Men’s gymnastics places sixth at Big Ten championships

BY NICK GANS | APRIL 05, 2010 7:30 AM

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Risky business didn’t lead to pay dirt for the Iowa men’s gymnastics team over the weekend.

Shooting to raise the difficulty in several events, the Hawkeyes finished sixth at the Big Ten championships for the second-straight year, tallying a 337.800 in Columbus, Ohio.

Illinois won the conference team title with a 359.700, narrowly edging 2009 cochampion Michigan, which posted a 358.150 for second.

But even with the low finish, Iowa’s “one-two punch” of senior Jonathan Buese and junior Ben Ketelsen raised the Hawkeyes’ optimism for the remainder of the postseason.

Iowa will compete at the NCAA Championship Qualifier on April 15 in West Point, N.Y.

“It was a disappointing on a lot of events,” Iowa head coach Tom Dunn said. “But despite our performances, we will still qualify for the NCAA championships and have one more opportunity to put it all together. Ben and Jon are the big reason.”

Ketelsen saved his best performance on the vault and pommel horse for the Big Ten qualifying round on April 2. The Lancaster, Ohio, native tied for second overall on vault with a score of 16.050 — tying teammate Buese for the highest score of the season.

“Ben nailed his vault routine,” Dunn said. “It finally all came together for him, and it showed.”

Buese also performed well on the vault with a 15.750 — more than half a point above his season average — to finish ninth overall.

He also demonstrated why he is a finalist for the Nissen-Emery award, which is given to the top overall collegiate gymnast. Buese led the Hawkeyes in rings, parallel bars, floor exercise, and the all-around on April 2 and placed 21st overall in rings (14.150), 13th on floor exercise (14.600), 16th on parallel bars (14.000), and ninth in the all-around (84.650).

All of his scores were above his season averages.

However, April 3 proved to be more challenging for the Iowa duo. Ketelsen fell back from his vault score from the previous day, scoring a 14.875 for 10th.

He also decreased his score on the pommel horse, recording a 13.750 to finish eighth.

Buese finished eighth with a 15.500 on the vault — his only event on the day. And although he didn’t capture a top place, he still became one of six Big Ten gymnasts to earn sportsmanship honors.

Meanwhile, even though Buese and Ketelsen were the only two Hawkeyes to qualify for individual championships, Dunn said many other Iowa gymnasts surprised him — particularly those competing in the parallel bars.

Seniors Danny Kuklinski and Joel Snyder both tied for 18th in the event.

Freshman Matt McGrath finished 21st on vault and 22nd on rings in his first collegiate postseason experience.

Iowa’s high-bars performances disappointed Dunn, though. Junior Mike Jiang injured his hand during his routine, and the Hawkeyes’ had difficulty with their landings, the coach said.

“High bars was a tough one to take,” Dunn said. “It was a little off, and it wasn’t how we wanted to start. It made it tough to rebound.”

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