Men’s gymnasts finishes fourth in Pacific Coast Classic

BY NICK GANS | FEBRUARY 22, 2010 7:30 AM

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The Iowa men’s gymnastics team had a competition filled with highs and lows.

The Hawkeyes traveled to Oakland, Calif., to compete in the Pacific Coast Classic on Feb. 20 hoping to find their place among some of the elite teams in the world.

Instead, Iowa came out with an understanding of what the team needs to work on.

Of the six teams that participated, the Hawkeyes finished fourth with a team score of 331.050 — nine points below their season average. The reigning champion and favorite at the classic, the Japanese Collegiate All-Star team, edged defending NCAA champion and No. 4 Stanford, 358.800-354.200.

“The Japanese All-Star team is fantastic,” Iowa head coach Tom Dunn said. “Japan has a long tradition of great gymnastics, and it showed.”

However, fantastic is not the way Dunn described his team’s mistake-filled performances on the floor exercise. Iowa had a team score of 54.5 on the event, three points fewer than the season average.

“It was a disaster,” he said. “We warmed up well, but when it came time, everyone with the exception of [freshman Matt McGrath] had errors.”

Making matter worse for the Hawkeyes on the floor exercise was the loss of senior Reid Urbain, who suffered a minor concussion after landing on his head during his routine. He was not able to compete the rest of the meet, but he isn’t expected to miss any significant time.

McGrath finished 12th on the floor exercise — behind six members of the Japanese squad. The native from Wheaton, Ill., also continued his exceptional freshman campaign by posting the highest scores for Iowa in the rings (15.300).

Other standout performers for the Hawkeyes included senior Jon Buese and junior Mike Jiang. Buese finished seventh in the all-around with a score of 82.800, and Jiang led the way on the pommel horse (14.050) and parallel bars (13.550), finishing ninth in both events.

Heading into the meet, Dunn said he was most worried about the high bar. The squad started the competition on the event but finished with a team score of 55.180, a half point better than their season average.

Dunn commended his team on the “exceptional” performance, though.

The 29-year head coach said the gymnasts will come back to Iowa City knowing they need to improve on their execution if they want to compete with the best.

“We need to continue to improve our start values, but at the same time we need to work hard on reducing our execution errors,” he said. “We have plenty to focus on, and two weeks to make adjustments prior to our [next] meet.”

The eighth-ranked Iowa men’s team will take on No. 1 Illinois in a co-ed meet alongside the women’s gymnastics team in Carver-Hawkeye Arena at 2 p.m. March 7.

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