finish in the Windy City Invitational.

Returning to Huff Hall for the first time this season, the No. 8 Illini face a giant task in No. 3 Ohio State.

Illinois tied with Ohio State at the Windy City Invitational and knows it can compete with the Buckeyes, but it also knows head-to-head matches are very different than invites because of constant momentum changes.

Sunday’s match will be head-to-head, meaning the teams will compete on the same event at the same time.

“Energy sways are going to be huge,” head coach Justin Spring said.  

Spring said he has emphasized the importance of being consistent and mentally tough all season and hopes his team will be able to fight past the emotions.

To beat the Buckeyes, Spring said his team “has to be better on the front end.”

Ohio State is known for having very strong anchors, and putting up comparable scores is going to be crucial for the Illini.

The Buckeyes also sat out some of their players in last week’s meet, which means the Illini will be facing a different team and will face an even bigger challenge.

Redshirt sophomore C.J. Maestas is coming off a strong performance for Illinois last week and is excited to compete in all six events for the first time since a tricep injury last season. 

“It took me out of my element,” Maestas said of his injury. 

This week Maestas has focused on cleaning up the little things in preparation for Ohio State, and Spring said Maestas isn’t taking anything for granted after his injury.

Another huge contributor for the Illini early this season has been freshman Chandler Eggleston who is coming off two consecutive Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors. He has spent the week focusing on being consistent throughout his events in hopes of performing well in his first home meet.

“I’m hoping there’s a big crowd and my friends come out,” he said.

The Illini have started the season strong, but a win against Ohio State could both put last season in the past and cement the Illini as one of the country’s top teams.

Kieran can be reached at [email protected]