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Men’s gymnastics wraps up season with eye on bright future

BY NICK GANS | APRIL 20, 2010 7:30 AM

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Youth and inconsistency were thematic for the Iowa men’s gymnastics team this season.

The Hawkeyes didn’t improve on their sixth-place Big Ten finish from a year ago, but Iowa head coach Tom Dunn hopes the youth and inexperience that caused problems in 2010 will hopefully become a strength in 2011.

“We went through some growing pains with having such a young team here,” Dunn said of his seven freshmen. “Generally, you can count on a jump from their freshman to sophomore years. We’ll need them because we have some big holes to replace.”

Matt McGrath, who ranked in the top 50 collegiately in vault, floor exercise, and rings led the Hawkeyes’ freshmen class. Anton Gryshayev and Broderick Shemansky were two other youngsters Dunn said the team will look to in years to come.

But those years won’t include senior captain Jonathan Buese and Reid Urbain. And the departure of Buese, a Nissen-Emery finalist, will be the most formidable challenge Iowa faces next season, Dunn said.

The Gainesville, Fla., native finished No. 14 nationally in the all-around.

Meanwhile, Urbain’s departure and leadership will be missed as well, Dunn added. The 5-8, Fort Atkinson, Wis., native finished his senior campaign ranked No. 31 on the floor exercise and No. 71 on rings.

“It will be a challenge filling in the scores of Jon, Reid, Danny [Kuklinski], and Joel [Snyder] because they meant so much, and that’s just a lot of points to fill,” Dunn said.

Juniors Ben Ketelsen and Mike Jiang will be assigned to do so next season. But Dunn added that Ketelsen — who competed for a spot on the US National Team at the Winter Cup in Las Vegas on Feb. 5 — should have no problem with the task.

Ketelsen had a particularly successful season on the vault, ranking No. 14 collegiately — the highest ranking of any Hawkeye.

Jiang on the other hand, capped the season with a seventh-place finish at the NCAA championships and earned All-American distinction on the pommel horse, an event Iowa had experienced inconsistency in all year.

“Everything started to click around [the end of the year], and I started to just relax and focus better on the horse,” Jiang said. “This year, the pommel horse was a weakness, but next year, if people go out and want it bad enough, it could be a strength.”

Urbain said that while the team put together some great meets, his teammates had trouble remaining consistent. The exiting senior expects more improvement and consistency next season.

Jiang also said he believes the team chemistry the upperclassmen built with younger gymnasts should aid in Iowa’s improvement.

“We had a lot of team unity with each other this year, which isn’t always seen on other teams,” Jiang said. “We support each other in athletics and outside the gym. It was a team strength of ours, and it will no doubt be one next year. We just need to get in the gym and be consistent every time out.”

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