CHAMPAIGN – Last year he helped Illinois reach an NCAA regional. Now Kurt Hettinger's contributing to a much younger gymnastics team.
The former Illini and Tuscola product coached the Champaign County YMCA boys' team to an impressive showing at last weekend's USAG State Meet Championship in Mundelein. More than 400 boys competed, and Champaign fielded the largest downstate team.
It was Hettinger's first state tournament as a coach.
"It was really exciting since, as coach, I have a little different program than what they used to do," he said. "To see them adjust to the way I coach and excel under my system is really exciting."
Hettinger's team took eight firsts, seven seconds and one third, advancing three boys to regional competition in April: Kyle Moe, Danny Lindsay and Dontiel Allison.
Hettinger, who graduated for the UI in December, said he'd like to keep coaching gymnastics.
"The kids did exceptionally well," he said. "Half of them had personal bests."