HOFFMAN ESTATES – For those following the boys gymnastics state all-around results, Willowbrook senior Adam Sousa probably was the last to know.
With the final performance on floor exercise May 11, Sousa clinched a share of the state championship with Highland Park junior Kevin Connors.
Sousa still was skeptical.
“My coach pulled me aside and said, ‘You tied [for first].’ He was following [Connors],” Sousa said. “I was like, ‘I’ll believe it when I’m up on the podium.’ When I was up there I was like, ‘Wow. This is really happening.’ Insane. It’s still setting in for me.”
Sousa’s career-best 55.60 earned a share of the state’s first all-around co-champions at Hoffman Estates. Sousa added four more top-five, all-state individual medals May 12 for a program-best nine in three seasons.
Sousa was third on vault (9.4), a tenth of a point from first, tied for third on high bar (9.2), finished fifth on still rings (9.0) and tied for fifth on pommel horse (9.2). He also tied for seventh on parallel bars (9.2) and tied for 12th on floor (9.15) in finals.
York senior John Gill was an all-state third on rings (9.2), the Dukes’ first all-stater since current Willowbrook coach Caleb Strejc's two state titles in 2010. Glenbard East senior Marc Le was eighth in all-around (53.00). Le reached the finals on floor and rings but did not compete. Willowbrook’s other all-around state champion is Neil Schmitt in 1964.
On May 11, Sousa had the same event rotation as Connors, also competing for Highland Park’s team (seventh, 152.55). Connors always performed first yet Sousa focused on preparation and never watched. After Connors scored 9.5 on floor, Sousa unknowingly needed – and scored – 9.45 to tie. Each had three higher scores.
“When I knew that [we tied], I was like, ‘All the better,’ ” Sousa said. “Kevin’s a great kid. He’s a great contender so I wouldn’t have it any other way. I was really thrilled for both of us. It’s a huge honor to win for my Willowbrook family.”
As a York senior, Strejc won the 2010 state all-around title by .05 (55.40 to 55.35). His coach, Larry Ohannes, also was a 1991 all-around state champion for Glenbrook South.
“That’s why [Sousa’s title also] meant so much to me,” Strejc said. “We’re fine with a tie. It’s still first. Kevin’s a great kid, too, so I know he and Adam really bonded. It’s cool when you get to the final meet and have your best score and it’s legit.”
Sousa twice finished fourth in all-around and did not compete in 2017, instead training toward college gymnastics at Illinois-Chicago. Reaching all six finals, Sousa was the only gymnast who performed the maximum 18 routines over two days.
“It’s definitely a marathon meet,” Sousa said. “I wish I could have won a couple of more events, but I went 18 for 18. I was proud of myself, didn’t fall on anything, stayed as clean as I could, had fun.”
At York’s 42nd annual Ken Scorza Invite April 14, Gill became the Dukes’ first gymnast to finish first on rings twice. For his final routine, Gill performed great after making the 2017 rings state finals and finishing ninth (8.8).
“I’m happy that I placed third. I’m just happy that I placed, really,” Gill said. “It’s indescribable. I’m just extremely happy and this is amazing. The competition was really, really tough and I wasn’t expecting all of this at all.”
“That was his best routine all year – definitely,” York coach Nick Criel said. “He is always in the zone. As soon as he steps on the mat and salutes, he knows it’s game time.”
Other state qualifiers were York seniors Jake Anderson and Kelvin Stevens Jr. and sophomores Charlie Cripe and Dom Milazzo, Willowbrook junior Collin Donaldson and Glenbard East sophomore O.J. Miles.