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Men’s gymnastics gears up for Black & Gold Intrasquad

BY CLARK CAHILL | DECEMBER 04, 2009 7:30 AM

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A top-10 ranking in the nation usually means a team is in the upper-echelon of its conference and should have a record to prove it at the end of the season.

For the Iowa men’s gymnastics team, that is not quite the case.

The Hawkeyes are the No. 10 team in the nation, according to the preseason coaches’ poll. But they find themselves looking up at the only other five teams in the conference — No. 4 Michigan, No. 5 Illinois, No. 6 Penn State, No. 7 Ohio State, and No. 8 Minnesota.

“If you do well in the Big Ten, you do well in the NCAA championships,” head coach Tom Dunn said. “There are no weak links. They are all strong, but that is the road we have to take.”

Despite a No. 11 national ranking at season’s end, the Hawkeyes sported only a 4-10 record and finished in sixth place, dead last, at last year’s conference championship.

In order to combat the brutal Big Ten competition the Hawkeyes will face this season, Dunn decided each team member had to improve his start values — maximum amount of points one can receive according to difficulty of a routine — for each event.

“We have to perform at a higher level than we did last year,” Dunn said. “I think we have done a good job learning new skills, and things are coming together.”

Senior Jon Buese, who qualified for the individual NCAA championships in the all-around last season, said improving the difficulty of his routines has been a good experience.

“It is kind of stressful learning new skills,” he said. “But our coaches have been on us a lot more about it, so it makes you want to do better.”

The Hawkeyes lost their only All-American, Geoff Reins, to graduation, which, Dunn said, leaves the team with one less consistent high-scorer.

“He hardly ever missed. He was like a rock,” he said. “I think we have guys who might be as good, but we’ll miss that solid score you can always count on.”

Despite Reins’ absence, Dunn believes the team will be better overall because of an increase in depth.

“We’ve struggled in the past couple years with smaller rosters and injuries, so there was no competition for spots,” he said. “If we keep the roster size bigger and have that competition, the guys on the bubble are going to get better and be pushed harder.”

Buese agreed with the coach about the potential for heavy competition.

“The average scores are going to be higher, so you are going to have to bring something good to the table,” he said.

Adding to the team’s depth are six freshmen, including Anton Gryshayev and Matt “Chewy” McGrath, who Dunn believes will be able to have an immediate effect on the team. Both have potential to make to the NCAA championships individually.

The Hawkeyes will unofficially begin their season on Saturday in the Black & Gold intrasquad meet.
Dunn said the competition is a great signifier of where the team’s progress is before officially beginning the season in Chicago at the Windy City Invitational on Jan. 16, 2010.

“There is always a conflict between learning new skills, increasing your difficulty, and then putting it all together for a competition,” he said. “We will have judges to give us the real story about what we are worth at this time.”

Gryshayev said he is anxious to see where he stands.

“I need to see what adjustments need to be made to help the team,” he said. “It will be good to see where we are and what we have to do to be better than we were last year.”


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