Iowa men's gymnastics team set to kick off Big Ten season


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The Iowa men’s gymnastics team will begin its Big Ten circuit today, hosting No. 6 Minnesota in Carver-Hawkeye Arena at 1 p.m.

But while most of the Hawkeye squad competes against the Gophers, freshmen Matt Loochtan and Jack Boyle will be in Las Vegas participating in the Winter Cup Challenge.

“It’s going to be a little weird without a couple of our teammates,” sophomore Lance Alberhasky said. “But we have a couple of guys who will fill in those spots, and they have to hit their routines.”

Iowa head coach JD Reive will travel to Las Vegas, but he plans to take a red-eye flight back in time to be in attendance for the matchup against the Gophers.

Last time out, the Hawkeyes fell to fourth-ranked Oklahoma, 436.55-420, in Iowa’s home opener on Feb. 2.

“We definitely have to show up for six events,” senior Anton Gryshayev said. “Last week, [against Oklahoma] we only showed up for five. If we can show up for six Friday, we have a very good chance to beat Minnesota.”

The Big Ten season is certain to be challenging for Iowa. Currently, all seven Big Ten teams are ranked in the top-nine nationally by GymInfo. Iowa will rely heavily on their senior all-around gymnasts Javier Balboa and Brody Shemansky, as well as rings specialist Gryshayev.

Gryshayev, a senior from Littleton, Colo., recently broke his own Iowa record on the still rings in the Metroplex Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas, with a score of 15.800. He now holds the top-five rings scores in school history and is ranked No. 1 nationally in the event. Teammate Balboa is ranked 10th nationally in the all-around competition.

Members of the Iowa squad are generally pleased with the team’s performances thus far this season. Las year’s first-team All-Big Ten member Shemansky commended the team for its consistency early on and described the type of leadership that he hopes to offer to his teammates — something, he thinks, they may have lacked in the past.

“There’s a curve with the amount of excitement that you can bring to the table, so I try to keep everyone within that natural peak without overdoing it,” Shemansky said. “I attempt to keep people level-headed but energetic at the same time, because I think we lacked that enthusiasm and fire last year and in previous years.”

Minnesota will offer a nice challenge for the Hawkeyes to start the Big Ten circuit. In last year’s Big Ten meet, the Gophers narrowly outpaced Iowa by a score of 350.000-342.800.

Alberhasky and the rest of the Hawkeye squad are aware of the importance of a good start in league competition. Confidence and execution, as always, the Iowa City native said, will be crucial if Iowa is to come away with a victory.

“We don’t feel like Minnesota is any better than us,” the sophomore said. “It’s just a matter of whether or not we go out there and do our job.”

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