Men's gymnastics on the rise

BY RYAN MURPHY | APRIL 21, 2011 7:20 AM

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In his first season at the helm of the Iowa men's gymnastics team, JD Reive was not expecting the Hawkeyes to be in contention for a national championship.

What he was expecting — and what he got — was for his team to accept and thrive in a whole new process.

"For us, it was a pretty ideal season," Reive said. "It was an introduction to the process it takes to get to the top level, and they surrendered to it."

Under the coach's strict new training regimen, which the squad often cited as a big reason for success, the Hawkeyes finished off a season that showcased a team on the rise.

Iowa gymnasts broke or tied five individual school records, and the team advanced six gymnasts to the NCAA championships. Four of those Hawkeyes will return in 2012 — All-American Matt McGrath, Javier Balboa, Sam Wright, and Anton Gryshayev. Each has at least two years of eligibility remaining.

Reive said the squad's performance in the season's last few meets showed what the team is capable of.

"The proof of their abilities was there," he said. "At the end of the year, they saw that."

The standout season among the Hawkeyes was McGrath's. The sophomore was in the top 10 in the nation on the floor exercise, and he broke the school record on the event with a 15.500 against Nebraska on Feb. 19. He capped his season with three-straight vaults of 15.900 or better, including a 16.250 vault that came within 0.05 of setting another school record. McGrath's scores allowed him to capture a fifth-place finish at last weekend's NCAA championships and earn All-American status.

In 2012, McGrath will attempt to become the first Hawkeye since 2004-05 to earn All-American honors in the same event two years in a row. The sophomore said he thinks Iowa will be a team to watch next season.

"We made a lot of improvement, and we're really looking good for next year," he said.

For this squad, there is very little time between the end of the season and the beginning of practice. The Hawkeyes will take a one-week break, then head back into the gym.

By getting the team back to fundamentals for the final weeks of the school year, Reive believes it will give the team a boost entering the 2012 season.

"When we come back into the gym in August, we'll be 10 steps ahead of where we were last year," he said.

The Hawkeyes will be especially driven to succeed in the Big Ten championships — the event will be held in Iowa City.

Sophomore Timm Krueger said the Hawkeyes, who are only losing three seniors — John Haines, Mike Jiang, and Ben Ketelsen — will be able to catch up with some of the nation's top teams, especially in the Big Ten.

"We were really underclassman heavy this year, and a lot of the top teams are losing really good seniors," Krueger said. "We want to be in the top three at Big Tens next year."

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