Men's gymnastics peaking at the right time

BY JACK ROSSI | MARCH 27, 2014 5:00 AM

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With the gymnastics season coming to a close in the coming weeks, Iowa senior Matt McGrath hopes to solidify his legacy within the program after, arguably, his best performance as a Hawkeye.

McGrath, a fifth-year senior, just finished up his final regular-season meet of his career last weekend in style. After upsetting No.5 Minnesota and No.6 Illinois, McGrath was selected as the Big Ten Gymnast of the Week for only the second time in his career, as well as the College Gymnastics Association’s Gymnast of the Week — an award that is voted on by coaches around the country, his first award from the group.

“I didn’t really expect any of this to happen,” McGrath said. “I was just coming in the gym every day and working hard. It turns out that it paid off a lot.”

He won the floor exercise and vault scoring a 15.600 and 15.300, and his floor routine tied the school record set earlier this season by Matt Loochtan. The team also set a new season high with an overall score of 437.250.

Head coach JD Reive likes where McGrath is at and is excited that his captain is succeeding after all he has been through.

“He is in such a great place right now, finishing up as a fifth-year senior after all he has been through with the staff and changes over the year. Being the one guy that survived the entire thing and to be in this great position going into the postseason as our captain is awesome,” Reive said.

McGrath might not be in this position had it not been for an injury last season that landed him a medical redshirt. He suffered a cartilage lesion in his knee, and the lack of cartilage made it very painful for him to take any sort of impact because of the bones in his knee rubbing against each other. McGrath sat out the season and rehabbed, and the lost year may have turned out to have been a blessing. He thinks the year off has helped him.

“I am really happy I didn’t rush back last year because I wouldn’t have been where I wanted to be nor where I could help the team out as much as I am right now,” he said.

Along with training with the team, McGrath also spends a lot of his time on his schoolwork. A biomedical engineer, McGrath rarely finds any free time. Reive applauds McGrath’s effort in school and believes he exemplifies what Iowa gymnastics is all about.

“I love being able to say that he is a biomedical engineer and he is succeeding in school. That is a big part of the culture we are laying down,” Reive said. “He’s got that work ethic, he comes in and gets his work done, [and] at the same time, he is a captain and leads by example. He’s doing the same thing in his academics, and that’s the student-athlete concept that we want to get across.”

Co-captain Lance Alberhasky is happy with what the duo did this year and how they have handled the season. The gymnasts were there for each other when the other was down, and it has shown this season.

“Slowly throughout the year, we got better and better,” Alberhasky said. “We’re in a great spot going into Big Tens.”

It’s not quite over yet; the Hawkeyes have the Big Ten championships this weekend and the NCAA national championships early next month. It seems that the squad is peaking at the right time, and McGrath is leading the way.

“I couldn’t have asked for it to end in a better way,” he said.

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