CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Illinois men’s gymnastics interim head coach Daniel Ribeiro announced on Friday (August 5) former Illini gymnast Wes Haagensen will take the role of volunteer coach for the 2022-23 season. Haagensen’s hiring is pending approval by the UI Board of Trustees at its September meeting.
“It is with open arms and a huge heart that I welcome Wes back to Champaign as a member of the Fighting Illini gymnastics coaching staff,” Ribeiro said. “Wes is hungry to show the NCAA what he is capable of. His passion, competitiveness, and his experience as an athlete and coach made him my No. 1 choice for this position.
“I can confidently say that Wes is the most qualified volunteer coach in the history of NCAA men’s gymnastics.”
Before Haagensen’s time competing for the Illini men’s gymnastics program, he was a Future Stars National All Around champion as well as a two-time junior national champion in 2000 and 2003. He also competed at the Junior Pan American Games in 2002, finishing first in parallel bars and high bar, and second in the all-around and horizontal bar. Haagensen also took first place on pommel horse at the 2002 US Championships and won first place in both high bar and pommel horse at the 2003 US Championships.
Haagensen carried that momentum into his freshman year when, in just his second meet, he won the all-around and high bar titles, which helped him earn Inside Gymnastics NCAA Gymnast of the Week accolades. In the Big Ten team finals, he tied a school record on rings and helped the team to a second-place finish, securing Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors.
In his sophomore campaign, Haagensen competed in every meet for the Fighting Illini, including five appearances in the all-around competition. He also secured eight event titles and was tabbed Big Ten Gymnast of the Week, an All-Big Ten selection and an Academic All-Big Ten honoree. In the Big Ten team competition, Haagensen was second in all-around, third on parallel bars, fourth on rings and high bar, and fifth on vault. At the NCAA Tournament, he secured three NCAA All-America nods on parallel bars, all-around, and floor exercise.
In his junior campaign, Haagensen spent most of the season ranked second in the country in the all-around. He led the team with 30 top-three finishes, including 11 event titles spread across four events. Six of his event wins came in the all-around. Haagensen won the Big Ten all-around title and finished runner-up on parallel bars and high bar at the Big Ten Championship. He finished runner-up in the all-around competition in the NCAA Tournament and captured three All-America titles in all-around, floor exercise, and high bar. His achievements helped him win the 2007 Big Ten Gymnast of the Year. He was also a unanimous All-Big Ten selection, and was selected as the team MVP by his teammates.
In his final year, Haagensen was named team captain along with his two teammates, Tyler Yamauchi and Michael Boyer. In the competition season, he grabbed a high bar title at the Big Ten Championships with a runner-up in the all-around competition. He also helped the Illini to a third finish in the NCAA Team Finals and made history as the third team in the country at the time to advance to the finals in six straight years. In the NCAA Individual Finals, Haagansen took an All-American title and a bronze medal. He also was a Nisson Emery Gymnast of the Year and Dike Eddleman Illinois Athlete of the Year finalists
“Wes is one of the most decorated athletes of his generation and he accomplished all of this as an Illini in the very same Kenney Gym that our guys train in today,” Ribeiro said. “Wes has had orange blood pumping through his veins for the better part of two decades. He knows what it means to be an Illini and he knows how to win as one. Not only was he a world-class athlete but he brings a decade of coaching experience and knowledge that will certainly make an incredible impact on so many levels.
After his accolade-filled collegiate career, Haagensen became a three-time senior national team member and as well as a Team USA World team member. Haagensen also competed in the Pan American Championships as the team captain. In the championships, he helped win team gold and an individual bronze in high bar.
“This is a very special opportunity and I’m ecstatic to return to my alma mater,” Haagensen said. “I am honored and thankful for interim head coach Daniel Ribiero, the Illinois Athletic Department, the athletes, and the alumni for trusting in me to be a leader and a part of the Illinois gymnastics family, once again. I look forward to strengthening and fostering the relationships with the athletes, fellow staff, alumni, and the Champaign-Urbana community as we embark on this championship journey together. I would also like to thank my grandparents, my coach, Jason Pearson, and all of my supporters who have always believed in, mentored, and molded me into the leader I am today. With the highest energy and determination, I am ready to hit the ground running at 110%”
Haagensen went on to numerous coaching positions with multiple different gymnastics clubs over nine years. He was also a part of multiple individual state championships. He helped coach Future Stars national team members and multiple NCAA college athletes. Along the way, he developed and fostered competitive gymnastics teams and worked in all aspects of the sport of gymnastics.