Gymnasts get a ‘frosh’ face


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In a conference in which every team holds a spot in the top-10 national rankings, a team might need a spark to push it to the next level.

That spark for the Iowa men’s gymnastics team might rest in its freshmen all-around competitors.

The Hawkeyes need a boost after finishing at the bottom in last year’s conference tournament. And though Iowa is ranked 10th in the preseason coaches’ poll, they find themselves looking up at the only other five teams in the Big Ten — No. 4 Michigan, No. 5 Illinois, No. 6 Penn State, No. 7 Ohio State, and No. 8 Minnesota.

This year’s freshmen all-around competitors — Matt “Chewy” McGrath, Anton Gryshayev, and Brody Shemansky — will help bring the Hawkeyes depth and consistent scores.

Hailing from Los Gatos, Calif., Shemansky has solid scores in every event. The freshman won the all-around in Northern California from 2007-2009. Though, head coach Tom Dunn said, he only has one go-to event — the high bar — he expects the West Coast native to be able to fill in and be consistent in every event.

Shemansky, whose parents both attended Penn State, said the prestige of the Big Ten was a big factor in choosing Iowa, and after his recruiting visit, he was hooked.

“The guys were really nice, and I felt like I fit in with the team right away,” he said. “It had a better atmosphere than most places I had been.”

His teammates must have agreed with how well he fit in because they chose him to be the team’s freshman representative mediator if any problems arise among the freshmen on the squad.

Gryshayev began gymnastics at the age of 9, when he moved to Pennsylvania from Russia. His father, a seven-time national champion on pommel horse for Ukraine, started coaching him before turning him over to Vladimir Artemev — a former Soviet all-around champion and father of Alexander Artemev, who won a bronze medal in the team competition for the United States at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Now hailing from Littleton, Colo., Gryshayev said the Russian background of Iowa associate head coach Dmitri Trouch and assistant coach Alex Kolyvanov were key in his choosing the Hawkeyes.

“I’m used to being coached by Russian people, and I had never been trained by an American coach,” he said. “[Iowa] offered me a scholarship after my first trip, and I just took it.”

Dunn said Gryshayev, like Shemansky, should be solid in all areas, but he hopes to see him excel on rings.

McGrath has been a pleasant surprise for the Hawkeyes, posting high scores for the team on the floor exercise and rings in the annual Black & Gold Invitational on Dec. 5.

“It’s fantastic for the team, and it is going to make for good competition at the top end of a lot of events with him,” Dunn said. “We are looking for the four best scores on every event, and he has potential to be there in a lot of them.”

McGrath, from Wheaton, Ill., competed for the Bartlett Gymnastics Club, a recent hot-bed for recruits for the Hawkeyes. Junior Blaine Klaczak, freshman Timm Krueger, and incoming recruit for the fall of 2010 Angelo Bronzino also came from the Bartlett club.

“The club has a long tradition in gymnastics, and it is one of a few that put a focus on men,” Dunn said. “We have been trying to get Bartlett kids over the years, and with Chewy, we feel like we have gotten one of its best.”

McGrath said the Bartlett club prepared him well for college competition, with the club against teams from Japan and China using the college-style match format. And after posting some of the highest scores for the team in several events at the Black & Gold meet, he said his club experience was great with helping him perform under pressure.

“When we competed against other teams, my coach always put me last to go because he knew he could count on me to hit,” McGrath said. “When you compete in the college format against tough competition, it definitely boosts your performance.”

Maintaining this kind of depth and staying injury-free are keys to having a successful season, Dunn said. As long as Iowa can continue bringing in more young recruits with a wide range of skills, the program should be able to climb the Big Ten ladder.

“The future looks good,” the coach said. “The guys we have now are great, and we need to keep that base going.”

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