Iowa gymnast nationally ranked in two events

BY RYAN MURPHY | MARCH 29, 2011 7:20 AM

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Matt McGrath is in the midst of a breakout sophomore season.

He has been arguably the top performer for the Hawkeye men’s gymnastics team. The Wheaton, Ill., native is the only team member to be ranked in the national top 20 in two events — floor exercise and vault.

First-year Hawkeye head coach JD Reive said McGrath has been a huge part of No. 10 Iowa’s team score.

“He’s been fantastic on both events,” Reive said. “He’s our big last guy up, and he’s been scoring points above everybody else. He’s also been filling in on [parallel] bars and rings and counting his score on those events.”

While McGrath’s best event last season was vault — an event he qualified for national finals in — he has become one of the conference’s best on floor exercise. The sophomore is ranked seventh nationally and fourth in the league with a four-score average of 14.837. The four-score average is calculated from a gymnast’s top five scores, with the best score being dropped.

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The high point of McGrath’s season thus far came on Feb. 19 when he recorded a 15.500 on floor to establish a school record on the event.

Reive said McGrath has great technical ability on the floor exercise.

“He has really good legwork, and he just has genetically gifted balance ability,” Reive said.

McGrath said he loves being able to lead his teammates by example during competition.

“It boosts everyone’s confidence when we’re hitting, especially when the last person hits on an event,” he said. “It gives us momentum and leads over into the next event.”

He also said he has benefited greatly from the new training regimen brought in by Reive.

“JD’s been pushing me really hard on all of my routines,” McGrath said. “Hopefully, next year I’ll improve even more.”

In addition to his record-setting floor routines, he has been consistently good on vault. He is ranked 14th with an average of 15.750, which Reive said has been huge for Iowa’s team score because vault is the highest scoring event in gymnastics.

McGrath’s teammates can’t help but notice the sophomore’s performances.

Senior Mike Jiang said one of McGrath’s greatest assets is his consistency.

“He’s pretty reliable,” Jiang said. “He almost always hits [his routines], especially now on vault. He’s been landing it at practice every day.”

With the two biggest events of the year — Big Tens and the NCAA championships — coming up in the next three weeks, McGrath knows his routines will be key for Iowa’s placement in those meets.

“It’s nice to back my teammates up and to have solid scores in my events,” he said.

Reive believes McGrath has the ability to have a big performances at the conference championship meet.

“I really think [he] can final in both vault and floor exercise at Big Tens,” the coach said.

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