Boys gymnastics: Mundelein, Downers Grove North get sectionals started in style
The first of five boys gymnastics sectional meets turned out to be a very good one Tuesday night at Mundelein, as two teams put themselves in a good position to reach the 67th state meet.
As expected, the host Mustangs captured the championship of the eight-team meet with 155.95 points to automatically advance to the 22nd Elite Eight in program history on May 11 at Hoffman Estates.
Runner-up Downers Grove North put itself in a pretty good position to earn one of the three at-large team berths to the Elite Eight meet with 151.45 points, while Willowbrook (144.95 points) took home third place behind all-around champion Adam Sousa with 54.7 points (9.12 average).
The Trojans will now have to wait out the remaining four sectionals and hope their score of 151.45 holds up through the final qualifying meet, which will be held Saturday afternoon at Lyons.
Rolling Meadows easily locked up fourth place with 140.05 points and Barrington (129.85) placed fifth.
Rolling Meadows junior Ben Kowalski had a career-high 54.4 points (9.07 average) to place second overall in the all-around, while Mundelein was ready to rise to the occasion right out of the blocks Tuesday by scoring 50.55 points on its first two events (pommel horse and still rings).
The Mustangs' senior duo of Kurt Lawrence (53.9) in third, and Tyler Collins (52.5) in fifth paved the way to victory. Downers Grove North's great effort was led by senior all-arounder Lukas Elisha (53.3) in fourth overall.
Sophomore Aaron Hepper placed sixth overall for the Trojans while Mundelein junior Will Ferro placed eighth.
Collins was barely recognizable wearing contact lenses instead of his trademark glasses, but he may go back to his familiar look for the state meet.
"I think I'm going to be going back to the goggles for state," said Collins, who recently scored 53.3 points at the Independent Conference meet. "We had some areas that were really good tonight, but we definitely have room to grow for state."
Mundelein coach Jesse Piland was pleased with how his team responded to the pressure and expectations.
"Not by any means was it our best meet, but it was a really solid team meet, and we just kept plugging away," said Piland. "We have a week and a half to get it all worked out. The guys responded really well to the home crowd and the home equipment, and they were excited."
The top five placers in each event automatically advance to state along with the top three all-arounders. Ten at-large all-arounders, and 25 at-large individuals in each event, will also advance to state.
Cary-Grove senior Luka Sisauri only competed in four events after breaking his arm last July. But he is still expected to make a huge impact at state after winning pommel horse as a freshman and a sophomore, winning high bar as a junior, and placing third in the all-around as a junior.
"I was going to do all-around, but I haven't done much on high bar or still rings ever since I broke my arm," said Sisauri, whose father Levan is now coaching men's gymnastics at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. "I'm confident I'll make it to the finals (at state), and we'll see what happens from there."
Casey Mahoney is now coaching Sisauri, along with three other gymnasts from Crystal Lake Central and Prairie Ridge.
Downers Grove North is hoping to return to the Elite Eight for the first time in six years.
"It was a great meet overall -- the kids stepped up, and we had one kid out on three events," said Downers Grove North coach Tony Ciezadlo. "Elisha did well in the all-around, going about four for six, and if we're the eighth team so be it just to get experience at the state meet."
After placing fourth in the state all-around as a sophomore and taking a one-year hiatus from competing in the IHSA, Sousa should be on the top of his game for his final state meet.
"He should definitely do very well next week," said Willowbrook coach Caleb Strejc. "And since we're the first sectional, he has a lot of time to prepare for state."
According to Rolling Meadows coach Mike Costa, Kowalski has saved his best meets of the season for last. He was the Mid-Suburban League's all-around champ last week and improved on that performance.
"Ben went 6-for-6 tonight for sure," Costa said. "And it was the best meet of his career."
Sousa won floor (9.35), still rings (9.2), and vault (9.45) while Kowalski won pommel horse (9.2) and parallel bars (9.25). Lawrence (9.5) soared to the high bar title.
Barrington's Alex Kim (sixth) figures to earn at at-large berth to state on rings, while teammate Braedon Wever (ninth overall) could also qualify on a few events.