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Success for men's gymnastics could hinge on role players

BY CHARLIE GREEN | JANUARY 27, 2015 5:00 AM

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Although the Iowa men’s gymnastics squad relies on a core group of all-around gymnasts, the team’s place among the nation’s top teams may hinge on its specialists.

“Their sole job is to be the best on that event,” head coach JD Reive said. “They bring depth and competitiveness to the lineup.”

In two meets, the Hawkeyes have received more than half their points from just five of the 19 athletes on the team. Aside from freshman Dylan Ellsworth, they are experienced upperclassmen.

Juniors Cyrus Dobre-Mofid, Matt Loochtan, and Jack Boyle and senior Lance Alberhasky make up a solid foundation that has Iowa thinking big this season.

But arguably more important are the guys they can plug into events to supplement their lineup and boost the scores. They compete in two or fewer events and can be the difference between winning and losing.

“Believe it or not, they’re the most important part of the team,” Boyle said. “Their routines are crucial to our success.”

Boyle leads the team with 125.500 points this year, good for 12.6 percent of the team’s total. He competed in five of six events for the Hawkeyes on Jan. 24 against Illinois-Chicago.

As versatile as Boyle and others are, perhaps most important for the team this year is counting on a lineup of specialists to compete on a specific event: the pommel horse.

“It’s a unique event compared with others,” freshman Elijah Parsells said. “You see guys competing in four or five events but not in pommel horse, so you need guys who can come in and fill that void.”
It is also an event that has looked like Iowa’s weakest to date. At the Jan. 24 meet, it was the only event in which the team did not break 70 points.

Parsells hopes to boost the event in much the same manner as junior Doug Sullivan has thus far with two 14.900 performances.

Other key contributors include freshman Austin Hodges, sophomore Andrew Botto, and senior Brandon Field — who scored 14.500 on the floor exercise and vault against the Flames.

“The idea behind specialists is that they go out and be strong on one or two events,” senior rings specialist William Albert said. “They contribute to higher scores and higher difficulty because they focus more on that event.”

They and numerous others face the task of coming in and nailing one or two routines. Their focus is narrower in a meet, which allows for more preparation but also can create more pressure.

“I feel like there’s a tremendous amount of pressure when a specialist goes up,” junior Del Vecchio Orazco said. “We train countlessly on one or two events and get just two minutes to show what we can do.”

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


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