Men's gymnast Balboa an all-around competitor


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Competing in all six gymnastics events in one meet is not an easy task.

For the Iowa men's gymnastics team, the gymnast to stand up to the task is junior Javier Balboa.

He has competed in the all-around in both of Iowa's two competitions this year. He recorded the top Hawkeye score in three events against Illinois on Jan. 21 and in two events at the Windy City Invitational on Jan. 14.

Balboa said his work for two years as a Hawkeye — and for years before that at the junior national level in Mexico — has been geared toward being an all-around competitor.

"It's what I've been training my whole life for," he said.

Balboa placed fourth in the all-around against Illinois — behind two U.S. national-team members and the Big Ten's top freshman — with a 84.200 score, which Iowa head coach JD Reive said was "huge" for the junior.

The coach said Balboa could have been an all-arounder in his sophomore season. Now that he's a junior, he has become a person the 14th-ranked Hawkeyes can look to on all six events.

"We wanted to do it last year, but it just didn't work out for him to do it — but it is a big thing for him this year," Reive said. "It's really important for me to have an all-arounder who can be a leader in those events."

Balboa was an NCAA qualifier in his first season as a Hawkeye in the parallel bars, and placed 13th in the nation in the event. He fell just short of qualifying for the final day of competition, which determines All-American status. His achievements in the 2011 season were recognized by the Big Ten before the 2012 campaign; Balboa was named as one of the conference's "Gymnasts to Watch" for the second year in a row.

That success on the parallel bars has continued this year. Balboa is ranked No. 7 in the nation with a 14.800 average in the event, No. 17 in the all-around, and he is the only Hawkeye ranked in the top 15 nationally of any event.

Junior Brody Shemansky, who also competed in the all-around against the Illini, said Balboa is able to excel as an all-arounder because of his focus and his ability to transfer success from one event to the next.

"He's really focused when he competes, and it helps when you are an all-around guy and you can get into that competition mode," Shemansky said. "He does really well at picking up momentum. If he does well on one event, he carries it over into the next one."

Reive said Balboa is able to manage the different expectations of competing in the all-around as opposed to a handful of events.

"There's a much different mentality going behind competing in the all-around and competing in two or three events," Reive said. "He's going be a really good all-arounder by the end of the year."

Balboa said competing in select events is good practice, but nothing that compares with competing in all six events in one night.

"I feel like a complete gymnast when I do the all-around," he said. "Not that I don't like doing three of four events — but I feel like when I do the all-around, it's a real competition."

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