COLUMBUS, Ohio — Justin Spring enjoyed every one of his four NCAA titles as a gymnast at Illinois.
Spring, however, is getting more of a kick coaching champions.
"To be completely honest, this is more fun," the Illinois coach said after two his gymnasts, Daniel Ribeiro and Tyler Mizoguchi, won NCAA titles Saturday night. "Seeing the emotional response to this kind of meet — knowing you helped them achieve a life goal — is just a fantastic feeling."
While Ribeiro tied for first in pommel horse (15.550) for his second NCAA title, Mizoguchi won his first by dominating parellel bars (15.200). Asked how he was going to celebrate, Mizoguchi said: "By sleeping all night. I'm exhausted. It's mentally draining. But it's all worth it."
The last to perform, Mizoguchi nervously watched the competition put up impressive scores.
"I thought to myself, 'Oh, man, this is more pressure than I thought,' " Mizoguchi said. "But it hit me as I was standing there: This is what I have trained so hard and so long for. I'm ready. And I went out and did it."
Ribeiro closed his Illinois career on a high note, saluting his parents in the stands at St. John Arena after completing his near-flawless routine.
"It shows that I have put in a lot of hard work and it has paid off," he said. "I pride myself on being a good competitor and being consistent and I have proven that this season."
The Illini finished third in the team finals Friday. A night later, the post-meet mood was lighter.
"The feeling was a little bittersweet (Friday) night," Spring said. "So this was a fantastic way to to finish. We have a lot to be proud of."
Anthony Sacramento (second on rings) and C.J. Padera (eighth on parallel bars) also earned All-America honors for Illinois.