Men gymnasts ready for talented field

BY NICK GANS | FEBRUARY 19, 2010 7:30 AM

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With the season reaching its midway point, the Iowa men’s gymnastics team is looking for a chance to gain momentum for the second half.

The No. 8 Hawkeyes hope to find their place among some of the best at the seventh annual Pacific Coast Classic on Saturday in Oakland, Calif.

Standing in the way is a squad Iowa has never competed against — the Japanese Collegiate All-star team, which won the classic last year.

However, the Hawkeyes are also up against reigning NCAA champion and fourth-ranked Stanford, as well as California-Berkeley, Arizona State, and Washington.

Iowa associate coach Dmitri Trouch said it’s too hard to predict a winner with such a talented field in the meet this year. However, he said, he still has high hopes for his gymnasts.

“We’re expecting the team to have dynamic exercises and keep the momentum going if we win,” Trouch said.

One of the events the 14th-year associate said he is looking forward is rings, where the Hawkeyes rank seventh nationally. He is eager to see how Iowa competes against other great “ringers.”

Despite the elite competition, though, the Hawkeyes haven’t set their collective eyes on a any one team or prize.

“We’re pretty much competing against ourselves right now,” sophomore pommel horse specialist Jacob Swafford said. “We’ve got our own team goals that we’re trying to beat and not really focusing on other teams right now. That’ll be in the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA championships.”

Swafford and junior Mike Jiang have modest goals. They hope to hit on all their routines and see the improvement they’ve made in practice show up in the classic.

Although the Hawkeyes aren’t targeting a podium run, the feat not out of the question. Iowa last competed in the Pacific Coast Classic in 2008 and took first against a different field.

The Hawkeyes are coming off of a bye week, not having competed since their 340.200-331.050 victory over Chicago-Illinois on Feb. 6. The victory is all the more impressive considering the Hawks were missing senior Jon Buese and junior Ben Kettelsen, who were in Las Vegas for the Winter Cup competing for a chance to make the USA National Team.

The return of Buese and Kettelsen and the extra week to prepare has helped the Hawkeyes improve their routines and erase some of the early season mistakes, Trouch believes. He also hopes his gymnasts leave Oakland with a little momentum.

Jiang said the team has made progress.

“I feel like after every meet, we come out of it with something new,” he said. “So I feel like every meet this year we’ve improved in something. We’re working together.”

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