McGrath morphs into vocal leader for men's gymnasts


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Being an All-American gymnast carries some extra responsibility — but Iowa junior Matt McGrath embraces it.

McGrath has accepted his role as a leader for the Hawkeye men's gymnastics team after a breakout sophomore season that saw him named an All-American on the vault and rank in the top 10 nationally on floor exercise.

Second-year head coach JD Reive said McGrath's best leadership quality is his work ethic.

"He's definitely moved much more into a leadership position," the coach said. "He's that guy who keeps his head down and goes to work every day, and he follows the training program really well. It's his work ethic that brings him to that next stage, and the other guys are seeing that."

Having a junior step up as a team leader is important as he tries to continue building the Iowa gymnastics team, Reive.

"Leadership will come from anywhere," he said. "We're not just looking to seniors necessarily, and he's someone who is there. It's awesome to have it to see it instituting itself this year. He's taken on a captain-like role and is pushing everyone to keep up with him."

Assistant coach Brad Virkler said McGrath has used his experiences to act as a more forceful leader while still maintaining his leadership by example in the gym.

"He's taken more of an active role as a leader," said Virkler, who is in his second year as an assistant coach. "He's more vocal, and he's more confident in his leadership. He's always led by example, but now he's adding that vocal aspect to it."

McGrath said he enjoys using his abilities and experience to assist his younger teammates as well as improve his talent.

"I definitely feel like I have some experience for these freshmen to look at, to be that guy who sets an example for everyone," he said. "It's what I've been going for, to bang out the numbers and just do everything I need to do."

While the Wheaton, Ill., native is an All-American in vault, his best event for most of his sophomore season was floor exercise. McGrath set the school record on the event with a 15.500 against Nebraska, and he was ranked as high as seventh nationally.

The junior's successes on floor exercise and vault made Reive say he believes McGrath can be an All-American on both events; he would be the first Hawkeye since 2004 to accomplish the feat.

"I really think he can final on floor and vault, and he's got a really good bar routine and a really good ring routine," Reive said.

McGrath said reaching the All-American level as a sophomore has given him the push to work hard in order to taste success again.

"You don't want to make it one year and not the next," he said. "You drive to get better and hopefully have the potential to All-American on numerous events."

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