Boys gymnastics: Sisauri surprises with high bar title
It was a peaks-and-valleys kind of a performance for Cary-Grove junior Luka Sisauri Saturday night at the 66th annual boys gymnastics state meet.
But in the end, Sisauri walked away from the pressure-packed competition with a big smile, as he captured the state title on high bar with a score of 9.25 in the finals.
After Sisauri tied for first place in the state on pommel horse and won the state crown on pommel horse outright as a sophomore, the real shocker came Saturday night when a fall on pommel horse meant that he would have to settle for seventh place with an 8.6.
After placing third in the state all-around in his first all-around competition Friday night, Sisauri barely made the cutoff for the finals on high bar Saturday. His 8.45 mark in the preliminaries gave him one of the last two berths to finals with a 10th-place tie.
But Sisauri saved his best for last, as his career-high 9.25 gave him the championship by a narrow margin over runner-up Beau Herion (9.2) of Downers Grove South.
"I'm actually really excited right now. I never thought I would win this event," said Sisauri, who scored 54.15 points in the all-around on Friday. "The 9.25 was the highest I ever scored on this event. You have to just think like you are in practice and do your regular routine.
"I tried my best (on pommel horse). I was a little tired, but I'll come back and show them what I have next year."
Cary-Grove coach and Luka's father, Levan, could not have been happier and was somewhat surprised with the turn of events in Saturday night's finals.
"I thought he would win pommel horse and finish top three on high bar, and this year he hit all the requirements and he hit his release move on high bar," said Levan Sisauri, who knows his son still has some room to grow looking ahead to his senior year. "I think we need to improve more and more, and hopefully we stay clear of injuries and have good results to show."
Injuries played a role in this weekend's outcome, as less-than-full-strength Stevenson senior Matt Krames gutted out the meet with a first-degree separated shoulder and tendinitis.
After winning the state floor exercise championship as a junior, Krames gave it his all to try to capture back-to-back crowns. He settled for a second-place tie (9.55) with Glenbard West's Timmy Le. Palatine's Prakash Nigam took first place on floor with a 9.6.
Besides the tie for second, the Iowa-bound Krames also placed fourth on vault (9.25) and 13th on high bar.
"With the support of everybody here and the adrenaline pumping through my body I was able to push the pain aside," said Krames, who tied for ninth in the state all-around on Friday. "If I stuck my double-back (on floor) it would have been a little closer, but I'm proud of how I did."
Krames was a member of the Patriots' state title team as a sophomore and state runner-up squad as a freshman.
"To take four top 10s this weekend with the injury he had I'm definitely content with that," said Stevenson coach Joe Rogalski. "He's a tough guy and he doesn't want to make excuses. I even thought we would have to pull him from some events as injured as he is.
"He's a great leader, and I'm sad to see him go but really excited to see what he does next," added Rogalski. "He's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of gymnast, and in the end it was a blessing he didn't make state on still rings and pommel horse that hurt (his shoulder)."
Elgin senior Nolan Williamson overcame a fractured neck in the off-season to become the first Maroons gymnast to win the state all-around title Friday with 54.65 points (after placing 13th in the state all-around as a junior).
Willamson struggled a in the Saturday finals, but he still took home fifth-place medals on floor exercise (9.35) and vault (9.2).
"I came in here with the mindset that I wanted to win, so that was a fun competition (Friday)," said Williamson, who will participate in cheerleading next year at the University of Kentucky. "Floor exercise was a little disappointing because I know I could have done better. But I got on the podium (twice), which is more than some people can say.
"(Elgin coach Steve Merena) has been with me since the very beginning," Williamson added. "He's pushed me through when I was doing bad and kept me going. I love the man."
Merena was elated with Williamson's performance this weekend. He knows his top gymnast met his full potential. Williamson was also the state champ on high bar last year.
"It was sensational for a kid to come back from injury and win the state all-around title. I'm just so proud of him," said Merena, whose son Steve took second on parallel bars in 2014. "Because of the injuries, he wasn't able to work out as consistently, so he didn't have the endurance, and tonight that caught up with him. But it was wonderful to watch, and it was great to have him as a gymnast."
Mundelein senior Greg Godellas settled for ninth on pommel horse (8.3) after a fall in the finals, while junior teammate Tyler Collins placed 11th on high bar.
"Our goal this year was definitely to bring home a state medal for Greg, but in this sport you have to be perfect three times in a row on one weekend," said Mundelein coach Jesse Piland. "If he (Collins) improves as much as he did this year next year, he will come to state with more than one medal on his mind next year."
Libertyville senior A.J. Jacob also closed out his career on a high note as he placed ninth in the state on high bar with an 8.55.
"We had four guys come to state and it was the best high bar routine A.J. ever did today in the prelims and in the finals," said Libertyville coach Josh Cimo. "Overall, they did a fantastic job the last week in the gym and they walked around as one unit as a team."
Williamson was named senior gymnast of the year, while Palatine coach Scott Hagel was named coach of the year. Grayslake North senior Daniel O'Donnell placed 26th in the state all-around on Friday.