Junior all-arounder Will Taylor and his Lyons Township High School boys gymnastics teammates are hoping to continue program history by returning to the eight-team state meet.
The Lions have their sights on making history all of their own.
They’re going for an unprecedented third consecutive top-three state trophy after taking third in 2022 (149.70 points) and capturing the program’s first state championship in 2021 (157.20).
“We lost a lot of great seniors, but we still have a really great team this year,” Taylor said. “There are still so many great teams in the state, and we’ll certainly have to work hard to get to state. I think the team is willing to put in the work to get there. There’s plenty of competition in the gym, which some people don’t like, but I think it’s good because it motivates everyone.”
The Lions have earned four state trophies and five state berths over the last five competed seasons with back-to-back trophies in 2017 (second) and 2018 (third). There was no 2020 state series because of COVID-19.
Individual state qualifiers Taylor, junior Ryan Evans and sophomore Nick Giordano (floor, high bar) and junior Brian Kloes and sophomore Sean McCabe return from last year’s state lineup as well as standout junior all-arounder Matt Adler, who missed state along with graduated top all-arounder Alec Paras to compete at the USA Gymnastics club nationals the same weekend. Taylor and Evans also were part of the 2021 state championship lineup.
The Lions opened the 2023 season on March 4 by winning Hinsdale Central’s Mark Wanner Invitational (143.90 points) by nearly 10 points over the host Red Devils. In 2022, their winning 163.60 was the program’s highest meet score ever.
“We’re building on the tradition and been focusing a lot on that. Our last dual loss was 2017. They’re motivated to keep that going,” LTHS coach Sam Zeman said. “Everybody had a part in it [in 2022]. They all know they’re going to be contributing this year as well, including our new guys. They’re all a huge part.”
Five program or varsity newcomers also should contribute in seniors Ryan Johnson and Calum Rogers, junior Nick Peterson, sophomore Devon Mackenzie and freshmen T.J. Carr and Ryan Renderman.
Among program newcomers, Johnson is six years removed from club gymnastics while Mackenzie has no previous training but already looks strong on floor exercise. A 2022 junior varsity gymnast, Rogers is coming off qualifying for individual sectionals in wrestling.
Adler is coming off qualifying for the IHSA state diving meet for the second year in a row. On March 4, Adler won horizontal bar (9.3), vault (9.6) and pommel horse (9.0). he was also second in all-around (54.10) and still rings (8.3) and third on floor exercise (9.4) and parallel bars (8.5).
Taylor was fourth on horse (7.4) and horizontal bar (7.8) and fifth in all-around (46.60). Giordano, Evans, Mackenzie, Peterson and Johnson added top-10 event finishes.
“[Our key is] going to be the team unity and that competition they use to build each other up from within. The more they improve themselves, the more it’s going to make others better,” Zeman said.
At last year’s individual state preliminaries, Taylor tied for 23rd on parallel bars (8.5), tied for 28th on pommel horse (6.85), tied for 29th on still rings (8.0), tied for 31st on floor exercise (8.65) and tied for 36th on high bar (8.05). Junior Ryan Evans was 24th on rings (8.2) and sophomore Nick Giordano was 39th on high bar (6.05 and tied for 46th on floor (8.25).
This year’s club nationals May 9-14 in Oklahoma City again conflict with the IHSA state weekend. There is the possibility that Adler could participate in both as other gymnasts have done in the past.
“I think as long as [Adler] comes back for the state meet, we still have a pretty good potential to get a trophy,” Taylor said. “[But] everyone has to really pull their weight. I have plenty I still can improve on, more that I want to show off as the season goes on. A lot of my teammates are doing way better than last year. We still have a positive outlook.”