C.J. Maestas, Paul Ruggeri III win
NORMAN, Okla. -- With dreams of the London Olympics in the back of their minds, some of America's top collegiate gymnasts showed off why they're also among the nation's best at any age.
U.S. Olympic hopefuls C.J. Maestas and Paul Ruggeri III added individual event titles to the team national championship they won for Illinois, and all-around champion Jake Dalton of Oklahoma claimed the national title on parallel bars at the NCAA men's gymnastics meet on Saturday night.
California's Glen Ishino and Michigan's Sam Mikulak -- who, along with the other three, are members of the U.S. national team and vying for spots in this summer's Olympics -- also brought home championships on a star-studded night.
The mohawked Maestas, who punctuated Illinois' first team title since 1989 a night earlier with a 15.6 on the rings, edged out Penn State's Scott Rosenthal by five-hundredths of a point to win the event title with a 15.3.
"It's world class gymnastics here. It's an honor to just take the floor with these guys and to be evenly matched, as they are," said Maestas, who was second in the all-around on Friday night.
"We're all on the same team, I guess, when you think about USA Gymnastics but out here it builds it more. ... We're all just vibing off each other. To be a part of this elite squad, it's unbelievable."
Ruggeri tied for the event title on vault with Stanford's Eddie Penev, both earning 15.5 scores. Ruggeri was the last gymnast up and did a flip on his approach before doing another during his vault.
It was the final performance in a dynamic career, and it resulted in his fourth NCAA event title. He previously won on high bar in 2008 and 2009 and on parallel bars in 2009.
If not for an ankle injury that forced him to redshirt last season, the senior wouldn't have had the chance to team with the freshman Maestas and lead Illinois to the team title and even more individual accolades.
"I was 100 percent planning on finishing my NCAA career last season and graduating and moving on with my training and figuring out what was going to be next," Ruggeri said. "Everything happens for a reason. ... It's been an incredible experience, one that I'll remember the rest of my life."
Mikulak, the 2011 NCAA all-around champion, won the high bar with a score of 15.45. Ishino was second on that event but took home the pommel horse trophy with a 15.6.
Penev won floor exercise with a brilliant 16.1 and was the only double winner of the night. He's also the only individual champion who's not currently on the U.S. national team.
"I didn't think it was out of the question but you never know. It's a competition," said Penev, who also won on vault as a freshman in 2010.
"All I can focus on is my stuff and do my best and then the rest will happen from there."
Both of Penev's titles came in the events where Dalton, competing in his home arena, was the defending champion. Outside of college competition, Dalton is also the reigning U.S. national champion on both floor and vault.
Instead, he took the parallel bars crown and became the first Oklahoma gymnast ever to be an All-American in six individual competitions. He finished second on floor, third on rings and high bar and tied for fifth on vault.
Olympic gold medalist Bart Conner and Olympic silver medalist Jonathan Horton had each been All-Americans on five events, with Horton pulling off the feat three times.
The all-around performance bodes well for his chances of making the Olympic team.
"It shows that I'm not just a floor and vault guy," Dalton said. "I can do high bar and (parallel) bars and rings. Coming in third on rings was awesome. That's really good for me.
"I need to show that I'm strong on rings, and I definitely think that I did that here."