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Hawks pummeled on pommel horse

BY CHARLIE GREEN | FEBRUARY 25, 2015 5:00 AM

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There are no stars on the pommel horse for Iowa men’s gymnastics — just a group of athletes whose focus is drawn to the team’s most worrisome event.

Its lineup is strange — a sort of band of misfits assigned the task of tackling the program’s all-too-familiar kryptonite.

They aren’t the all-arounders; in fact, none of them even compete in more than two of the six events.
For this reason, more time in practice can be devoted to what is the Hawkeyes’ lowest-scoring event not only this season but every season since 2012.

“If you look at pommel horse guys, there’s just a different mentality and personality,” head coach JD Reive said. “Physically, they look a little bit different, and usually for lack of a better term, they’re kind of the nerdy students who can sit, and think, and do things a million times over.”

It’s a unique challenge because of the level of concentration it demands. Mentally exerting in nature, it brings a psychological struggle paralleled by none other in the sport — much as the balance beam is for women.

Gymnasts with lankier bodies best execute on the horse, and those with more upper body bulk tend to struggle to make turns consistently. Emmanuel Monroy, a 5-8, 155-pound junior, is Iowa’s lone exception.

“It’s that event that’s just tricky compared with the other ones,” he said. “That’s why you have people who specialize in it or only do one or two events.”

After a lowly average of 67.233 on the event last season, Reive focused on bringing in talent to contribute to the event immediately.

“You also need to recruit pommel horse,” he said. “Every other event, kids get stronger and get better on. Pommel horse, if you don’t learn it properly when you’re young, it’s very hard to get better.”

Freshmen Austin Hodges and Elijah Parsells were two of his targets. Although Hodges has competed on the high bar in a few meets this season, he and Parsells are designated specifically to the horse.

After a rough start to the season, Hodges responded in his last two meets with quality scores of 14.450 and 14.300, bringing his season average to 13.740.

Parsells averages 13.690, but he is coming off a season-high 14.750 on Feb. 14.

We really only have one job,” Hodges said. “So to not do as well is kind of disappointing, but you just have to stick with the workouts and trust the coaches’ plan. It’s all coming together for sure.”

Monroy averages 12.960 on the event for the Hawks this season, while junior Del Vecchio Orazco averages 13.560.

Although the team average of 69.310 is better than 2 points over last season, it remains the team’s worst event. Aside from a solid anchor in junior Doug Sullivan, who averages 14.970, the rest of the lineup is under pressure to execute as the regular season winds down.

“These past two weeks we’ve been doing really well when it comes to training on the horse,” Orazco said. “I see that our routines are becoming a lot more consistent. I couldn’t even tell you the last time I fell on a pommel-horse routine.”

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


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