Ben Ketelsen continues career as assistant coach


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Assistant coach Ben Ketelsen may have found his place at Iowa.

A former Hawkeye gymnast, Ketelsen obtained numerous accolades, winning letters all four years and setting the school record for pommel horse — an event that is the team’s weakest this season.

Head coach JD Reive brought his former gymnast Ketelsen aboard last season amid many changes in the coaching staff.

“I had Ben for one year as he finished up his career and after he coached part-time at the club run by my wife,” Reive said. “He started coaching and liked what he was doing. The next year I offered him a volunteer assistant position here. He made the transition, came in every day, and just worked his way in. When I had positions open up the following year, he interviewed, and I offered him the position, which turned out to be a really good hiring.”

Traditionally, the team sticks with two assistant coaches but Reive has no rush to fill the void. The vacancy has given Reive the control that he wants over the program but also gives Ketelsen the room to grow and mature as a coach and opportunity to display his abilities.

“For us as a staff right now, the opportunity of being one person down has allowed me to take a little more control over what’s going on. But at the same time, having Ben take on more responsibilities, and it’s a little trial by fire which he’s absolutely responded well to,” Reive said.

Ketelsen spends a lot of his time working with the gymnasts on the pommel horse. There is an extra emphasis this week to work on the event after it was the team’s downfall last weekend against Illinois. The squad scored below average with an uncharacteristic mark of 61.050.

“I try to get a bit of the philosophy behind how to handle pommel horse in their head,” Ketelsen said. “Pommel horse is a different event than the other ones. You have to be patient and calm with pommel horse rather than with rings or bar.”

The mentality of the pommel horse is arguably the most difficult task to undertake. Sophomore Doug Sullivan is the team’s pommel horse specialist, and he still seeks out Ketelsen for tips.

“He has really helped me get into a chill, relaxed mindset right before I go,” Sullivan said. “He has given me a lot of pointers to improve and what I need to do to excel and beat his record.”

The event will be the focal point at noon Saturday when Nebraska and Minnesota visit Carver-Hawkeye Arena. This last home meet will also serve as Senior Day for Illinois natives Matt McGrath and Angelo Bronzino.

McGrath was named an All-American in 2011 after a fifth-place finish at the NCAA championships. Bronzino finished with nine top-10 finishes in 2012, and he finished 25th on high bar at the NCAA qualifiers.

“I think these are two Big Ten schools that we should be in front of,” Ketelsen said. “I think if we just go out and hit similar to what we did last weekend and just put together a good course lineup, we should be in a position to do that. Basically, keep the energy up, and do what we’ve been doing in the gym.”

Ketelsen is familiar with both visiting teams because he is only three years removed from competition. The Ohio native brings youthfulness and a personal approach to the team.

“He’s got the desire to learn and invest himself, which takes some time for a young kid to get into a teaching position,” Reive said. “He’s got the demeanor and personality that’s sort of laid-back. There’s a lot of patience involved to get good at this, so he fit into that well. His openness to learn is the biggest one.”

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