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Men's gymnastics to host UIC on Saturday

BY CHARLIE GREEN | JANUARY 23, 2015 5:00 AM

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On Saturday, Iowa men's gymnastics will open its season against the University of Illinois-Chicago at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

"It will be a great opportunity to get comfortable here at home, and comfortable competing in general," assistant coach Ben Ketelsen said.

Although ranked No. 17 in the country, Illinois-Chicago faces a large disparity in talent between them and the 10th-ranked Hawkeyes. At the Windy City Invitational on Jan. 17, the Flames struggled to keep up with their Big Ten challengers, being the only team to score under 400.00 on the evening.

For head coach JD Reive, the meet presents another opportunity for the team to train in front of judges and a large audience.

"Everything we're doing is training," Reive said. "Even our meets are training for the end of the season. The postseason is when we need to be sharp and ready to go."

Facing an inferior — on paper, at least — opponent gives the team an opportunity to regroup after a shaky start at Windy City last weekend. At the meet, Iowa struggled on their strongest events — rings, high bar, and the floor exercise — struggling on dismounts and other skills en route to a fourth-place finish.

Rather than face off with the top programs of the Big Ten, Ketelsen believes this home opener is a golden opportunity for the development of his gymnasts.

"It lessens the nerves just a little bit," Ketelsen said. "They can breathe a little easier knowing they can go into a meet and come out with a good, solid win."

The meet also gives the freshmen a chance to grow before a bout with No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 9 Ohio State on Feb. 1.

At Windy City, Austin Hodges showed his potential value on the pommel horse, but the freshman also scored a team-low 13.000 on the high bar. Freshman Dylan Ellsworth fell on the rings, eventually scoring a lowly 11.200, while Elijah Parsells posted a 12.500 on the pommel horse.

After the up-and-down performance from the underclassmen, this meet could be pivotal for their improvement before being thrust into competition against two of the nation's top programs.

"We do have some younger guys competing for us," Ketelsen said. "So them figuring out how to handle the college competition, and when we're not facing an opponent so overwhelming it's a little easier for them to figure out."

Granted, the faults from last weekend's meet extend beyond the freshmen. With the season now underway, athletes are looking forward for the opportunity to show the home crowd what the team is really capable of.

"It's our first home meet of the season and we're eager to show Hawkeye fans the big things we're going to do this season," sophomore Cory Paterson said. "We put in a lot of work in over the summer, and we can't wait to show people what we're made of."

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


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