The 62nd annual boys gymnastics state meet is shaping up to be a close one when the two-day competition gets under way Friday at Lincoln-Way East.
The Elite Eight team tournament along with the all-around championship begins at 6 p.m. with defending state champion Wheaton co-op looking like a heavy favorite to win the title again after posting a sectional-high score of 161.000.
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On Saturday, the preliminary round for the state individual championship begins at noon with the finals taking place at 7 p.m. using the standard two events at a time format.
After Wheaton co-op, Mid-Suburban League entry Conant appears to be the front-runner for the second place trophy as the Cougars scored 154.6 at their own sectional meet.
If Conant falters, it should be very interesting to see if sectional champions Mundelein or Downers Grove North can step up and topple the Cougars.
The Mustangs and the Trojans both posted 152.75 marks in their sectional meets so they will likely be battling it out for that coveted third-place trophy.
Stevenson returns to the state meet for the first time since winning the state title in 2010. The Patriots scored 149.3 points to win their own sectional and they do have a season-high 157.7 score to fall back on as a confidence booster.
The three at-large teams competing at state are Buffalo Grove (150.7), Hinsdale Central (148.7), and Lyons (147.85). Glenbrook North missed earning a berth to state by .05 points.
This weekend will mark the 20th time in school history that Mundelein is competing in the Elite Eight meet dating back to its first appearance under former coach Doug Foerch back in 1988.
Foerch guided the Mustangs downstate 14 times, winning six state crowns between 1989 and 2000. Foerch's Mundelein teams won nine top-three trophies.
Liva's brief run at Mundelein was a successful one as he went to state three times, taking second in 2003 and third in 2005.
Now, current coach Jesse Piland is making his third straight trip to the big meet with hopes of capturing that elusive top-three trophy.
"Most of that (20 trips to state) is because of Doug Foerch," Piland said. "I'm just happy I could kind of ride on his coat tails with good gymnasts coming into the school. Perry Wilhelm has really helped me as an athletic director by keeping the program going and obviously trusting in me to train the athletes, but I'm just a small part of it. We're going for a trophy and the third score will be the key."
Looking at the all-around competition Friday, Mundelein junior Colin McCarthy heads into the meet as the fourth-ranked overall gymnast based on their sectional scores. McCarthy placed 10th as a sophomore, but he has higher goals at the 2013 state meet.
"Hopefully I'll make the top three and the same applies for the team," McCarthy said. "I just have to keep my form and we have to hit our tricks and keep moving on. But not focus on our mistakes."
Besides McCarthy, the Mustangs have an abundance of junior contributors, including all-rounders Cameron Mueller (24th overall in 2012) and Jacob Petri.
Freshman Brandon Swanson proved to be a huge factor for Mundelein on many events at sectionals.
Stevenson's all-around trio of sophomore Arie Feltman-Frank, junior Jacob Guth and senior Kyle Weichselbaum has carried the Patriots' scoring all season.
The Pats got a pleasant surprise at sectionals when junior Christian Courtney stepped up as their second scorer on pommel horse.
If the Patriots can reach their potential like they did when they hit all 18 of their routines in a meet recently, they could make a push for a trophy too.
"If we hit our routines we can be in the 150s and our goal is to get a trophy at state," said Feltman-Frank, who placed 20th overall last year. "We just have to work on cleaning up our routines this week to get ready for state."