Illini gymnasts reach finals

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Illinois men's gymnastics team on Thursday qualified for Friday night's NCAA team finals, the ninth straight season the Illini have been one of the final six teams.

The Illini were one of three teams to advance from Thursday's afternoon qualifying session, posting their second-highest score of the season at 356.000 to tie Penn State for the runner-up spot. Top-ranked Oklahoma had the top score at 363.500.

The team and all-around finals begin at 6 Friday night at St. John Arena.

"Today we did what we expected to do," Illini coach Justin Spring said. "We had a really rough start on high bar, and I was very impressed with the way we regained our focus."

The UI's high bar effort produced one top-eight finisher (Jordan Valdez at 14.500), but the Illini responded by posting their third-highest score of the season in floor exercise (59.900). They were led by Chad Wiest, who was third (15.450).

On pommel horse, Illinois' Daniel Ribeiro and Yoshi Mori finished 1-2 in the session with scores of 15.600 and 15.000, respectively. Cameron Rogers tied for sixth, and C.J. Padera was eighth.

The Illini later recorded season highs on rings (59.400) and parallel bars (60.550).

Tyler Mizoguchi led the way with a ninth-place finish on rings, and he was second while tying his career high on parallel bars (15.550). Valdez and Wiest tied for fifth on bars at 15.050, a career high for each gymnast.

Minnesota (346.850) was fourth, followed by Air Force (340.700) and UIC (340.000).

Three more teams advanced from Thursday's late session to join the Illini, Sooners and Nittany Lions in Friday night's team finals.

The top 10 finishers in each event from Friday night's team finals will qualify for the event finals Saturday night.

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