Hawkeye gymnasts thriving on rings pressure
The Iowa men's gymnastics team's margin of error on the still rings has been nonexistent for the last two competitions.
That hasn't stopped the Hawkeyes from recording their two best scores on the event of the season.
An injury to junior Javier Balboa left Iowa with the minimum of four competitors on the event. Most teams compete six gymnasts and drop the lowest two scores.
The four Hawkeyes — Matt McGrath, Brody Shemansky, Anton Gryshayev, and Angelo Bronzino — have thrived without the luxury of dropping scores.
The quartet followed a season-high 58.800 score against Oklahoma with a 57.600 at Minnesota on March 3. Gryshayev set a school record against the Sooners with a 15.250 and shared the event title in Minneapolis with McGrath.
Iowa head coach JD Reive said having no safety net on rings has increased his stress, but his gymnasts have handled it well.
"What's crazy is we only have four guys going, so everybody counts," Reive said. "There's a little bit of stress from my point of view, but it's been nice to go to that event, get our 58, and move on."
The Hawkeyes are ranked No. 11 in the nation on the event, and both Gryshayev (No. 22) and McGrath (No. 28) are ranked in the top 30.
Balboa is Iowa's third-highest-ranked competitor on the event, and Reive said he's trying to work the junior back onto the event after a back injury limited him to just the pommel horse against the Gophers. He was held out against Oklahoma.
The Hawkeyes also posted their highest team score on rings against Minnesota, a team ranked No. 5 in the nation on the event that boasts one of the conference's top-10 competitors, Russell Dabritz.
Shemansky said the challenge of competing on rings with only three teammates is more mental than physical.
"You can't give up any scores with just four guys, so you have to be mentally prepared and ready to compete every time you get up on the rings," the junior said.
Reive agreed with Shemansky. He said the Hawkeyes are simply competing without worrying about scores.
"If you're strong, rings is by far the easiest event to compete in in gymnastics," he said. "We're finally just going out and doing our thing with it, and it's one of the few events that we do that."
Rings scores will continue to be important for the Hawkeyes as the squad takes on Illinois on March 17. The Illini are ranked third in the nation on the event, and they lay claim to four of the nation's top-20 rings gymnasts.
McGrath said it will be important to continue hitting routines on rings, especially with the Hawkeyes' decreased depth.
"It's been important, because every single score counts, so every guy who goes has to hit his routine," he said.
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