Iowa men's gymnastics set to square off against defending champs


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The Iowa Men’s Gymnastics team will have their hands full this Saturday as they take on the defending national champions in Champaign, Ill. Action is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. in Huff Hall.
Iowa head coach JD Reive spoke about the unique challenge that awaits his squad.

“[Illinois] has the experience of winning the NCAA title, so they have a presence and team atmosphere that you can feel,” Reive said. “You can smell it when you’re on the floor.”

Last time out, the Hawkeyes defeated No. 6 Minnesota at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Led by the performances of all-around competitors Javier Balboa and Lance Alberhasky, Iowa tied their season high score of 422.750, topping the Gophers’ score of 419.450.

“We had a pretty good meet hit percentage wise, but we still only scored a 422.750 [against Minnesota],” senior still rings specialist Anton Gryshayev said. “That’s due to silly mistakes and tenths given away for landings or bent knees. This week we’re focusing on the same routines we did last week, but cleaning them up. If we can do that, we can get 3 or 4 points back easily.”

Currently, the Hawkeyes have three gymnasts ranked in the top-10 nationally. Alberhasky is ranked fourth on the all-around with an average score of 82.683. Balboa is rated sixth on the parallel bars, averaging 14.783. And Gryshayev sits atop of the polls in the still rings event with an average score of 15.450.

The win against Minnesota marked the start of Big Ten competition for the Hawkeyes. Conference play is certain to be daunting, as all seven teams are ranked in the top-10, according GymInfo.

Reive emphasized the importance of the exposure and experience his squad will gain by facing a talented team like Illinois. According to the third-year head coach, winning won’t be the top priority this weekend.

“It’s important for them to compete against a team like Illinois on the road and just to get exposed to that,” Reive said. “Let’s say they beat us. We’re going to start hanging closer and closer. A year ago, it was a 10 or 15 point gap on an event. Now, it’s 2 or 3. It’s important for our guys to see that.”

Seeing that improvement will bode well for future meets, Reive noted. No matter the outcome, Reive and his team will be looking to take something away from the event.

“I need to have a 425 or higher put up,” said Reive. “I assume Illinois is going to be around 430 unless something goes goofy. If they make some mistakes and we have a near perfect meet, I think we can hang with them. Stranger things have happened.

“But for us it’s still trying to get in position for Big Tens and for NCAA’s.”

Coach Reive may not have winning atop his priority list this weekend. His gymnasts, though, aren’t traveling to Champaign expecting to lose.

“I think the team that hits the most sets is going to win,” Alberhasky said. “And I have 100% confidence that we can beat Illinois.”

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