Maestas questionable for Illini gymnastics against Nittany Lions

By Daniel Collins

When C.J. Maestas leads the Illinois men’s gymnastics team out to the floor of Huff Hall this Saturday, it is possible he will remain in his warm-up suit for the entirety of the meet.

Maestus, who was diagnosed with strep throat earlier this week, received a penicillin shot Wednesday. According to head coach Justin Spring, Maestus only practiced in one out of six training sessions this week.

Not having the NCAA All-American in the lineup can cost the Illini six to seven points, Spring said. Seeing as Illinois is facing its toughest competition of the season — No. 2 Penn State — every point earned on Saturday will be a crucial one.

Both Illinois and Penn State are coming in with an undefeated record of 9-0. The Illini are ranked third in the nation.

“We’re going to see a tension in competition that we haven’t had before,” Spring said. “We might be down at some point, and crazy enough, we haven’t seen that all year.”

If Maestas does not compete on Saturday, then the bulk of the workload will be placed on freshman Bobby Baker’s shoulders.

Until a recent change to his training routine, Spring planned on limiting Baker’s action against Penn State because the freshman will be competing for a national team spot at the Winter Cup in Las Vegas, Feb. 19-21. Maestas is scheduled to participate at the Winter Cup as well.

“It’ll be the most pressure on me (I’ve had) in a competition,” Baker said about the Penn State.

Since the start of the season, Illinois and Penn State have been playing leap frog in the College Gymnastics Association rankings. Neither team has been able to pull ahead by two spots thus far.

“When you’re on the same piece of equipment, in that same gym, with the same judges, you find out how you really match up,” Spring said.

The Illini put up the highest score in team history (440.150) last week against Iowa.

Spring said he is looking for performances like that to become routine for the team moving forward. 

“Last week we ended with what would appear to be a magical finish … Like the planets aligned,” Spring said. “The paradox of having to play with a team’s mental approach is being confident and excited, but not putting it on a pedestal.”

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