Illini men’s gymnastics team refocuses and prepares to get back on track against Iowa

By Kieran Hampl

The No. 5 Illinois men’s gymnastics team, coming off a loss to No. 7 Minnesota, hopes to bounce back this weekend against No. 9 Iowa on the road.  

Despite not hitting routines as accurately as usual, the Illini’s biggest problem was that they had to have unhealthy gymnasts competing because of a lack of depth. This is particularly challenging for the team because of NCAA regulations limiting them to 19 gymnasts.

“I really can’t throw it on the guys. The four guys who missed parallel bars have not been hitting routines the last week and a half because of one ailment or another,” head coach Justin Spring said.

The injuries that the team has experienced have been widespread, but none of them seems to be season-ending, which is good news for a team with high hopes of potentially winning both the Big Ten and National Championships.

To try and counteract the injuries, some of the athletes have been removing skills from their routines to make them more manageable while they are not at full strength.

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    “We made a lot of adjustments,” Spring said. “We have given a lot more part-days really looking at the long-term.”

    Freshman Tom Gibbs has been battling a badly bruised heel for a good portion of the season and was given time off, including this upcoming meet, to get healthy for the end of the year.

    Sophomores Joey Peters, who has been battling an ankle injury, and Max Mayr, who has struggled with a wrist injury, will each be receiving cortisone shots in a couple of weeks, but have been getting healthier. Their injuries have responded well to practice sessions and routines, which is crucial for Illinois in reestablishing its depth.

    Another issue the Illini face while trying to put out consistent lineups each weekend is preparing individuals for a chance to clinch a national team spot at the Winter Cup in two weeks.

    “We’re a team sport in the NCAA forum, but everywhere else it’s an individual sport, so that does make it tough,” Spring said. “We need to continue to allow them to be successful in their individual career paths at the national team and sometimes it takes a little juggling with the team goals.” 

    Despite the constant distractions, the team is still preparing hard, hoping to get back on track and knock off the Hawkeyes. 

    “We’re hungry for them. I know the team is very fired up having that loss against Minnesota,” said redshirt sophomore C.J. Maestas. “I know that everyone is just putting in the numbers, we’re putting in the fire and we’re treating every practice like it’s a competition.”

    Kieran can be reached at [email protected].