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Iowa gymnast McGrath set for 2013 return from injury

BY RYAN PROBASCO | MAY 14, 2013 5:00 AM

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After going through two separate knee surgeries and a stem-cell injection, fifth-year senior Matt McGrath is finally ready to return for the Iowa men’s gymnastics team.

McGrath missed several events during the 2011-12 season because of his initial surgery to repair a cartilage explosion on the right side of his patella and femur. He then had the more extensive surgery after hobbling through the latter part of his junior season, which caused him to miss all of what was supposed to be his senior campaign this past year.

“They injected stem cells to regrow that cartilage,” McGrath said. “After that, I had to keep my knee straight for four to six weeks. That was probably the most difficult part.

“I was trying to get my knee to bend to 90 degrees again and then farther because when your knee’s locked out for a month and a half, it does not want to bend.”

Luckily, his school schedule, along with NCAA rules, allowed him to redshirt this past season.

The 2011 NCAA All-American will provide his squad a much needed boost on the floor exercise and vault — events in which the Black and Gold struggled during the 2012-13 season.

“He is a big scorer and a big-leg event guy, and floor was one of our weakest events this year,” Iowa men’s gymnastics coach JD Reive said McGrath. “The vault was mediocre for us. He’s going to be a huge contribution to the routines that we lost and actually will be bringing us up a bit.”

Numbers on the judges’ scorecards aren’t the only meaningful contributions McGrath will make next season. All-Americans Javier Balboa and Anton Gryshayev, as well as two-time All-Big Ten team member Brody Shemansky, will depart because of graduation. This leaves the Hawkeyes young and inexperienced.

Having a successful and experienced gymnast such as McGrath return, the Hawkeyes say, will be extremely beneficial for several lowerclassmen.

“It’s a big class that we’re losing, so to keep one of them is awesome,” redshirt sophomore Lance Alberhasky said. “He’s a leader on this team, too. Just to have guys back with experience that we can rely on is always good.”

McGrath admits it was difficult at times to be a spectator this past season, but there may not have been a bigger supporter of last season’s fifth-place finishers at the NCAA championships than McGrath. Watching the team gave him a new sense of purpose. By focusing on the areas in which he felt the team needed improvement, he was able to tinker his rehab in a way that would benefit the squad the most. And no one is more motivated than he is for competition to begin again.

“I was pretty proud of them,” McGrath said. “They were showing everyone how JD’s program is supposed to run.

“… Obviously, it was a little bit hard because I saw spots where we were a little weak on floor and vault and I could have filled and maybe helped out a little more. But in the end, it was a great experience to watch, and I’m pretty excited to see where next year takes us.”


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