Boys gymnastics: Successful comeback day at Avigliano Invite
It was comeback time at the 38th annual Viv Avigliano Mustang Invitational Saturday in Rolling Meadows.
Rolling Meadows' Ben Kowalski and Schaumburg's Oscar Kulesza suffered major injuries this past summer and their return to boys gymnastics this season was in doubt for both of them. The pair recently returned to practice and have participated in meets for their respective teams.
On Saturday, both showed they are back in form.
Kowalski won the floor exercise with a career-best 9.50 while Kulesza won the parallel bars, also with a career-best 9.50.
Kowalski broke his hand and had surgery and wasn't sure if he would be able to return this season. After the hand fully healed, he worked his way back into the Mustang lineup.
"I had a home meet advantage," Kowalski said. "I practice on this floor every day."
"He has done this routine forever," said Rolling Meadows assistant coach Eric Rosenwald, who is also injured after tearing his labrum spotting. "He just constantly works on one part to make it better and better."
Rosenwald was stepping in for Rolling Meadows head coach Mike Costa, who missed his first Mustang meet since becoming head coach in 2010. Costa will make his comeback on April 1 after tearing his ACL.
Kulesza had a tough summer, fracturing his back. He sat out club season to heal and get ready for the high school season. That was delayed when he came down with the flu.
Nearing 100 percent, he returned to action three weeks ago and showed his stuff on the parallel bars.
"I am just getting back into everything right now," Kulesza said. "I just worked hard to get back and especially on my p-bar routine because that is my favorite."
It was also a career night for other winning gymnasts.
Glenbard West's Abu Syed won the rings with an 8.75 while Wheaton co-op's Marty Franz won the pommel horse with a 7.70.
Syed explained that he had to keep the knee bends out of his routine to score well.
"The coaches said I needed not to bend my knees, so I focused on keeping them straight," Syed said. "I am very proud of my routine. It was very nice to be able to show off what I have."
Franz has become a specialist for Wheaton. He was also happy to show off what he could do.
"My pommel horse was good, " said Franz, who then explained in detail each skill he threw during his routine.
"And I landed my dismount perfectly. It was great."
Franz's teammate Cade Houlihan won the high bar with a 9.40.
"I have been hitting the set consistently," Houlihan said. "I upped my start value with some new skills so hopefully I can improve my score."
Palatine freshman Trey Wilcox won the vault with an 8.90.
"It was weird," Wilcox said. "I have never done it that well to win. I didn't think I was going to win but my score held up."
Also holding up was Schaumburg, which won the meet with a score of 48.65. The Avigliano Mustang Invite only allows a team to have one participant in each event and no participant can compete in more than one event.
"We are not 100 percent but we are getting better," Schaumburg coach Erik Bostrom said. "We are over the flu and getting better after a few injuries. We are trying to get where we need to be in the second half of the season."
York and Glenbard West tied for second with a 48.25. Wheaton co-op was fourth with a 48.15 and was followed by Palatine's 46.65.