Boys gymnastics: Libertyville rolls to sectional championship
It had been a very long time since the Libertyville boys gymnastics program hosted an IHSA sectional.
But the host Wildcats definitely looked right at home Wednesday night, and they took full advantage of the situation by rolling to the sectional championship with a now state-high 159.75 points in what was the second of five sectionals to be contested.
Now, Libertyville heads to the 68th Annual IHSA state meet next week at Hoffman Estates, where the Wildcats will join fellow sectional champ Niles West (159.05) in the Elite Eight field.
Lyons Township already has the inside track to one of the three at-large team berths to state after scoring a 154.8 at its own sectional on Tuesday.
At Libertyville, Downers Grove North edged Wheaton co-op 148.3 to 148.1 for second place. But both of those squads will probably be on the bubble as far as earning one of the final two at-large team berths to the Elite Eight field.
Highland Park easily locked up fourth place Wednesday with 140.05 points while Fremd placed fifth with 134.6 points.
The top five individuals in each event advanced to the state meet next Saturday while the top three all-arounders will compete next Friday. At-large qualifiers will also compete on both days.
Libertyville senior standout Matthew Richardson soared to the all-around title with 55.15 points (9.19 average) to lead the Wildcats while Downers Grove North junior Aaron Heppner (53.2) placed third overall.
Wheaton co-op's Cade Houlihan (52.8) nipped Libertyviile's Max Faber (52.5) for fourth place in the all-around.
"Our main focus has been pommel horse, and we probably had a four-point jump on pommel horse," said Libertyville coach Josh Cimo, who was ecstatic after the meet. "Overall we really pulled it together as a collective team, and we only had two falls overall."
Wheaton co-op's Rodrigo Ruiz placed seventh overall followed by Mundelein's Will Ferro in eighth, Barrington's Braedon Wever in 11th, and Fremd's Lukas Styzcen in 12th.
"Everyone hit their pommel horse routine tonight which we've been working on for the last week and a half so that was good to see," said Richardson, who is competing in his first and only season of high school gymnastics. "We want to try to win state, and if we hit all of the routines at state that is what matters the most for us."
Downers Grove North's Jonah Kopecky placed 13th overall to help bolster the Trojans' team scoring. Fremd teammates Yuto Nakagawa and Darien Goodchild placed 14th and 15th respectively.
"We did really well. We were hoping to score 150, and for the most part our kids were hitting their sets," said Downers Grove North assistant coach Billy Hois. "Aaron (Heppner) had a very good meet, and one of the shining stars we had on rings was Sam Goedert (8.85)."
Wheaton co-op coach Greg Gebhardt was also very pleased with his team's performance.
"I thought we performed very well on floor exercise, high bar, and still rings," Gebhardt said. "Cade (Houlihan) hit 6-for-6 tonight, and Rodrigo (Ruiz) also had a really good meet."
Mundelein did not have a full lineup due to injuries, but Ferro continued to excel for the Mustangs.
"Will had his best meet tonight, and he's been a big part of the team for several years," said Mundelein coach Jesse Piland, whose team placed fifth at state last year. "It's been a good senior year for him, and hopefully he'll have a chance to do more at the state meet."
Richardson won floor (9.65), and high bar (9.25) while Faber and Heppner tied for first on still rings with a 9.3. Houlihan (8.9) tied for second on high bar while Wever and Houlihan (9.0) tied for third on floor.
Libertyville's Tyler Kukla (8.85) placed fourth on still rings while sophomore teammate Robert Cartwright (9.1) tied for fourth on vault.
"Matthew Richardson had a great meet along with Tyler and Max," added Cimo. "And they were just a strong trio throughout the meet."