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Men’s gymnasts pleased with Black and Gold performance

BY CLARK CAHILL | DECEMBER 07, 2009 7:30 AM

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There is always a sense of anticipation and excitement for the start of a new season. But the Iowa men’s gymnastics team had more to look forward to this time around.

After an off-season full of working on new, more difficult routines in an effort to increase individual start values — the maximum number of points one can earn according to potential difficulty of a routine — the Hawkeyes were finally able to put it all together in the annual Black & Gold Invitational on Dec. 5.

“We started our routines a lot earlier than we normally do this past off-season,” junior gymnast Mike Jiang said. “We seemed a lot more prepared than normal for this point of the year, and it was definitely our best performance for the Black and Gold meet since I’ve been here.”

Iowa head coach Tom Dunn said he was very pleased with the effort from his team and echoed Jiang’s thoughts.

“We are definitely ahead of where were last year at this point,” Dunn said. “Our guys performed pretty much how I thought they would, but it was nice to see it put together in competition format.”

The Hawkeyes got solid performances from its veteran gymnasts and freshmen.

Senior Jon Buese, who competed in the NCAA individual championships in the all-around last season, carded the team’s highest scores in the parallel bars at 13.85 and the high bar at 14.10.

Junior Ben Ketelsen squeaked out the high vault score with a 15.35, and Jiang took the pommel horse with a 14.55.

A nice bright spot for the Hawkeyes, which bodes well for the future, was the performance from freshman Matt “Chewy” McGrath, who tabbed the high score on the floor exercise with a 14.60 and the rings with a 14.20.

Dunn said he was happy with the effort from McGrath and the other freshmen.

“You can see them do well in practice, but real competition is different, and I think they all handled it very well,” he said.

The main purpose for the Black and Gold competition is to give the coaches and team members an idea of where they stand before actual competition, which will begin for the Hawkeyes on Jan. 16, 2010, at the Windy City Invitational in Chicago.

Buese, who participated in his fourth Black & Gold, said he was encouraged with the performance of his team but was a little worried about the floor exercise.

“The floor didn’t get a lot of hits, but otherwise everything else was pretty solid,” he said. “There were a few bright spots like McGrath, but we need to get better in our floor routines.”

The Black & Gold Invitational’s atmosphere was boosted by a large, enthusiastic crowd. Fans of every age turned out in huge numbers leaving several with no choice but to stand or sit on the floor.

“It has been like that for the past few years,” Buese said. “But it is always good to see a great turnout for one of our events.”

Dunn said he was pleasantly surprised with the large turnout, noting that it was one of the best he has seen for the event.

“That was fantastic,” he said. “I was a little concerned because we were competing with a basketball game, but it turned out really well.”


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