Senior’s full return boosts men’s gymnasts

BY RYAN MURPHY | MARCH 09, 2011 7:20 AM

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Ben Ketelsen had not competed in his full set of events in over a month. But for the senior, it was as nothing had changed.

At the Hawkeyes’ March 5 meet against Minnesota and Penn State, Ketelsen returned from a knee injury, recording a team-high score of 13.600, good for a fourth-place finish on pommel horse. Ketelsen was also the second-highest scoring Hawkeye in three other events.

For the senior, it was just good to be able to support his teammates with his routines instead of only being able to give verbal support.

“It feels really good to be back. Last weekend, I was able to go out, and hit sets, and get the morale going out there,” he said. “It’s a different kind of morale when you can go out and hit sets.”

Entering the Feb. 11 meet against Minnesota, he was having a smooth final season. He had victories on both pommel horse and vault, and he had been a leader for the Hawkeyes in both events.

Then came the injury that shook the team.

On Iowa’s first event of the night, the floor exercise, the Lancaster, Ohio, native hyperextended his knee and was unable to finish. After struggling on the pommel horse, he was done for the night. The Hawkeyes had lost one of their senior leaders, and the result was Iowa’s lowest dual meet score of the season.

A knee injury typically keeps a gymnast out of competition, or at least well short of 100 percent, for weeks. Not Ketelsen.

Once the injury was discovered to be less than catastrophic, it was a matter of his working his way back to being ready for competition.

It didn’t take long — Ketelsen competed on pommel horse on Feb. 19 against Nebraska.

“Once we knew there wasn’t any structural damage, it was a matter of him getting to where he was ready to compete again mentally,” Iowa head coach JD Reive said. “I was really impressed with how quickly he was able to do that.”

Ketelsen returned to full competition on March 5, competing in all five of his events — the only event in which he does not compete is rings.

His full return has come at a good time, both for him and the Hawkeyes. With senior Mike Jiang, Iowa’s other stalwart on pommel horse, out because of a concussion, Ketelsen has been able to fill in for his teammate and has become Iowa’s star on the event.

“He’s able to step up on the events I’m missing out on,” Jiang said. “He’s got me covered, especially on pommel horse.”

Reive said having Ketelsen fully back in the lineup makes his job easier, because it fills some of the “gaping holes” left by injuries. The first-year coach said the highlight of Iowa’s meet against the Gophers and Nittany Lions was getting Ketelsen back.

With two meets remaining in the regular season, he feels his return has come at a great time to build momentum for the two biggest meets of the year: the Big Ten and NCAA championships.

“It was an almost perfect time for me to get my things back in order before having to crank out my ultimate goal sets at Big Tens and NCAAs,” he said.

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