Big Ten: A men's gymnastics power


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The Big Ten is a power in men's gymnastics.

With six of the last 12 team national champions, and with all its conference teams in the nation's top 10, the Big Ten is the most competitive gymnastics league in the country.

The six Big Ten institutions that have men's gymnastics programs are Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, and Penn State. All but Penn State will compete at the Windy City Invitational on Jan. 15 in Chicago.

Hawkeye head coach JD Reive said the strength of the Big Ten lies at the local level.

"Historically, the grass-roots programs, such as clubs, are strong in Big Ten country. The proximity of these great schools keeps kids in the Midwest motivated to stay in gymnastics."

Assistant coach Brad Virkler also attests to the importance of strong club programs. As the boys' program director for Iowa Gym-Nest, he saw several of his gymnasts move on to Division-I programs.

"[The Big Ten] is where recruits are looking as their option to continue the sport," he said. "So we have our choice of great athletes."

Ohio State interim co-head coach Doug Stibel said when Big Ten teams perform well on the national level, it reflects well on the entire conference.

"When you have schools in the Big Ten winning, or in the running to win, titles, future student-athletes want to be a part of it," he said.

Illinois head coach Justin Spring, whose team won the 2010 Big Ten championship, said history was a big part of the success of the Big Ten.

"The Big Ten is the one true lasting conference left for men's gymnastics," he said. "We have schools with more than 100 years of history in varsity gymnastics."

And it's about to get better.

Nebraska's inclusion means the Big Ten will boast another top-10 program.

"It's great to add another program to make the conference stronger," said Reive, who attended Nebraska. "It raises everyone in the conference."

With some of the Big Ten's best on the schedule for the Hawkeyes right away, Reive noted the Windy City is a good precursor for the season.

"We get to see the best of the Big Ten, which makes it fun," he said.

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