Boys gymnastics: Palatine's Pirone wins state all-around championship
John Pirone said that for the first time in his life, his focus was not on gymnastics.
The Palatine junior has become very involved in cheerleading this year. Due to that, he missed a couple of meets this year.
While the focus may not have been there directly, the learning still was. Thanks to the ability to deal with the noise from cheerleading competition, Pirone was able to block out the boisterous crowd at Hoffman Estates Friday at the boys state gymnastics finals.
Pirone stayed the course and came away with the state all-around title with a 56.05. Pirone was able to edge out Hersey freshman Nate Mabry, who finished second with a 55.95.
"I am not going to lie, didn't have the best work ethic this season," said Pirone, who set a school record with his all-around score.
"I wasn't as focused on gymnastics. It helped me with the cheerleading. It calmed me. I leave all the cheering at the cheerleading events. When I heard all the noise tonight, I knew I had to do my best."
Pirone trailed Mabry most of the evening with both in the same rotation. Pirone was finally able to pass Mabry on the pommel horse, the final event for both where Pirone scored a 9.40 to Mabry's 9.15.
"I knew I had to stay in to have a chance," Pirone said. "And I did. It was nice and clean."
Mabry was on fire all night. The freshman, who was fifth in the sectional meet just nine days ago, was spectacular on each event.
"It was something about the day," Mabry said. "It was all about the preparation."
Hersey coach Joon Yun was not surprised by Mabry's performance Friday.
"I told him he had all the potential," Yun said. "He just had to stay focused and clean up his routines. And he did it. He had his best meet of the year."
Buffalo Grove's Benjamin Valak finished third in the all-around with a 55.40. Valak, who was also third in the all-around last year, also had his best meet of the season.
"I just cleaned up a lot of my routines," Valak said. "I just tried to increase my value consistently and have the cleanest routines."
Glenbrook North's Kian Sullivan was fourth with a 55.20 while Palatine's Trey Wilcox was fifth with a 55.00. Wilcox made a nice improvement from last year when he was eighth in the state.
"It was solid for me," said Wilcox, who was named senior gymnast of the year.
"It was a really good completion this year. It was super fun to be in the same rotation with all the top gymnasts."
It was a great day for the Northwest suburbs with the area claiming 10 of the top 12 spots.
Prospect's Joe Kall was seventh with a 54.50, Hoffman Estates' Alex Serwatkiewicz was eighth with a 53.80, Palatine's Dominic Filichia was ninth with a 52.70, Maine West's Jesse Listopad was 10th with a 52.60 and Barrington's Henry Stevens was 12th with a 51.90.
Prospect's Callahan Kraft was 17th, Mundelein's Holden Allsbury was 18th, Stevenson's Thor Mace was 20th, Barrington's Krish Patel was 23rd, Cary-Grove's Alexander Riley was 26th and Fremd's Victor Balica was 27th.
Competition continues Saturday afternoon with the individual finals for all six events. The top 10 scores in each event will compete again for the state title.
Also at stake is the team title. Palatine, Prospect and host Hoffman Estates, which is making its first appearance at the state finals since 2000, are teams to watch.
Palatine coach Scott Hagel, whose three all-rounders tallied a score of 163.75, is considered one of the favorites.
"It was an outstanding day for them," Hagel said. "It was great to have them out here. They got a taste of the state meet environment before tomorrow. We will try one more time."