DOWNERS GROVE – Jake Mateja didn’t waste any time making new friends this year as a freshman at Downers Grove North.
On Saturday afternoon, Mateja helped his boys gymnastics teammates make plans for this weekend. Mateja won the pommel horse with an 8.4 and helped the squad win the Downers Grove North Sectional and qualify for the IHSA state finals at Hoffman Estates on May 13 and 14.
“Going to state with people who may not be able to do gymnastics again, and giving them a second chance to do even better, I feel amazing,” Mateja said. “I’m on cloud nine. And winning pommel horse, which is my favorite event, just enhances that.”
Sophomore Parker Elisha led the Trojans. He finished third in the all-around with a 48.35 to qualify in the individual state competition May 13.
Elisha led the Trojans on floor (8.8), still rings (7.85) and vault (8.85), which he won.
“Vault was an 8 out of 10 of what I feel like I could still do, which is good,” Elisha said. “It was a little bit of a rough start on high bar, but we managed to pull through and ended up with the win so overall it was a good meet.”
Mateja added to the team total with scores on three events in addition to pommel horse. He was fifth in the all-around with a 47.5.
“Pommel has been my favorite for the whole nine years I’ve been doing this,” he said. “It’s an event that takes so much precision, skill and thought into it, yet it takes a lot of strength, too. It feels like a mix.”
While Elisha and Mateja led the way, it took a mix of gymnasts for the Trojans to score 142.75 and finish comfortably ahead of York’s 136.1.
All told, Downers Grove North’s lineup featured 10 competitors, including sophomore Colby Bormann who took third on parallel bars with an 8.45 and added a high bar score. Other big contributions came via freshman Dan Swanson on floor and vault and seniors Frank Miceli on pommel horse and still rings and Josh Castro on floor.
“I’ve bonded with all of them through this sport,” Mateja said. “I’ve gotten to know their ups and downs and how I can help them and motivate them to keep them in the sport and keep them doing performances like they did today.”
Senior Nolan Fazzini led York, earning an at-large state qualifier in the all-around after finishing in fourth place with a 48.05. He also qualified by taking fifth on still rings (7.85), third on vault (8.75) second on parallel bars (8.75) and first on floor (9) while fighting through a wrist injury.
Juniors Joseph Qualtier and Dennis Sosnovyy will be joining Fazzini in multiple events. Qualtier took second on floor (8.95) and vault (8.8). Sosnovyy tied for third on still rings (7.9) and placed second on high bar (8.2) while battling through a knee injury.
“I was proud of them,” Dukes coach Nick Criel said. “It wasn’t the ending we were hoping for, but it was OK.”
The Dukes were without top scorer Renny Barnitz, who qualified for nationals and completed his high school season at the conference meet April 28.
Glenbard East’s Vaden Srey won parallel bars (8.85) and high bar (8.7).
“It was a little rough on horse and I fell on my vault and normally I don’t do that,” Srey said. “I felt like I worked pretty hard for this and I cleaned up my high bar, which was pretty clean, parallel bars was clean, floor was clean, a little two mess-ups on horse and vault, but I felt like I had a good practice and have been working toward good things.”
The Rams were fourth with 130.1.
Glenbard West was third with 133.6.
Senior Will Lanciloti was sixth in the all-around (46.55) to lead the Hilltoppers. He took third on floor (8.85) and fifth on parallel bars (8.2) to qualify for state.
David Wuertzer also qualified for state for the Hilltoppers by tying for third on pommel horse (7.6). Fellow senior Ian Jackson matched Lanciloti’s 8.55 on vault and those scores earned at-large berths. To keep the senior celebration going, Rhodel Pidu took sixth on still rings (7.55) which was good enough for a state berth.
Downers Grove South (122.4), Naperville Central (116.25) and Glenbard South (78.3) wrapped up their respective team seasons. Mustangs senior Spencer Schmidt advanced on floor (8.7) after taking fifth place. Fellow senior Michael Figueroa finished eighth in the all-around (43.65).
Kaneland junior Ethan Yost took seventh in the all-around (45.85). He advanced to state after taking third on pommel horse (7.6).