Sixth-ranked gymnasts fall at home to No.2 Illinois

After a somewhat shaky week of practice, the sixth-ranked Gophers men’s gymnastics team fell to second-ranked Illinois on Saturday 222.250-220.325 at the Sports Pavilion.
The Illini won four of the six events, thanks largely to senior Travis Romagnoli. Romagnoli won the high bars and vault (tied with teammate Linh Hoang) and took second in the pommel horse.
Romagnoli was the all-around NCAA champion in 1998 but was unable to compete last season because of an injury.
Despite the loss, Minnesota coach Fred Roethlisberger was impressed with his team’s response to Illinois.
“With the start of school and everything, we were struggling all week, and today was halfway decent,” he said. “You couldn’t expect that we would do as well as we did.”
Freshman Clay Strother competed in all six events for the Gophers, taking second in the all-around (53.775) behind Romagnoli (55.3). Strother also won the floor exercise with a meet-high score of 9.775.
But Strother might have been deeper in the standings had it not been for a little improvisation to cover a mistake in one of his routines.
“Clay is just fabulous for a freshman,” Roethlisberger said. “The way he adjusted from his routine with ease; it could’ve been a catastrophe.”
Strother wasn’t the only Minnesota gymnast with solid results. Senior Chad Conner won the parallel bars (9.5) and took third in the high bars and pummel horse.
“We very possibly could beat this team,” Strother said. “I had a rough meet today.”
Junior Bob Goss won the pommel horse for the Gophers with a score of 9.65.
The Gophers trailed 149.550-147.175 with two events remaining when Conner and senior Lindsay Fang took first and second (9.5 and 9.45 respectively) in the parallel bars.
Illinois then sealed the meet when Romagnoli and teammate Bob Spelic posted a 9.7 and 9.4 respectively in the high bars. Five of six Illini scored 9.0 or above in the event.
Illinois’ S.P. Crawford also turned in a solid performance overall, tying for second in the floor exercise and still rings and tying for third in the vault. He averaged a score of 9.38 in the three events.
Despite Illinois’ strong showing, for a moment it appeared as though the Gophers won the meet. Minutes after the final event concluded, the posted score read: Minnesota 223.255, Illinois 222.250.
The crowd’s initial cheer soon faded, however, when the correct score was announced.
Roethlisberger was never in doubt of who won.
“Everything was correct; the announcement was correct, they just had the decimal point in the wrong place,” he said.
Saturday’s meet came after Minnesota finished fifth of six teams in the annual Windy City meet in Chicago on Jan. 15. The meet featured tough competition from the Big Ten, including top-ranked Michigan.While Minnesota is ranked sixth, five other Big Ten teams preced it in the national rankings.
Leading Minnesota was Strother, who scored a season-high 9.8 in the floor exercise (second overall) and finished ninth in the all-around with a score of 54.2.
The Gophers continue their season next Saturday when they host Iowa at noon.