Illinois men’s gymnastics edges Buckeyes despite weakened lineup

By Daniel Collins

The Illinois men’s gymnastics team proved to have depth in its 434.400-431.300 win over Ohio State.

Due to extensive training with the national team the week prior to the meet, head coach Justin Spring decided to limit the events of junior C.J. Maestas and freshman Bobby Baker. Neither competed for the all-around title, and Maestas was out for the still ring competition. Maestas was the 2012 still rings national champion.

Despite not having Maestas competing in one of his strongest events, Illinois scored a 75.650. The score ranks fourth in team history.

Even with the win, the Illini have been struggling in their pommel horse and parallel bar routines.

“We ended on a little bit of a rough note with a sub-par parallel bars,” Spring said. “We’re two for six . . . you can’t have four misses in the same event. We almost gave up our sizeable lead right there in the last event.”

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While struggling in the event, the Illini did have slight improvement on pommel horse. Sophomore Matt Foster was the best for Illinois in the event, finishing third with a score of 14.600 — the third highest of the season for the Illini in that event.

“I’m looking to clean some stuff up and add more difficulty,” Foster said. “As an early-event guy on floor and (parallel) bars, I want to stay consistent, and then keep hitting late in the lineup on horse and getting a big score in one of the lower-scoring events.”

Spring said he was surprised at Foster’s performance due to the short amount of preparation Foster put into his routines.

Odds are Foster will participate in the same events for the Illini next meet at home against Minnesota. After that, Illinois is looking to have a more complete lineup with the possible return of junior Fred Hartville from a knee injury and a rested Maestas and Baker.

“Soon, guys are going to have less opportunities to prove themselves,” Spring said. “We’re going with the guys that we’re going to see in postseason. When that happens, we’ll be excited to put up a full lineup for the first time.”

With the win over the Buckeyes, who were picked first in the Big Ten preseason poll, Illinois now has a combined record of 7-0 (2-0 in dual meets), which is the team’s best start to the season since 2011.

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