Scouting DuPage County boys gymnastics
Top local teams: Downers Grove North, Glenbard West, Hinsdale Central, Naperville North, Wheaton co-op, York.
Top gymnastics: Matthew Cihlar (Hinsdale Central, so., all-around), Charlie Cripe (York, sr., all-around), Alexander Demeris (Glenbard West., sr., all-around), Aaron Heppner (Downers Grove North, sr., all-around), Cade Houlihan (Wheaton co-op, sr., all-around), Jonah Kopecki (Downers Grove North, jr., all-around), Danny Saldana (Willowbrook, sr., all-around), Matt Scimeca (Lake Park, sr., all-around), Mateusz "Matt" Wojdak (Addison Trail, jr., all-around).
Outlook: Addison Trail hopes to compete for a West Suburban Conference championship with a young group and a few veterans after placing second last season. Junior Matt Wojdak has gone to state on floor his first two seasons. The Blazers will rely heavily on his all-around contributions and senior multi-event specialists, Jakub Sitko and Caleb Michaliska.
Downers Grove North coach Tony Ciezadlo said the Trojans hope to make it to state as a team and they have a shot, with all-arounders Aaron Heppner and Jonah Kopecki leading the way along with senior specialists Ethan Hall and Tommy Vodak and freshman Anthony Nicholas. "We are looking forward to a great season," Ciezadlo said. "All our top gymnasts have returned and we should start where we left off last year."
Downers Grove South finished with a 109.2 at sectionals last year. Senior Julian Perez and sophomore Michael Francisco return for a squad that coach Bill Norris is hopeful can be competitive in conference.
Fenton is working hard and developing skills for newcomers Angel Flores and Alejandro Ramirez while increasing skills for returnees, sophomores Justin Dickenson and Elvis Sanabria and senior Michael Hitt.
Glenbard East kids continue to have strong interest in the sport and will rely heavily on seniors Haround Aldaas, Jose Gonzalez and O.J. Miles, a two-time state qualifier, to lead to way. The team was in the low 130s a season ago but will need to replace some key contributors who either graduated or elected not to return.
Glenbard North is forced to adjust after likely losing Brandon Dao for his senior year due to a knee injury. The Panthers were set for Dao, Miguel Nolasco and Don Ochowicz to lead the way. "We're just going to have to pull together and make the best out of this situation," Panthers coach Dennis Wellman said. Fortunately, the Panthers welcome a talented freshman, Dan Housour.
Glenbard South doesn't have any newcomers. Mark Johnson, a state qualifier on vault, and Val Saboriendo, an all-arounder, return to lead the Raiders.
Glenbard West has arguably the best gymnast in the state, senior Alexander Demeris, whose five individual championships are the most in program history. He won the all-around, floor, high bar and parallel bars at state last year. The question for the Hilltoppers is where they'll get their remaining scores. Senior parallel bars specialist Charlie Denenberg is among a mix of about a half dozen returnees, but the Hilltoppers also lost some guys to graduation. Look for Aiden Sup, Grant Williams and Luis Garcia to step up.
Hinsdale Central has a fantastic sophomore all-around score coming from Matthew Cihlar while Conor Furlong, Youssof Hamad, John Hohe, Koby Turrentine and Herbert Wang are among the Red Devils returning with postseason experience.
Hinsdale South welcomes back seniors Anthony Anderson, Elijah Banks and Tyler Jannenga and juniors Henry Mihindu and Elijah Lashley. All but Jannenga (pommel horse) are all-arounders.
Lake Park welcomes back Matt Scimeca, but the Lancers have to figure some things out around him under new coach Jake Luketin. Freshmen Ryan Czeck and Joel Schellinger are key. Luketin will know more about the outlook of the team after a couple weeks of practice.
Naperville Central returns senior all-arounders Ryan Belanger and David Majka and junior specialist Tim Froelich. Sophomore all-arounders Andrew Bajek, Nathan Janke and Ryan Schaefer move up from the JV squad for new coach Daniel Bajek.
Naperville North should receive a nice shot in the arm with the arrival of freshmen John Blakey and Avi Sharon, combining their talents with seniors James Mathusek and Colin Geraghty and juniors Ethan He and Joe Sciabica. Huskies coach Chris Stanicek said the season looks promising. "The freshmen will add a dimension to the team that will make us more competitive than in previous years."
Wheaton co-op has a talented group of experienced seniors in all-arounders Jose Correa, Cade Houlihan and Tyrine Nkhoma, specialists Marty Franz and Hsar Lwen and junior all-arounders Tony Tarpeh and Andy Votava. Add in junior Cole Dudley and sophomore Eduardo Ruiz and the team also has depth.
Willowbrook is looking for big seasons from its senior class, including all-arounders Noah Pull, Lisandro Ramirez, Danny Saldana and specialist Erin Rosario while Jorge Ibarra is a new addition. "We definitely have a lot of hard work ahead of us if we are going to get close to the team score we were reaching last year," Warriors coach Caleb Strejc said.
York will be fun to watch with senior all-arounder Charlie Cripe back. While Patrick Kimbler is not returning, watch out for freshman Renny Barnitz, junior Luc DeGrace, as well as senior Dom Milazzo, once he's cleared from injuries. Dukes were a 130s team a season ago.
No area individuals have confirmed they will represent their schools this spring, although Timothy Christian senior Scotty Schnurr and Neuqua Valley junior Michael Baren, who was sixth in the state in the all-around last May, are not competing.
-- Chris Walker