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Men’s gymnasts qualify five in stellar performance

BY RYAN MURPHY | APRIL 15, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa men’s gymnastics head coach JD Reive knew his squad was unlikely to qualify for the team finals of the NCAA championships. His only expectation was for the team to perform their best meet of the year.

Reive said the team accomplished that goal Thursday night in St. John Arena in Columbus, Ohio. The Hawkeyes scored a 348.950, their second-highest score of the season, placing fifth of the six teams in the qualifier.

The Iowa coach said he was extremely happy with the Hawkeyes’ performance in the biggest meet of the season.

“I’m very, very proud of them,” said the first-year head coach. “We came out, had our best meet of the year, and had close to a 95 percent hit ratio.”

Senior Michael Jiang, who qualified for the second day on pommel horse, said the team reached its peak for this meet.

“We didn’t make a lot of mistakes tonight,” he said. “It was a great meet for us.”

While Stanford, California, and defending national champion Michigan qualified for tonight’s team finals, the Hawkeyes qualified five gymnasts for Session 3 of the championships, which determines the team champions and individual finalists. All-American status will also be decided at 7 p.m. today.

Jiang, Ben Ketelsen, Matt McGrath, Anton Gryshayev, and Javier Balboa qualified for tonight’s competition. Each placed in the top three in his event of the three non-qualifying teams— Iowa, Nebraska, and Ohio State.

The standout performer of the night was McGrath. The sophomore scored a season high 16.250 on vault to tie for fourth place in the session, first among non-qualifiers. Reive said McGrath’s vault was the best he had seen all season.

“He had a fantastic vault,” Reive said. “He has a real chance to get to individual finals.”

Floor exercise, which had been McGrath’s best event throughout the season, was one of two events in which the Hawkeyes failed to qualify a gymnast, along with horizontal bar. McGrath finished a half-point shy of qualifying for the third session on floor.

The only event that saw two Hawkeyes advance was pommel horse. An eighth-place finish for Jiang (14.550) and a 12th-place finish from Ketelsen (14.200) were enough to qualify the senior duo.

Jiang will now get the chance to repeat as an All-American on the event that has been his strongest throughout his Hawkeye career.

Gryshayev, who had been the Hawkeye leader on rings all season, earned a spot on the event with a score of 15.150, and Balboa, in his first experience at the NCAAs, scored a 14.850 on parallel bar.
Reive said the five remaining Hawkeyes can advance to individual finals, held Saturday night, by duplicating their performance from Thursday.

“If they do the exact same thing as today, they’ll be in a good spot,” Reive said. “All they can do is hit their routine and see what happens.

On Thursday, McGrath said the Hawkeyes earned the respect of the nationally acclaimed teams they competed against.

“We showed everyone what we are made of tonight,” he said.


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