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Men’s gymnastics face tough Wolverines

BY CLARK CAHILL | JANUARY 29, 2010 7:30 AM

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Few teams in any college sport have to face a gauntlet of conference competition like the Iowa men’s gymnastics team.

After an impressive performance at the Windy City Invitational on Jan. 16 and a tough loss to No. 3 Oklahoma on Jan. 23, the Hawkeyes will begin conference competition Saturday night against Michigan in Carver-Hawkeye Arena as the No. 9 team in the country.

The bad news is that four Big Ten teams, including the Wolverines, are ranked higher.

Michigan began the season as the favorite to win the conference, and it boasts a No. 2 ranking behind Illinois.

The Hawkeyes have already encountered the Wolverines at the Windy City Invitational with Michigan finishing second. Iowa took fourth.

However, there was a large discrepancy between the teams’ scores — 351.35 to 339.60.

Though Iowa head coach Tom Dunn didn’t get a chance to watch Michigan, he said he isn’t surprised by the Wolverines’ talent.

“They have great recruits and a bigger team, so there is a lot more [intrasquad] competition in the gym,” Dunn said. “Their start values for each event are pretty high, and their routines have a lot of difficulty.”

The Wolverines travel to Iowa after an important 355.65-344.75 home win over No. 5 Penn State.
There are few holes in the Michigan lineup, which has several competitors posting consistently high scores.

Leading the charge for the Wolverines are juniors Thomas Kelley and Chris Cameron who combined for three individual event titles and the all-around — taken by Cameron — against the Nittany Lions.

Kelley earned Co-Big Ten Gymnast of the Week honors following the meet after claiming the still-rings crown with a career best 15.20 score, in addition to a high bar title.

But the Libertyville, Ill., is no stranger to accolades. He was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2008 and the Big Ten Gymnast of the Year in 2009.

The Hawkeyes aren’t without their own bright spots, though.

Aside from the team improving its overall score from the first meet of the season, Iowa freshman Matt McGrath put on an impressive display against Oklahoma, leading the team in scoring on the floor exercise (15.00), rings (14.70), and vault (15.55).

The Wheaton, Ill., native’s performance was something the whole team took note of.

“He was amazing out there,” senior captain Jon Buese said. “It was great to see him improve on the things he has been working on in practice, and it’s always great to see a teammate exceed.”

However, Buese said the team needs to work on completing routines, including being more consistent with finishing dismounts.

Saturday’s meet will be slightly different from normal; it will be Iowa’s first co-ed meet since 2006.

The women’s gymnastics team will take on Illinois in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Dunn said beating Michigan, even on Iowa’s home floor, won’t be an easy task. But he said the competition in Iowa City’s premier indoor arena will make for a great environment.

“The crowd we had [Jan. 23] was great, so hopefully, we can have some of the same at Carver,” he said.


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