Gophers edge undefeated Illinois

Freshman Colton Dee filled in for the injured Jalon Stephens and earned a score of 12.450 on the high bar.

Erik Nelson

No. 5 Illinois was undefeated heading into its fifth meet of the season.

But Minnesota was up to the challenge Saturday.

The Gophers (3-1, 2-1 Big Ten) defeated Illinois (4-1, 3-1 Big Ten) 408.00-406.50, ending the Fighting Illini’s winning streak. 

Freshman Shane Wiskus and senior Tristan Duran led Minnesota to its second consecutive home win. Wiskus finished first in the all-around, receiving a score of 82.500. It was his third all-around title of the season. Duran finished in second in the all-around, receiving a score of 81.350. It’s the highest all-around score of Duran’s career.

“[Wiskus and Duran] were a huge factor. If you look at the percentage of routines that [the judges] counted for the team, they were a big chunk of it,” head coach Mike Burns said. “That’s what you need if you want to win.”

Wiskus finished first in the floor exercise, receiving a score of 14.700. Minnesota’s team score on floor was a season-high 70.900. 

Duran finished first on parallel bars, receiving a score of 14.450. He also finished first in the high bar event, receiving a score of 13.850. 

Duran said it was special to beat one of the top teams in the nation.

“We were excited after the scores came in. We’ve always had a rivalry against Illinois,” Duran said. “We had some key routines that brought the win home for us.”

One of those key routines for Minnesota came on the high bar. While competing, senior Jalon Stephens suffered an injury and Minnesota had to put in an alternate gymnast. Freshman Colton Dee replaced Stephens for the rest of the meet and earned a score of 12.450 on the high bar.

Burns said Dee clinched the win for Minnesota with his score.

“Going into that last routine, it was a tie,” Burns said. “[Dee] was the key factor, did the job and won the meet for us.”

Senior Alex Wittenberg finished third on pommel horse, receiving a score of 13.550. Wittenberg and senior Joel Gagnon tied for second on vault. Both received scores of 14.550.

Duran received the Cooke Award after the meet. This award is given at every Minnesota home meet to honor the best gymnast of the event. Duran said he wasn’t surprised that he won the award.

“The reason I got the Cooke Award was because we needed my high bar score,” Duran said. “I’m definitely thankful for it.”

Minnesota’s next competition will be the Winter Cup in Las Vegas. It will take place on Thursday and Saturday. 

Wiskus said defeating Illinois is the biggest highlight of Minnesota’s season so far.

“It’s been a while since we’ve beat them,” Wiskus said. “They’re ranked higher than us. Being able to go out there [and] beat them with some mistakes here and there just feels good.”