Boys gymnastics: Palatine sends retiring coach out with state championship
It wasn't a bang. It was more like an explosion.
Palatine sent retiring coach Scott Hagel out in style Saturday at the boys state gymnastics finals in Hoffman Estates.
The Pirates scored a school-record 164.85 to give Scott Hagel, who is stepping down after 22 years as head coach, the ultimate parting gift.
"We left it all out there," said Hagel, whose team previously won a state title in 2007.
"To break the school record in the state meet, I would never have dreamed of that. These guys put it all together when they had to. It has been a dream that it would end like this. Plus add in a state all-around champ and senior gymnast of the year. It is a dream come true."
Lake Park finished second with 158.45 and Lyons rallied for third with a 158.45 to finish just ahead of Prospect, which was fourth with a 148.70. Host Hoffman Estates, making its first appearance at the state finals with fifth with a 147.55.
Downers Grove North was sixth with a 145.35, Hinsdale Central seventh with a 145.25 and Wheaton co-op was eighth with a 143.50 to round out the field.
Palatine's trio of John Pirone, Trey Wilcox and Dominic Filichia were amazing again for the Pirates. Competing as all-rounders on Friday, they combined to score 163.75 points. All of which did not count to Saturday's team final.
So the triumvirate roared back with a vengeance, accounting for all the points in Saturday's title run.
"For lots of us, we started together at the park district," said Filichia, who is a senior co-captain and helped the Pirates to a third-place finish last season.
"And now we get to wrap it up with an awesome first place. The community we have together as a team is very special."
Wilcox, who is also a senior co-captain, along with Pirone, came away with personal honors as well in the state individual finals.
Wilcox won the state title in the parallel bars with a 9.75. He also tied Pirone and Buffalo Grove's Benjamin Valak on the pommel horse with a 9.45.
"It was great day," Wilcox said. "Actually a great couple of days. We are all super excited and happy we could do this for Hagel and for ourselves."
Pirone, who is a junior, had a huge weekend. After winning the state all-around title on Friday, he added a state team trophy, a pommel horse title along with winning the floor with a 9.55 and the rings with a 9.25.
"This is nothing that I thought it would be," Pirone said. "It is going to stick with me forever. It was so exciting all weekend long."
Lake Park came away with the first boys gymnastics trophy in school history. The Lancers had finished fifth twice before the second-place finish on Saturday.
"We had a rough start," Lake Park coach Frank Nowakowski said. "But we rebounded and had five strong events after that. They set a lot of records this season. We worked hard all season an look where we ended up."
Lake Park was led by Karl Vachlin, who won the high bar with a 9.55.
"I am so happy," Vachlin said. "It has been a great day, a first-place medal and second-place trophy. That looks good."
Lyons was able to overcome the loss of two of its gymnasts to the national club competition to come away with a third-place finish. Lions coach Sam Zeman was impressed with his team's fortitude.
"It was a hard fought one," Zeman said. "I couldn't be more proud of everything they have done. The could have folded, but they stayed right on target."
By finishing fourth, Prospect had its highest finish since the 1967-68 season when it finished third in the state.
"We are more than ecstatic," Prospect coach Julian Bassler said. "This is the best group of guys I could ever wish for."
Hoffman Estates' fifth-place finish brought tears of joy from coach Ryan Brown Jr. The Hawks had great support from their home fans, who were watching them compete as a team against the best competition in the state.
"This is one of the great moments in my life," Brown said. "My son is here to watch. Our boys did an amazing job today. Better than I could have even managed and I couldn't be more proud."
Valak ended up a terrific weekend for himself. The senior, who finished third in the state in the all-around on Friday and tied for the pommel horse, also won the vault with a 9.50. Valak hit the medal stand in every event.
"I had one last year," said Valak, who won the parallel bars title a year ago.
"I was hoping to have the same title. But it is great accomplishment to come away with titles in two other events."