Veteran head coach Frank Erwin tried to make sure the three Evanston boy gymnasts who qualified for the Illinois High School Association state meet – Xavier Probst, Mo Frischer and Jacob Potter – didn’t let expectations overwhelm them over the weekend at Hoffman Estates High School.
Erwin recognized that just the slightest misstep – or two – can keep an individual from advancing from the preliminaries to the finals in a sport where two-hundredths of a point can make a major difference in the standings.
None of the trio cracked the top 10 in their individual events in the prelims, so Evanston bowed out of the competition on Friday.
Wait till next year.
Probst, Frischer and Potter are all underclassmen and figure to be competing on the final weekend along with all-around star Erik Van Leer at this point in 2024.
Friday’s finish was disappointing at first for an ETHS program where the bar has been raised higher than in the past couple of decades, with the arrival of Erwin and an influx of new talent. But the added experience for juniors Probst and Frischer – who qualified for the second time in their varsity careers – and freshman Potter will pay dividends down the line.
No calendar conflict next year
And if there’s no conflict on the competition calendar next year, Van Leer won’t have to choose between the IHSA state series and national competition in the future. He opted to try the Nationals this time around.
“I think they did a great job on Friday,” said Erwin. “Sure, it would have been nice to have a finalist. But in my mind that was never a given. You have to really hit a good set to make the finals.
“We had three of our best vaults of the year, for example, but we just didn’t have the degree of difficulty yet [to advance]. I’m completely pleased with their performances. This is a special group of guys and they’re all coming back [except senior Jack McClintock] next year. I’m very fortunate to be able to work with them. It was a positive experience for us at state – and we’ll show them even more next year.”
Erwin had to rein in expectations for Probst, who stunned the high school gymnastics world last year by taking second in state in floor exercise after barely qualifying out of the sectional. He was in his first year competing in gymnastics, with a background in training to be a circus performer some day, and his progress was nothing short of remarkable.
This year he expanded his focus to other events and was a solid scorer for the Wildkits on their way to a second straight conference team championship.
Probst exited the state competition on Friday with scores of 8.55 on floor exercise and 8.75 on vault. He tied for 16th in the vault prelims, but only the top 10 scorers stayed alive for Saturday’s finals.
“Xavier had his only miss of the year on floor exercise,” Erwin said. “I know he was under a lot of self-inflicted pressure to re-do what he did last year. I told him he had nothing to prove, just to do the best he could. He missed a double full mount, and after something like that happens, it usually gets worse for most gymnasts. He did the opposite, he finished really strong, and I’m so proud of him for that.”
Frischer’s best prelim effort came on parallel bars, where he scored an 8.65. He also notched an 8.55 on vault, a 7.40 on still rings, and an 8.15 on floor exercise.
Potter posted Evanston’s top floor score at 8.70, in addition to a 7.10 on pommel horse and an 8.45 on vault.
Another highlight for the program came when McClintock was named a finalist – one of only five competitors statewide – for an award newly created by the gymnastics coaches association that recognizes the top non-club competitors who exemplify team leadership and sportsmanship.