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Men's gymnastics turns attention to mental focus

BY CHARLIE GREEN | JANUARY 22, 2015 5:00 AM

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After finishing fourth at the Windy City Invitational on Jan. 17, the focus for Iowa men’s gymnastics centers on a sharper mental readiness.

“We’re entering the season as a much better team than we’ve ever been,” head coach JD Reive said. “Learning how to manage that on the floor brings a totally different mentality.”

Reive believes his team is the best physically since he’s been at Iowa. Under his guidance, the program has finished in the top 10 at NCAAs the past two seasons, including a fifth-place finish in 2013.

The season-opener at the Windy City Invitational saw positives from the Hawkeyes, but Reive and his staff are using some of the evening’s glaring mishaps as a wake-up call to his athletes.

“They get angry that they had an opportunity and didn’t seize it,” Reive said. “We have to capitalize on mistakes.”

Although they underperformed, Matt Loochtan, Lance Alberhasky, Jack Boyle, and Cyrus Dobre-Mofid give the team an experienced foundation of all-around competitors that puts them in the thick of the Big Ten race.

The solid upperclassmen will provide their share of points and is invaluable in their leadership to the rest of the team.

“As veterans, we have to be good examples for the new student-athletes coming in,” Dobre-Mofid said. “We have to lead them through the good times and bad.”

And while the leaders encountered more than their fair share of struggles, Windy City saw others show the potential to bring the team to the top of the conference.

Junior Doug Sullivan led all gymnasts at the meet with a 14.900 on the pommel horse. His performance on the event will be pivotal for a team that has struggled in the event in the past.

“Doug puts in so many hours on the pommel horse,” junior Del Vecchio Orozco said. “He pushes the entire pommel-horse lineup to be better, and that’s essential for our success as a team.”

Now it’s just a matter of executing routines in front of the judges. The little details on skills, dismounts, and landings could make or break the Hawkeyes’ season.

If the team took anything away from Windy City, it’s that they are physically toe-to-toe with the Big Ten’s top programs. They are capable of winning now, but only if mental preparation matches their physical ability.

“When we’re warming up, other teams notice we’re doing more than they are,” Orozco said. “It’s a huge confidence booster knowing we can push our bodies to the limit.”

The Hawkeyes’ performances on the vault and pommel horse are encouraging. And underwhelming performances from Alberhasky and Loochtan on the still rings are not likely to persist, as the two typically thrive in that event.

For Reive, improvement in mentality needs to come through training hard on a daily basis. Knowing that they can compete with the likes of Michigan and Ohio State could give them the boost needed to zone in on the goals at hand.

“They say practice makes perfect, but I believe perfect practice makes perfect,” Dobre-Mofid said. “That’s what’s going to lead to the best results.”

Follow @CharlsGreen on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa men’s gymnastics team.


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