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Televised meet adds energy for men's gymnasts

BY RYAN MURPHY | FEBRUARY 10, 2012 7:20 AM

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A men's gymnastics meet will be televised live on the Big Ten Network on Saturday night for the only time before the Big Ten championships.

The Hawkeye men's gymnastics team will host the competition when it faces Minnesota and Nebraska at 7 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Each of the seven teams in the Big Ten will be featured twice on the Big Ten Network — once in a dual or triangular meet, and again at the Big Ten meet, to be held April 6-7 in Iowa City. Saturday's competition will be the only regular-season meet televised live on the network.

Sophomore Brody Shemansky said competing on national television takes the energy of Carver-Hawkeye to a different place.

"There's another level of excitement because it's on the Big Ten Network," he said. "It's really nice to go out and perform in front of cameras, and it gives us an opportunity to get our work out there and show what we've been working on in the gym."

Second-year Hawkeye coach JD Reive said he's looking to seeing how the Hawkeyes handle the bigger stage that television coverage provides.

"In theory, this should be a lot of fun. There's TV, we're at home, and it's a great venue, so there will be a lot of energy," he said. "The question is, who has the mental ability to handle that pressure and rise above it and not crumble under the bright lights."

While the television appearance provides some exposure for the team, he said, the main emphasis against the No. 6 Golden Gophers and No. 11 Cornhuskers must be on improving the Hawkeye scores.

"The real importance of this meet is we have to put up a good team score, even if these two teams finish ahead of us," Reive said. "That's my focus, and that means doing the best I can to distract [the Hawkeyes] from all that other stuff."

Each of the three teams has at least one gymnast ranked in the top seven nationally in a certain event — Nebraska's Eric Schryver is ranked seventh on pommel horse, and Iowa junior Javier Balboa is No. 5 on parallel bars. Gopher Zack Chase is fifth on vault, and teammate Russell Dabritz is No. 7 on the parallel bars.

The Hawkeyes will be aided by the return of one of their top gymnasts. Junior Matt McGrath has been hampered by a knee injury that caused him to miss Iowa's Jan. 28 meet against Illinois-Chicago, and he only competed on rings and parallel bars in the season's first two events.

Reive said he expects McGrath to make his season début on floor exercise, estimating that even a low-difficulty routine from the Wheaton, Ill., native will be the team's highest on the event.

McGrath said he looks forward to returning to competition, but he is mindful about protecting his knee.

"It'll definitely be very exciting," McGrath said. "I just have to make sure to stay careful and hit some safe sets."

Follow DI men's gymnastics reporter Ryan Murphy on Twitter.


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