The Independent Conference boys gymnastics opener proved to be a proving ground for host Libertyville and Mundelein on Tuesday night.
The visiting Mustangs took the equipment without top all-rounder Colin McCarthy, who missed the meet due to illness.
Libertyville wanted to make a big improvement from its first outing Saturday, and both squads showed that they are ready to be competitive this season with or without their top gymnasts.
Mundelein (1-0) won the dual meet with a solid 138.5 score, while the Wildcats made a quantum leap in improvement from their first meet with an impressive 130.8.
The Mustangs had already scored 140 and 145 in invitationals with the junior McCarthy in the lineup, while Libertyville (0-3, 0-1) struggled to a 111.7 in its season-opening double-dual meet last weekend.
Junior Cameron Mueller was one of many Mundelein gymnasts to step up, as he rolled to the all-around championship with 51.5 points.
Mueller's teammate, junior Jacob Petri, took second place (45.3 points) to edge Libertyville freshman Adrian Metcalf (45.0 points) in third place.
"I think I hit most of my routines, but I think I can improve a lot," said Mueller, who placed 24th overall in the state as a sophomore. "I think we're looking really good and I think we can get into the mid-150s by the end of the year because we have a lot of good third scores."
Mueller was the individual champion on five events, including still rings (8.9), vault (8.8), parallel bars (8.8), pommel horse (8.4) and high bar (8.2).
"I thought for sure he was going to score a little higher on still rings than an 8.9, but I guess not," said Mundelein coach Jesse Piland, whose team scored 24.9 points on vault. "Jacob started off on pommel horse, which is his worst event, and he got a 7.2 so that just pumped him up for the rest of the meet."
Metcalf took home first place on floor exercise with an 8.6, while adding a second-place 7.8 on parallel bars.
The Wildcats made huge improvements on both high bar (from 11.8 to 23.5) and pommel horse (from 14.5 to 22.2) to help boost their team score by 19.1 points compared to their first meet last Saturday.
"They hit all of their sets on high bar and that is almost a 20-point gain from our last meet, and we didn't change a thing with our routines," said Libertyville coach Josh Cimo, whose team scored 25.3 points on vault. "We're hitting our routines, we had a lot less falls, and they're eliminating their extra swings. Last weekend we struggled on our last two events, and today we did a lot better on parallel bars and high bar."
Libertyville's Jack Burke was the runner-up on floor exercise with an 8.5, followed by Mueller (8.4) in third. Burke added a second-place 8.4 on vault, while Petri and Metcalf tied for third with an 8.1.
The sidelined McCarthy placed 10th in the state as an all-rounder.
"I think the best benefit of a meet like this is the guys get to be a team and they learn how to compete without Colin here," said Piland, whose team placed seventh in the state last year. "I would give them a solid B or a B-plus. A lot of guys stepped it up without Colin here tonight."
Libertyville's Ryan Flores placed second on pommel horse with a 7.4, while Petri was runner-up on still rings with an 8.4. Petri. Libertyville's Ben Reichert (7.8) tied for second on high bar.
Reichert and Mundelein's Kevin Franz (6.6) tied for third on pommel horse, while Metcalf (6.9) placed third on still rings.
"We're still going to address some of the bigger errors in practice, but they cleaned up some of the small stuff," said Cimo. "(Metcalf) made a lot of big improvements, and he picked up some of the slack when other guys missed their routines."