Men’s gymnastics to take risks at Big Ten championships

BY NICK GANS | APRIL 02, 2010 7:30 AM

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For the Iowa men’s gymnastics team, spring means the beginning of the championship season.

The ninth-ranked Hawkeyes will compete at the Big Ten championships in Columbus, Ohio, beginning tonight. The event will last through Saturday.

The meet will also be broadcast at 6 p.m. by the Big Ten Network from St. John Arena.

Tonight’s action will crown the team and all-around Big Ten champions. On Saturday, the 10 best individual gymnasts in each event from today’s rounds will compete for individual conference crowns.

Last season, the Hawkeyes finished in a disappointing sixth place, something they hope to better starting today.

“We’ve been preparing for the Big Ten championships all year, and it’s exciting that it’s finally here,” head coach Tom Dunn said. “We are prepared to take a few chances and maybe try to increase the difficulty of some of our routines. If we were the No. 1 or favorite heading in, we wouldn’t do that. But we’re expected to finish sixth again from [last week’s] rankings, and we’re trying to do a little more than maybe we can do to move up.”

Performing new routines is not a spontaneous decision for the Hawkeyes. Senior Reid Urbain first tried his new rings dismount against Nebraska, which resulted in a score of 14.600 — one of his best performances of the season.

Junior Ben Ketelsen has yet to test out his new vault routine in a meet, but this week may be the right time, Dunn said.

The coaches also said they expect an impressive showing from freshman Matt McGrath, who hit on his new vault routine for the first time in practice on Tuesday.

“If [McGrath] does his vault routine as well as he did in practice, it’ll be very, very good for us,” associate head coach Dmitri Trouch said.

McGath’s vault would have scored a 16.000 or above, he said.

The vault, in addition to the floor exercise, has been a strength for the Hawkeyes all year. On the floor exercise, Ketelsen, McGrath, and Urbain rank in the top 20 nationally.

“I don’t know if we have anyone who can win the event, but we have beaten Big Ten teams already this year,” Dunn said.

The other event the Hawkeyes plan to do well in is the rings. Since the team’s last meet, against Nebraska and Minnesota on March 20, Dunn said he believes his team has made the most progress in the event as a result of the new dismounts the team has practiced.

Now, the coaches said they hope the consistency they’ve seen in practice travels with the squad to Columbus.

Pommel horse is an event Iowa has not had much consistency in this year. After early season struggles, the Hawkeyes appeared to have turned the corner against Illinois-Chicago on Feb. 6.

But the struggles reappeared against Minnesota and Nebraska.

However, Dunn said, practice has been different this week. From what the coaches have seen from the gymnasts, he said he expects the Hawkeyes to rebound from last year’s disheartening finish.

“There’s a big difference in attitude because the guys are very serious about going into the Big Tens finally,” Trouch said. “I think we’re all excited to go into Big Tens actually. And as far as nervousness though, we’ll find out about that [at the competition].”

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