NCAA Championships: Hawkeye gymnasts ready for NCAA Championships

BY RYAN MURPHY | APRIL 19, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa men's gymnastics team has been preparing for the NCAA Championships every day since the end of the 2011 season.

And with the national championships eminent, the Hawkeyes feel they couldn't be more ready.

Iowa will begin the three-day competition Thursday at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla., with the NCAA Qualifier. The Hawkeyes' session begins at 7 p.m.

Hawkeye head coach J.D. Reive said the opening day of competition is simply about doing what is expected.

"On the first day, it's all about consistency," Reive said. "We need to hit sets and keep our composure."

The Hawkeyes' competition in the NCAA Qualifier is filled with familiar teams. No. 11 Iowa will face No. 2 Penn State, No. 3 Stanford, No. 6 Michigan, No. 7 Ohio State, and No. 10 Nebraska. The top three teams from this group, as well as the top three teams in Thursday's afternoon session, will advance to the team finals on Friday night.

Reive said competing against four other Big Ten teams — and Stanford, for which he was an assistant coach before coming to Iowa — will help the Hawkeyes become more comfortable in Norman.

"We know exactly what we're in for, so I think it works in our favor," Reive said.

The top three all-arounders and the top three on each event in each session will advance individually to Friday's competition. The top 10 on each event from Friday will compete in the individual finals on Saturday, where the top eight earn all-American status.

Iowa has placed at least one gymnast as an all-American in 24 of the past 25 seasons. Only one of those gymnasts sits on Iowa's current roster; Iowa's 2011 all-American, junior Matt McGrath, said he would need a great performance in Norman to replicate his feats from a year ago.

"You have to stick [your vault] to be on that next level," McGrath said. "I'll be looking for that at NCAAs."

The Hawkeyes enter the Championships with three gymnasts — all juniors — ranked in the top 20 of an event. Anton Gryshayev is ranked 17th on the still rings, Javier Balboa sits at No. 10 on the parallel bars, and all-Big Ten gymnast Brody Shemansky is the nation's No. 11-ranked all-arounder.

Coming off the Big Ten Championships, which Reive said was "easily our best event of the year," Shemansky said it's crucial for the Hawkeyes to use their momentum to propel them forward in Norman.

"We have to keep the momentum going," Shemansky said. "We have to put in the hard work to finish out the year with a great meet."

Even with some of the nation's best gymnasts converging on Oklahoma's campus, Reive said the expectation won't change at this event for a long time.

"From here on out, our goal will always be team finals, and to be in that top six," Reive said. "It's part of the maturation of this program."

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

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