Top local teams: Downers Grove North, Glenbard North, Glenbard West, Hinsdale Central, Lake Park, Wheaton co-op, York.
Top meets: District 87 Meet at Glenbard East, March 7; Foerch Invite at Palatine, March 9; Neil Krupicka Invite at Hinsdale Central, March 15; Lake Park Invite, March 22; Vic Avigliano Invite at Rolling Meadows, March 23; Canino Invitational at Hinsdale Central, April 5; Fred Dennis Invite at Addison Trail, April 6; Ed Raymond Invite at Conant, April 12; Donaldson Invite at Wheaton Warrenville South, April 13; Ken Scorza Invite at York, April 13; DuPage Valley Conference Meet at Glenbard East, April 19; West Suburban Silver Meet at TBA, April 26; IHSA sectionals, TBA; IHSA state at Lincoln-Way East, May 10-11.
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Top gymnasts: Mac Allen (Sr., Lake Park, all-around), Chris Avvisati (Sr., Lake Park, all-around), Ryan Alsip (Jr., Hinsdale South, all-around), Evan Baird (Fr., Downers Grove South, all-around), Sam Bode (So., York, all-around), Joey Brauer (Sr., Glenbard South, all-around), John Cummins (Sr., Glenbard North, all-around), Dom Delgrosso (Jr., Naperville Central, all-around), Ryan Durkin (Fr., Naperville Central, all-around), Sam Flory (Sr., Lake Park, all-around), Danny Heller (Sr., Wheaton co-op, all-around), TJ Kennedy (So., Glenbard North, all-around), Charlie Kummerer (Sr., Glenbard West, still rings, pommel horse, vault, parallel bars), David MacDonald (Jr., Wheaton co-op, all-around), John Schubert (Sr., Downers Grove North, all-around), Strah Sopcic (Jr., Downers Grove North, all-around), Paul Steger (Sr., Glenbard South, all-around), Eli Quahhaar (Sr., Glenbard South, all-around), Sam Hamilton (Sr., Hinsdale Central, still rings, parallel bars, pommel horse), Ethan Sansone (Jr., Wheaton co-op, all-around), Brian Thompson (Sr., Hinsdale Central, all-around), Keawe Winstead (So., Willowbrook, all-around), Perry Zumbrook (Jr., Glenbard West, all-around).
Outlook: The defending state champion lost some key gymnasts to graduation, but Wheaton Warrenville co-op still has plenty of talent to build around with junior all-arounder Ethan Sansone leading the way. Plus, the team picked up an extremely talented newcomer in junior Dave MacDonald, a club gymnast who wanted to give high school gymnastics a shot and represent his school. With those two key all-around scores, two of the best in the state, Wheaton co-op already has a fantastic foundation. Plus, with Danny Heller, who placed third on high bar last year, as well as Max Jurkowski, Austin Peabody, Conner Ritchie and Evan Murray they do have a plethora of experienced gymnasts back from last year's team, as well as a nice mix of newcomers. "This team has the potential to return to the state meet," Wheaton co-op coach Greg Gebhardt said. "It just depends on the health and progression of the team as a whole."
Downers Grove North is going to have to find a third scorer in each event if it hopes to have another state berth. The team is blessed to have senior Johnny Schubert and junior Strah Sopcic. Schubert had top 10 finishes on parallel bars, high bar and vault last year while Sopcic took fourth on still rings. "We have the potential to make state again this year," Trojans coach Al Bekkedal said. "Low 150s is the team's goal."
Brian Bekkedal's Downers Grove South squad has had nowhere near the amount of success of his father's team at North, but the Mustangs have reason to be excited thanks to returnees Zach Cipra, Robert Morris and Jake Wilson. "Really looking forward to this season," Bekkedal said. "Some of our key players worked very hard in the off-season and I'm excited to see what we can do as a team. I think we can be competitive in our conference as the season goes on."
