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Men’s gymnasts thrive at home

BY RYAN MURPHY | FEBRUARY 11, 2011 7:10 AM

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The best performance of the season for the Iowa men’s gymnastics team came on Jan. 22 against Illinois-Chicago. That meet was also the only home meet for the Hawkeyes thus far this season.

After a nearly three-week absence, the Hawkeyes will return to the Field House when the No. 9 Hawkeyes take on No. 7 Minnesota at 7 p.m. today. First-year head coach JD Reive said his team feeds off the atmosphere in the Field House — more than 800 people packed in for the Illinois-Chicago meet.

“Our guys love it,” the coach said. “The more people that are out there screaming, the more exciting it is for them. It really gets the energy going, and the adrenaline kicks in.”

Reive also said having a big crowd on hand is good experience for the Big Ten and NCAA championships, where the crowds are “loud, obnoxious, and crazy.”

Senior All-American Mike Jiang. said he has noticed a definite difference in the crowd level from past years, when the attendance was much smaller.



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“There’s definitely a different energy,” Jiang said. “The crowd is loud, and you feel like you have a lot of support, as opposed to having an empty gym.”

He believes competing in conjunction with the women’s team has given a boost to attendance.

Sophomore Matt McGrath said the energy in the building is a distinct advantage for the Hawkeyes.

“We try to build on the loudness of the whole atmosphere, so the louder it gets, the more pumped up we get,” he said. “When we fall down, we’re more likely to make a comeback.”

Tonight’s meet is the first competition for Iowa in 13 days. Jiang and McGrath were scheduled to compete in the Winter Cup in Las Vegas on Feb. 3, but the winter storm that swept through the Midwest last week put the kibosh on their departure. Though he lost the opportunity to send athletes to a national event, Reive said he liked having the chance to heal up before competing in two meets in eight days.

The Hawkeyes and Gophers are no strangers to each other. This is the second encounter between the two squads this season; the first came in the Windy City Invitational on Jan. 15 when Minnesota placed third and Iowa finished fifth. Minnesota had a higher team score on every event except for the high bar, an event Reive said is crucial for his team.

In the national rankings, the Hawkeyes hold an edge in both the parallel bar and the high bar.

Minnesota’s top individual this season has been DJ Repp, who is fourth in the country in vault.

With the Hawkeyes competing in their second-to-last home meet of the season, Reive is relishing the opportunity for his gymnasts to compete in a familiar setting.

“It adds a comfort level, to have people that they know there, as well as being familiar with the set-up and the equipment,” he said. “That’s why home meets score a little higher for them.”


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