Iowa men's gymnastics begins second season under Reive


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At the end of his first season as the head coach of the Iowa men's gymnastics team, JD Reive said his team would be in a much better spot at the beginning of this season.

Now, several months later, he said his team has risen to meet that challenge.

"We're light-years beyond where we were last year," Reive said. "As a group, we're way more fit and way more mentally prepared for what's ahead."

The team lost only three seniors from the 2010-11 roster, and the coach said the sense of leadership that was lacking on the floor in past years — specifically during competition — will be evident this season.

"In guys like Matt [McGrath], Javier [Balboa], and even Anton [Gryshayev], we have some guys who have been there, and seen it, and need to take a much more authoritative role," Reive said.

Four of the team's six 2011 NCAA qualifiers return: juniors Gryshayev, McGrath, and Balboa, and sophomore Sam Wright. McGrath is the Hawkeyes' most decorated returner — the Wheaton, Ill., native earned All-American honors on the vault last season.

Reive said McGrath will need to be one who takes a leadership role.

"Last year, we had some experience on the floor, but not necessarily someone who could take a presence on the floor and take control of the team," Reive said. "I see Matt doing that for us."

Gryshayev, who owns the top five rings scores in school history, said the team's goal is to compete with the best in the nation during the final days of the season.

"We want to be there on the second and third days of the NCAA championships and have guys make All-American status," he said, referring to the days on which the team and individual finals are held.

Sophomore Jack McClay echoed Gryshayev, saying the Hawkeyes' atypically low national ranking — they're No. 10 in the country in the preseason polls — has given the team an edge entering the season.

"We want to keep improving from where we were last year, but we set a team goal to prove those who set the preseason rankings wrong," McClay said.

The Hawkeyes' goal of a top-three conference finish will be challenged in the best men's gymnastics conference in the nation. All seven Big Ten squads are in the nation's top 10, led by No. 2 Illinois and No. 3 Michigan.

Iowa will compete at home three times before the conference championships — twice against Illinois and once in a meet against Minnesota and Nebraska. Trips to Norman, Okla., Chicago, and Las Vegas will give the Hawkeyes a chance to compete against some of the NCAA's best.

The Big Ten championships could also hold extra meaning for the Reive's squad this season — the event will take place in Iowa City.

The road to the Big Ten and NCAA championships will begin Dec. 4, when the team competes for the first time in the Black and Gold intrasquad meet. Held in conjunction with the women's gymnastics team, the gymnasts will be split into a Black team and a Gold team. Reive said the competition will be more intense than it has been in recent years.

"It's going to be a lot more head-to-head this year. Last year, it was just to get out there, and it's going to light a fire under them," Reive said. "It's going to be an exciting experience for them to see how far they have come, because they really don't see the changes from day to day."

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