Gymnasts head to Vegas


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The Iowa men’s gymnastics team will get significant national recognition this weekend with three gymnasts headed to Las Vegas for a national meet, while the rest of the team prepares for a faceoff on the road against Illinois-Chicago on Feb. 23.

Matt McGrath, Matt Loochtan, and Andrew Botto, accompanied by head coach JD Reive, will compete in Las Vegas beginning today through Feb. 23.

“It’s a really cool meet,” assistant coach Ben Ketelsen said. “You get to represent Iowa, not as a team but as an individual at the national level. A lot of people look at it and judge where a program is, essentially. If we have more representatives there, it kind of sticks out to people.”

The Winter Cup is one of two national qualifying meets that USA Gymnastics holds. The gymnasts will compete on an individual level rather than with a team, and all three gymnasts qualified for the meet prior to the season.

“I am glad they are going out there and competing,” sophomore gymnast Doug Sullivan said. “They all deserve it,”

These qualifying events help USA Gymnastics pick out its roster for international events.

The rest of the team is preparing to go to Chicago. For the Hawkeyes, whether they have those three gymnasts isn’t an issue. The gymnasts believe they have plenty of talent on the roster to make up for it.

“We have depth on this team. We have a lot of depth,” junior Will Albert said. “Unlike most teams, we have a lot of guys who train all around, so even with those guys gone, I think we are still going to do fine. A lot of other guys can contribute to this team.”

Ketelsen will lead the Hawkeyes to Chicago. The team broke three school records last weekend, in overall score, pommel horse, and a vault routine that was Iowa’s best ever.

“That was probably the best vault lineup I have ever seen go,” Ketelsen said. “I mean, we had stick after stick which is really cool. I don’t think I have seen that many sticks in a row in a long time. They were just sticking right after another.”

This far into the season, the format of meets will start change to a more unforgiving system that counts all the gymnasts’ routines and doesn’t drop any scores.

“The whole system changes when it goes to 5-up/5-count,” Albert said. “We were a really consistent on the weekend. We hit all of our routines, and we didn’t have a single fall. That says a lot about the character of our team.”

The change in the format will really begin to separate the teams from each other by demonstrating which can put down the cleanest possible routines. That is what Reive and Ketelsen will preach for the rest of the season.

“At this point, it isn’t really a matter of getting in shape,” Ketelsen said. “We are in shape. We are looking at the judging sheets, and seeing where the deductions are coming, and narrowing in our focus on those problem areas so we can minimize deductions on the floor.”

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