Men’s gymnasts ready for Big Ten Championships

BY RYAN MURPHY | APRIL 01, 2011 7:20 AM

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From the day JD Reive was announced as head coach of the Iowa men’s gymnastics team, everything has been geared to performance at two meets: the Big Ten championships and the NCAA meet.

The first of those two will take place today through Saturday in Champaign, Ill., as the No. 10 Hawkeyes take on the rest of the Big Ten — No. 3 Illinois, No. 5 Penn State, No. 6 Michigan, No. 7 Minnesota, and No. 8 Ohio State.

In his first conference championship meet as head coach, Reive believes the Hawkeyes can surprise everyone with their performance. The last time Iowa didn’t finish last at the Big Ten meet was 2006, when it took third.

“We’ve been at last place in the Big Ten for a while now, and I’m looking for us to get up out of that spot, which is for sure possible,” Reive said.

With 43 gymnasts in the Big Ten nationally ranked — including the nation’s No. 1 on pommel horse, Illinois’ Daniel Ribiero, and on rings, Penn State’s Scott Rosenthal — the Big Ten field is arguably the strongest in the nation. Despite being the third-ranked team in the conference, Reive points to defending national champion Michigan is the favorite to claim the conference crown.

Reive said he believes Hawkeyes Mike Jiang, Ben Ketelsen, Anton Gryshayev, and Matt McGrath can all reach the finals at the meet and be in contention on the second and final day.

McGrath said it’s important for the team to treat Big Tens like any other meet.

“We need to keep doing what we’ve been doing, and stay confident and composed, and don’t treat it like a bigger meet,” the sophomore said. “We just need to go out and hit our sets.”

Jiang, competing in his final Big Ten championships, said this year’s group of Hawkeyes differ from past years in that they can block out the distractions of the meet.

“We need to not pay attention to the other teams because it gets distracting at times,” the senior said. “In the past, we’ve gotten caught up in the other teams, but now we have a lot of things we haven’t had before.”

The meet is important for the Hawkeyes for more than just competing for a conference title. The competition is counted twice in the team four-score average, which determines the 12 teams invited to the NCAA championships in Columbus, Ohio. A good score would boost Iowa’s average as well as impress the national meet judges.

The new training program Reive implemented upon his arrival was designed for the Hawkeyes to be in peak condition for these last two meets. Save for a thumb injury to freshman Lance Alberhasky, it has done its job — every member of Iowa’s roster is healthy, and even Alberhasky still may compete.

Now, Reive said, it’s up to the Hawkeyes to perform.

“They are in fantastic shape,” he said. “We are pretty much fully healthy and ready to go, and that says a lot about the training. Now we need to go out there and hit our sets.”

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