No. 1 Illinois starts season strong by dominating dual with No. 15 UIC
CHICAGO -- The reigning NCAA champion and top-ranked Fighting Illini opened their season with a convincing 425.450-385.750 victory against No. 15 UIC on Saturday. Six Orange and Blue gymnasts captured event titles, while freshman Joey Peters led the way with a win in the all-around and on parallel bars.
"We have a lot of guys who really stepped up to the plate and competed with confidence," head coach Justin Spring said. "It wasn't a perfect day, but it was a hard-fought day, and that's all you can expect for the first meet of the year. A couple weeks ago, with the injuries and where the team was, we felt we were behind. We were in a lot of ways, but that didn't change the way the guys came out and competed."
Illinois started the night on pommel horse, sweeping the top five spots individually to post a team score of 69.550. Senior Yoshi Mori took the title with a 14.800, followed by junior Chad Mason in second with a 14.100, classmate Cameron Rogers in third with a 13.800, freshman Logan Bradley in fourth with a 13.600 and redshirt freshman Jacob Tilsley in fifth with a 13.250.
In the second rotation, the Illini notched a 70.100 on floor and took four of the top five spots. Junior Alex Varga paced the squad with a 14.650 to secure his first career floor title, while sophomore Josh Wilson placed second with a career-high 14.300. Mori followed with a 14.200 to finish third, and Peters took fifth with a 13.950.
On vault, Illinois secured a 71.900, led by newcomer Fred Hartville, who placed first with a 15.300 to tie the eighth-highest-scoring vault in school history. Mori placed second with a 14.750, while Tilsley took fourth with a 14.150.
In the following rotation, four Illini finished in the top five on rings, combining for a team score of 74.550. Sophomore Mike Wilner won the title with a career-high 15.600, matching the fourth-highest rings score in program history. Peters took second with a 15.150, while senior Austin Phillips tied for third (14.700), followed by Rogers in fifth (14.650).
On high bar, Illinois swept the top four spots individually and totaled a team score of 67.450. Junior Jordan Valdez won the title with a 13.950, edging Peters, who placed second with a 13.800. Mori took third with a 13.550, followed by freshman Max Mayr in fourth with a 13.400.
Illinois ended the night with a 71.900 on parallel bars, paced by Peters, who placed first with a 15.200. Rogers came in a close second with a career-best 15.000. Phillips took third with a 14.200, while Valdez placed fifth with a 14.000.
Peters won the all-around with a score of 84.650 after notching the parallel bars title and a pair of second-place finishes. Valdez placed third overall, posting a 77.200.
"What I loved about Joey [Peters] when I was recruiting him was his tenacity and perseverance," Spring said. "He is willing to do everything that is possible to make him the best. Sometimes, we have to tell him to settle down and pump the brakes a little bit, but it's what makes him a great competitor. He wants to win, and he wants to be put in the pressure seat."