GymHawks upset No. 7 Illinois by score of 428.450-428.400


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The Iowa men’s gymnastics team went into their matchup against defending national champion Illinois as huge underdogs on Feb. 16. In fact, even Hawkeye head coach JD Reive knew his team’s chances were slim against the Fighting Illini.

“We did not go into that meet thinking we were going to win,” Reive said a day after his Black and Gold gymnasts toppled seventh-ranked Illinois, 428.450-428.400.

“I thought we had a shot just because of the way some things lined up,” he said. “But our kids came in ready and prepared.”

The Hawkeyes’ success in Champaign was due in large part to the efforts of senior all-around performer Javier Balboa. In addition to his victory on the parallel bars event with a score of 14.900, the Monterrey, Mexico, native won the all-around for the second-consecutive week.

Iowa was also aided by the return of freshmen Jack Boyle and Matt Loochtan. After competing in the Winter Cup Challenge in Las Vegas last week, the two returned to the squad this week and played a major role in their team’s victory.

Loochtan took first place on the floor exercise with a score of 15.300. Boyle’s score of 14.700 was good enough for second place on the parallel bars. The freshman from Naperville, Ill., also placed third on the floor exercise with a score of 14.450.

“It was really nice to have those guys back,” senior rings specialist Anton Gryshayev said. “But it wasn’t just those two; all of the freshmen really stepped up for us on Saturday.”

Reive and Gryshayev both described their feeling as “ecstatic” following the win. The victory marked the first time the Hawkeyes have beaten Illinois in Reive’s three-year tenure as Iowa’s head coach.

“That’s really a big confidence win,” senior Brody Shemansky said. “I’m sure JD is really pleased and looking forward to keeping the ball rolling.”

The Hawkeyes are now 2-0 in conference play. In a league that was expected to be daunting, Iowa has beaten Minnesota and Illinois — teams many thought would contend for the national championship.

“What we’re seeing is it’s not just me talking about my theories and philosophies,” Reive said. “It’s actually starting to happen tangibly on the competition floor … For me personally, this is fantastic.”
The Hawks don’t believe their goals will change following the unexpected wins. To them, their goals have just shifted closer to their reach.

“The win is just a marker,” Shemansky said. “We set pretty high goals before the season. So our recent success doesn’t move our goals, but it makes them slightly more obtainable.”

Iowa gymnasts were adamant about the sense of confidence the win against Illinois gives them. Reive agreed the win will do wonders for his squad’s mindset moving forward. But the third-year head coach is certain wins of this magnitude will become business as usual in the near future.

“We really are just getting started here,” he said. “This is the first scratch of the surface of what the program is going to do and what I see it doing. It’s nice to see that actually happening.”

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