CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Illinois is ranked No. 1 in the GymInfo Preseason Coaches Poll. The Orange and Blue received six first-place votes to take the top spot in the national rankings.
|Check out the full rankings|
“I think coming off winning the NCAA title last year, we’re fresh in a lot of people’s minds,” head coach Justin Spring said. “It’s an honor, but preseason rankings are just that, the preseason. Everyone always hits the ground running once the season starts.”
Michigan received two first-place votes, checking in at No. 2, followed by Oklahoma in third with two first-place votes, Penn State in fourth with three first-place votes and Stanford in fifth with two first-place votes. Seven Big Ten squads cracked the top 10. Minnesota came in at No. 7, Ohio State at No. 8, Nebraska at No. 9 and Iowa at No. 10.
“It’s important that this team takes the preseason rankings and looks at the large amount of work that we have ahead of us,” Spring said. “We’re certainly a strong team, but we lost some heavy hitters. With a good amount of work, we can certainly be a great team once again.”
The 2013 Illini return defending NCAA still rings champion C.J. Maestas, who was named Big Ten Gymnast and Freshman of the Year last season. This year’s squad will also feature five 2012 All-Americans, including Maestas (all-around, pommel horse, rings), Yoshi Mori (all-around, pommel horse), Austin Phillips (high bar), Chad Mason (pommel horse) and Jordan Valdez (high bar).
“We’re a well-rounded team,” Spring said. “Looking at how we won the national championship last year, it was a combination of everyone doing their job and stepping up to the plate. We didn’t rely on one or two all-arounders; we relied on our team as a whole. We’re going to continue to promote that philosophy. Every man on this team is going to work to help us win, hopefully, another national championship.”
The Illini will kick off the season in mid-January, when they begin their quest for a consecutive national title and fifth consecutive Big Ten Championship.