York could be one of the surprise teams. The Dukes return plenty of talent, including sophomore Sam Bode, who had the fifth-best all-around score in the state last spring among freshmen. "We're definitely ready to jump," York coach Steve Geuss said. "I think we're a team that will be around 135 and could maybe sneak into the 140s." The Dukes, like many teams, will likely take awhile to get going. Some of it's because of injuries as John Dicianni is sidelined with a broken collarbone and Geuss doesn't know when he'll be cleared to return. It's particularly disappointing since Geuss confirmed that Dicianni did a lot of off-season training at Aerial Gymnastics in Downers Grove. Still, Bryce Simpson is back, as are Vince Gunthe, Matt Flynn, who was a state qualifier on floor, and rings/pommel horse specialist Alec Cavanaugh.
Bruce Beiersdorf has come out of retirement to coach Glenbard East. He has seven seniors back, including Joey Brauer and Tyler Hlousek. "There is strong leadership from the seniors," Beiersdorf said. "They are working hard to bring up the team's level of competition. The hard work they are putting in the workouts now will be evident in their competition as the season progresses."
Glenbard North appears to be the strongest of the District 87 schools; the team didn't lose any contributing scorers from last year's squad. Sophomore TJ Kenendy had a great debut season last spring after taking some time away from the sport. Last year was more relearning for Kennedy, who still managed to place sixth in the state on vault. He could be one of the top all-arounders in the state now. Seniors John Cummins and Derrek Nguyen will need to have big seasons if the Panthers hope to be among the elite teams when all is said and done. Sophomore all-arounder Gino Simone and freshman Luke Meister will look to make an impact as well. "We think we have a good shot at making it to state this year," Glenbard North coach Michael Crissie said. "It depends on how healthy we can stay."
Glenbard South coach Steve Young believes he has a team that could turn some heads. The team welcomes the return of Paul Steger, Eli Quahhaar and Eugene Boguslavsky, as well as senior Nick Maruyama, who didn't compete last year. "We would like to score enough points, 143 plus, to place in the top eight teams and make history by being the first team at South to qualify as a team to state," Young said.
Glenbard West lost all-around champion Alex Diab, who had announced last year that he would leave the high school team after his freshman season. The Hilltoppers will undoubtedly miss him but still should be very competitive with specialist Charlie Kummerer and all-arounder Perry Zumbrook returning to lead a talented group of specialists. "This team has the pieces in place to qualify for state as a team," Glenbard West coach Frank Novakowski said.
Hinsdale Central found a way to replace the scoring void left by Tyler Leahy's graduation -- land another standout gymnast. Senior Brian Thompson, who has competed in the club Junior Olympic program as well as through the Premier Gymnastics Club, has joined the Red Devils. All-arounder Jack Schmidt and specialists Alex Gelz, Sam Hamilton and senior captain Aidan Jones also return. Hinsdale South only returns three seniors but has a solid class of juniors, including last year's team MVP, Ryan Alsip. Junior all-arounder Eddie Murphy and specialists Lane Tong, Gino Blando and Austin Allen also return for the Hornets.
Freshman Ryan Durkin should make a huge impact at Naperville Central. He'll be a welcome addition to the Redhawks and will teammate up with junior Dom Delgrosso to give the team a pair of all-around scores. The team will rely on a wide range of specialists to attempt to increase its score into the 130s this spring. "Ryan Durkin has a strong gymnastics background and will challenge and add support to current all-arounder Dom Delgrosso," Redhawks coach Glen Reimers said. "Specialists will round out the lineup in each event." Naperville North won't look the same without Billy Suta competing. Suta placed fourth in the all-around last year and was second on high bar and still rings. "We will be rebuilding throughout the year," Huskies coach Brad Foerch said. "Key losses of three gymnasts to injury will hurt our depth." Sophomores Brandon Louise and Tom Peterson both qualified for state on vault and will certainly boost the team's vault score. Seniors Akshay Harisparad and Evan Todd also will see a lot of action.
Addison Trail lost a handful of state qualifying seniors from last year and has a thin senior class this spring. "There is a strong group of sophomores and juniors who have put in a lot of work in the offseason to prepare themselves for this year," Blazers coach Mike Galfi said. "Hopefully, as the season develops, we will begin developing state qualifying routines for these individuals. Senior Aaron DelaCruz, a four-event specialist, and juniors Akash Patel and Marco Martinez are the team's top three returnees.
-- Chris Walker