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Iowa men's gymnastics serious contenders for Big Ten Championships

BY RYAN PROBASCO | MARCH 07, 2013 5:00 AM

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The No. 8 Iowa men’s gymnastics team is not used to contending for high-level accolades. The squad has been in the lower tier of the conference for nearly a decade — and this year was not supposed to be any different.

“Normally, we’re always pegged as the bottom team in the Big Ten,” sophomore Lance Alberhasky said. “It’s been like that for the past 10 years. But we’re definitely surprising people. Teams know they have to be on their ‘A game’ to beat us. And we know that we can beat all of the teams in the Big Ten.”

Despite the low expectations and mediocre prognosis for the squad, as Alberhasky said, the Black and Gold have put together a successful season. The Hawkeyes won consecutive dual meets for the first time in third-year head coach JD Reive’s tenure — they won three-consecutive meets against teams ranked in the top 10 nationally.

For the first time in a decade, Iowa gymnastics is a serious contender in the Big Ten meet and even the NCAA championships on a team-based and individual standpoint. The difference, Iowa gymnasts say, has been the team’s focused mentality and sense of togetherness.

“This year’s team has a greater sense of whole,” senior Brody Shemansky said. “We’re more unified, and we have a unified goal. Because of that, we’re working together more efficiently, which helps the efficiency in practices. And when that happens, it shows up in the meets.”

Several members of the Hawkeye squad have flourished this season. Senior Javier Balboa is riding a streak in which he has won the all-around competition four meets in a row. The native of Monterrey, Mexico, has an average score of 85.817 in the all-around, ranked fifth nationally by GymInfo.

“Every time we go to a competition, the other team knows that Iowa will be ready,” Balboa said. “We’ve been working really hard to try to raise Iowa’s standards.”

The Black and Gold have two dual meets remaining on their schedule before the Big Ten meet, which will take place April 5-6 in Minneapolis.

Another change that has occurred for the Hawkeyes this year, Shemansky said, is the excitement level about postseason competition.

“There’s definitely more excitement and drive,” the Los Gatos, Calif., native said. “In previous years, we wouldn’t be as focused or excited for the end of the year like we are right now. That’s definitely a major difference for us.”

The Hawkeyes have not recently been in a position to contend as they are this season. That alone, the team says, is enough to declare this season a success. And although the amount of hardware they bring home will define this year’s squad for some, the Hawkeyes are sure this type of success won’t be stopping any time soon.

“We want to show people that Iowa is a changing program,” Alberhasky said. “We want to show Iowa is a top-contending teams so that recruits can see that and want to come on a recruiting visit here. And we want to keep that energy going for years to come.”


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