Boys gymnastics notes: Looking back at memorable night at Meadows invite

O say can you see? And hear?

Yes and yes.

Spectators were treated to a mix of delightful sights and sounds at Saturday night's 40th Vic Avigliano Mustang boys gymnastics invite at Rolling Meadows.

RM coach/bass crooner Mike Costa got things rolling with a resplendent rendition of the national anthem. He then barked, "Let's get it on! Let's go!"

Reigning state runner-up Lake Park took care of the visuals from there at the 11-team meet, performing championship routines in four of the six events en route to the team title (49.1 points).

Reigning state high-bar champ and Lancers junior Karl Vachlin thrilled the bleacherites with his wow-filled high-bar gig, particularly during his half-in-half-out (double salto with a single twist) dismount. He soared to a near-rafters elevation and hung around up there for what seemed like a minute.

It had "daring circus act" - minus a net - written all over it.

Vachlin earned an impressive 9.6, country miles ahead of the runner-up score of 7.7 turned in by Wheaton Co-op's Patrick Malone.

"His flying giant on high bar ... it's perfect," said Lake Park sophomore Bryce Mensik, the meet's champ on still rings (7.4). "We all look up to Karl, and he's always willing to help us out at practice."

LP senior Ryan Czech (vault, 9.0) and junior Luca Marzullo (floor exercise, 9.1) also collected gold for the champs at the unique competition, in which each gymnast executed only one routine.

Fremd freshman Kody Tokunaga topped the pommel-horse field with an 8.8, and Wheaton Co-op's Drew Berger took the parallel-bars title with a 7.2.

"I love it," Costa, using his deep speaking voice, said of the format. "It gives each guy an opportunity to focus on one event. If you're a pommel-horse specialist, this meet is for you."

What Costa was back in the day: a pommel-horse specialist.

Fremd finished second (43.15), followed by Wheaton Co-op (42.1), York (39.9), Niles West (37.5), Prospect (35.95), reigning state champion Palatine (35.5), Glenbard North (34.3), Schaumburg (33.65), Conant (33.3) and RM (27.55).

V is for Vic:

Former Rolling Meadows boys gymnastic coach Vic Avigliano certainly deserved a meet to be named after him.

"A genuine guy, truly respected and kind," Fremd coach Jason Brandenburg said of Avigliano, who guided the Mustangs to runner-up finishes at the 1989 and 1991 state meets.

"His passion for the sport of gymnastics - that's what I think of when I think of Vic," said Mustangs coach Mike Costa, who succeeded Avigliano in 2003.

Onward, Christian:

Former Palatine and Northern Illinois University gymnast Christian Lunsford, the 2018 Illinois Senior Gymnast of the Year, succeeded Scott Hagel as the Pirates' boys gymnastics coach this spring.

Hagel coached Palatine to state championships in 2007 and 2022.

"Huge shoes to fill," Lunsford said after Saturday night's 40th Vic Avigliano Mustang invite. "He connected so well with his gymnasts. I hope to be a fraction of the coach he was for the program."

Lunsford swung to a fourth-place state finish on still rings in his junior season.

Fresh starts:

Cody Bellinger. Kody Tokunaga.

The former is a first-year Chicago Cub, hoping to spray hits all over Wrigley Field and other ballparks. The latter is a Fremd gymnast, who's already a hit as a freshman.

The Viking gripped and rotated his way to a meet-best 8.8 on the pommel horse at the Vic Avigliano invite Saturday night.

"Kody has done such a nice job adjusting from club gymnastics (Gymkhana, in Hanover Park) to high school gymnastics," Fremd coach Jason Brandenburg said. "That's not always an easy thing to do.

"Kody," he added, "is very disciplined, very focused."

Frank(ly) speaking:

Lake Park boys gymnastics coach Frank Novakowski, after watching his talent-laden squad capture Saturday's early-season invite:

"We made four changes to our original lineup, so our guys showed a lot of resiliency tonight," he said. "Our team motto is 'We Are One.'

"Fun meet," the coach continued. "We look forward to it every year."

Silvers and golds at the Vic:

Floor exercise - Prospect's Andrew Littman (second, 8.7); York's Conor Campbell (third, 7.9).

Pommel horse - York's Renny Barnitz (second, 8.6); Wheaton Co-op's Jack Ongstad (third, 8.2).

Still rings - Fremd's Lukas Sciuckas (second, 7.25); Prospect's Jack Reed (third, 7.2).

Vault - Niles West's Patrick Nauman (second, 8.2); Fremd's Joseph Ferlita (third, 8.0).

Parallel bars - Lake Park's Nate Devitt (second, 6.8); Palatine's Ricardo Vital (third, 6.2).

High bar - Wheaton Co-op's Patrick Malone (second, 7.7); York's Trevor Rice (third, 7.6).

Other notable results:

Conant's Zhandos Duisheev and Matt Goolish finished fifth on floor (7.7) and vault (6.8), respectively; Elijah Barreiro paced RM with an eighth-place 5.6 on the parallel bars; Schaumburg's Keegan Creighton took fourth on rings (6.8); and a pair of Glenbard North Panthers - Jared Mejia (6.5, pommel horse) and Abdullah Almasoudi (6.7, rings) - each returned to Carol Stream with a fifth-place medal.


If Saturday's Vic Avigliano invite were a track and field event it would be a sprint race.

The meet lasted 49 minutes.

"Everybody gets to contribute to the team score," Fremd coach Jason Brandenburg said. "And a meet like this, with it being so different, is a good time. I told my gymnasts, 'Go out there and have some fun.'

"They did that," he continued, "but they also paid attention to the little things in their routines and worked on cleaning some things up along the way."

Remembering Julie:

Rolling Meadows coach Mike Costa introduced former University of Illinois gymnast and current Addison-based T-shirt supplier Ed Gombos, 85, to the spectators before the start of Saturday's Vic Avigliano invite.

Costa called Gombos "my T-shirt guy for 20 years."

Gombos manned his T-shirt table in RM's athletics lobby with a heavy heart Saturday night. His daughter Julie - a Lemont grade-school math teacher for 33 years - had died of cancer recently.

Gombos, holding a microphone, paid tribute to her and thanked all for their support.

The Illinois High School Girls Gymnastics Coaches Association honored Gombos with a "Special Appreciation Award" at the 2022 girls gymnastics state meet in Palatine.

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