MSL East a wide open race
The Mid-Suburban East boys gymnastics teams are hoping to rise as well as they did a year ago.
The East produced a pair of teams last year that advanced to the state meet. Both Rolling Meadows and Hersey did well, finishing seventh and eighth, respectively, at the state meet a year ago.
This year both of those teams, along with the rest of the East, will have to dig deep to get back to the team state finals, which are scheduled for May 15-16 at Hoffman Estates. It will also be a wide open contest for the conference title.
Rolling Meadows, which was making its first state final appearance since 1993, also had tremendous success in the MSL East last year. The Mustangs won the East title and will have the toughest route after the Mustangs graduated Ben Kowalski, who tied for third in the state in the all-around last year.
"We have an enormous amount of talented athletes," Rolling Meadows coach Michael Costa said. "It will take some time for routine and skill development, but we should be in a good position this year. We will make a good push by the end of the season."
Rolling Meadows will return all-arounders Mikal Dukes, Ryan Rettig and David Rasmusssen. That trio should help the Mustangs stay in contention this season.
Hersey was eighth at the state meet last year. The Huskies graduated Matt Bednar, who was 11th in the state in the all-around. Hersey could contend again if the Huskies' three all-arounders -- Garrett Naughton, who had four medals at the state meet last year including a third-place finish in the all-around, along with Jack Troyer and Adam Skrzypkowski -- can stay healthy and produce as expected.
"We have a small team this year, but we have good team chemistry," Hersey coach Joon Yun said. "We may not have a team as strong as last year, but we still have individuals that can qualify to state and finish strong. We will work hard to get first place in our conference."
Buffalo Grove, which was third in its sectional last year, will be looking to make a big push this season. The Bison will continue their tradition of loading up on specialists while having one or two all-arounders.
Ben Valak, who is a sophomore, should be one of those all-arounders. Holden Wheeler, who was 25th in diving at the state swimming and diving meet, will be making the transition to landing on a mat and will be the other all-arounder. Jesus Vizcarra and Eric Duenser, who both qualified for state as individuals, also return.
"We have a nice mix of new and experienced varsity members," Buffalo Grove coach Zack Crandall said. "We have a lot of potential for success. There is a great deal of talent within this team. Hopefully the guys will work hard to reach their potential over the course of the season, and we will continually improve all the way to the end.
Elk Grove continues to make great strides each season behind head coach Ryan Dengel. The Grens have already posted their highest opening score in 9 years in a meet last week. They are led by Evan Powel, who missed by a tenth of a point on the rings to qualify for state.
"This is a very young team," Dengel said. "With almost every gymnast on varsity competing in another sport, we have had so little time for offseason work. This team will definitely see growth throughout this season.:
Prospect finished fourth in its sectional last season. The Knights graduated Matthew Donzelli but will lean on Dillon McDaniel, Cole Guagliardo and sophomore Callahan Kraft.
Central Suburban North: First-year head coach George Joseph and Maine East will have a young squad this season. His Demons will be leaning hard on freshman all-arounders Aaron Delgado and Sean Urban.