Illinois men’s gymnastics team dominated Minnesota

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(ISN) – CHAMPAIGN, Illinois – In their first appearance at Huff Hall of the 2015 season, the Illinois men’s gymnastics team dominated Minnesota from start to finish en route to a 435.200-419.700 victory on Saturday, Jan. 31. The meet was run in a head-to-head format where a member of Minnesota would perform followed by an Illini gymnast.

Illinois collected six of the seven event titles on the afternoon. C.J. Maestas won both the floor and still rings titles, while freshman Bobby Baker locked down the vault title along with the all-around honors. Matt Foster claimed the pommel horse title while Jordan Valdez won the parallel bars.

“This was a pretty solid showing for us,” shared head coach Justin Spring. When asked who impressed him, Spring responded “Bobby Baker was outstanding as a freshman. It was a truly unbelievable performance. He walked away with the all-around title against C.J. [Maestas] who is arguably one of the greatest all-arounders in the country…the kid came to play.”

The Illini turned in a 72.550 team score on the floor, a season best, to open the afternoon. Maestas put together a 15.250 performance to take the title. Foster finished second with a 14.700 mark followed by Baker (14.450) and Taylor Smith (14.350). Joey Peters took seventh with a 13.800 mark.

Next, the squads headed to pommel horse, where the Orange and Blue secured six of the top seven scores. Foster led the pack as he registered a 15.150 followed by Baker with a 14.700 mark and Brandon Ngai in third at 14.400. Logan Bradley scored a 14.150 for fifth followed by Maestas and Harry McLellan who finish sixth and seventh. The Illini registered a team score of 72.300, the fourth best mark in team history.

On the rings, Maestas submitted a 15.900 to tie the team’s best individual mark set by Mike Wilner last weekend at Ohio State. Wilner took second with a 15.250 while Peters turned in a 15.100 to take third place. Baker tied for fifth on the event with a 14.600 outing.

Baker tied his best mark on the vault with a score of 15.050 to take the title. Thomas Gibbs was close behind with a 15.000 for second place. Peters registered a 14.750 and Maestas a 14.600 for third and fourth place respectively. The collective Illini score of 73.850 is a season best and accounts for the fourth best mark in the Illinois books.

Valdez secured his second parallel bars title of the season with a 15.200 outing, his best mark of the season. Baker finished third with a 14.900 while Peters locked up the fourth spot with a score of 14.550. The parallel bars crew put together a 72.400 total score, the best mark yet of 2015 and the fifth best score in program history.

Spring’s crew entered the final event, high bar, with a 17.85-point lead over the Gophers and a chance to exceed a score of 440. The Illini fell short of the mark though and allowed Minnesota to claim their only event title of the evening. Baker finished third with a score of 14.400 to lead the Illini. Maestas checked in at fourth with a 14.300 while Valdez took home sixth place with a 13.950 mark.

“Some how the last event kind of eludes us as far as having a great hit percentage,” stated Spring.

In the all-around competition, Baker edged out Maestas by two-tenths of a point for the title. Baker notched an 88.100, a team-best on the season while Maestas turned in a score of 87.900.

Spring’s crew was able to be a part of Kim Landrus’ team’s annual Pink Meet for the first time this year, he shared, “You get so wrapped up in competition that it feels like a normal meet but you know that there’s this great cause going on.”

This win marked the Illini’s second victory over Minnesota on the 2015 campaign. Both units participated at the Windy City Invitational two weekends ago where the Illini finished in first place with a score of 428.100 and the Gophers took fifth at 410.350.

Next up for the 8-0 Illinois team is a visit from Iowa. The matchup is set for next Saturday, Feb. 7, at 4 p.m. at Huff Hall. The competition will be the team’s annual Gym Jam event and will be a dual meet with the women’s gymnastics team.