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Men's gymnastics seeks to keep rolling

BY CHARLIE GREEN | FEBRUARY 03, 2015 5:00 AM

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The Iowa men’s gymnastics team knows it got a big win over Ohio State on Sunday. It also knows that in the race for the Big Ten’s top three, it’s still on the outside looking in.

“Preseason polls ranked them as one of the best in the nation,” assistant coach Ben Ketelsen said. “Being able to jump ahead of them at this point is fantastic for our guys’ mentality going forward in the season.”

The 428.450- 422.600 victory over Ohio State vaulted Iowa one spot ahead of the Buckeyes in the rankings, moving up to No. 7.

The Hawkeyes finished behind their rivals at both the Big Ten and NCAA championships last season. What they displayed Sunday is that they have firmly established themselves as one of the Big Ten’s top-five teams.

The coaching staff has maintained the expectation of reaching the podium at the Big Ten championships on March 27-28.

To do that, the team will need to keep plugging away. Michigan, Penn State, and Illinois make up three of the top five teams in the country, and all three average more points per meet than Iowa has through its first three.

“Other than Oklahoma and Stanford, the top teams are in the Big Ten,” Ketelsen said. “We've got a lot of work cut out for us going forward, starting with Illinois next weekend.”

The showdown with No. 4 Illinois on Saturday will be the Hawks’ next big challenge. With less than a week to prepare, they are zoning in on what they need to improve.

“It’s further refining those skills that we get a 0.3 or 0.5 deductions on,” sophomore Cory Paterson said. “We try to perfect those little things, hit the routines, and keep doing what we’re doing.”

The ‘little” things have created big problems for Iowa. The team has been dreadful on the pommel horse, averaging a lowly 68.317 — its worst in any event. If it weren’t for the stellar performance of junior specialist Doug Sullivan this season (he posted a season-high 15.000 Sunday), that score would be even worse.

The struggles in a loaded high-bar lineup have been puzzling. Uncharacteristic mistakes from juniors Jack Boyle, Cyrus Dobre-Mofid, and Matthew Loochtan have turned a former strongpoint into a liability for the Hawkeyes.

On Sunday, with a 3-point lead over Ohio State heading into the final rotation, high-bar mistakes by Boyle and freshman Austin Hodges nearly denied the team a win.

Dobre-Mofid and the rest of the lineup picked it up and secured the victory, a sign that the high-bar lineup may be turning a corner.

Illinois, Michigan, and Penn State all have a higher average of points on the pommel horse and high bar than do the Hawks. For Loochtan and Company, the events simply represent ways to gain ground.

“Beating Ohio State was the first step to many,” Loochtan said. “Obviously, we competed yesterday, and we’re out here today working out, so it shows you how much we care about trying to win.”

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


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