Men’s gymnasts start NCAAs preparation

BY RYAN MURPHY | APRIL 05, 2011 7:20 AM

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The final men’s gymnastics regular season rankings are in the books, and the Iowa men’s gymnastics team’s final ranking of 11th has qualified the squad for April 14’s NCAA Qualifier, the prelude to the NCAA championships in Columbus, Ohio.

Now the challenge is managing the off-week that has been rough on the Hawkeyes this season.

Three of the five lowest scores for the Iowa men’s gymnastics team have come in meets that were preceded by weeks with no competition, including the season-low 330.100 against Minnesota on Feb. 11.

Sophomore Matt McGrath, who placed seventh on floor exercise at the conference championships, said a new attitude will help the Hawkeyes with their bye-week struggles.

“We have a different mindset for our routines now,” the sophomore said. “We’re not thinking about what happens if we fall, we’re thinking about how well we are going to hit our routines. We are just building up our confidence.”

Iowa head coach JD Reive, who is entering his first NCAAs as the Hawkeyes’ coach, said his team needs to be as tuned in as possible in practice this week to be ready for the biggest event of the season.

“There can be absolutely no letdown in energy or intensity in the gym this week,” he said. “I have to keep pushing [the gymnasts] super hard.”

Keeping the Hawkeyes in a rhythm is a crucial in combating any drop-off, he said. He held two intrasquad meets the week before this past weekend’s Big Ten championships and said it helped keep his squad sharp entering the meet.

“We had those intrasquad meets, and our first three events at Big Tens were really good,” the first-year coach said.

Reive will conduct another intrasquad meet at the end of the week, he said, and the team will travel to Columbus early next week to get two days of training in the St. John Arena, the site of the NCAA Qualifier and championships.

One Hawkeye who knows all about what is needed for success at NCAAs is senior Mike Jiang, who was an All-American in pommel horse last season. The senior placed ninth on the event at Big Tens.
Jiang said the squad will overcome its bye-week struggles if the Hawkeyes concentrate on only themselves.

“It’s what we’ve been talking about this entire season: We need to focus in on ourselves and not everybody else,” he said. “We’re physically ready; now, we just need to be mentally ready.”

Reive said he hopes the disappointment of the Big Tens will drive his team to work hard in practice in the week before the national qualifier.

“I made them sit there and watch the finals, and they were a little bit pissed,” Reive said. “They realized that the guys in the finals were not much better than they were, and I think that will motivate them to work really hard this week.”

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