Men's gymnastics sees success in defeat


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No. 6 Iowa men’s gymnastics may have lost to second-ranked Penn State on Feb. 27, but all things considered, it was the team’s best performance of the season.

For starters, last week’s inclement weather made the trip to University Park a challenge in itself.

Rather than arriving for the meet around 24 hours beforehand as planned, the team changed its itinerary. Delays in flights out of Cedar Rapids forced the team to take a bus to Chicago followed by a flight to Philadelphia, where it arrived in the early hours of Feb. 27. After a few hours of sleep, the Hawkeyes drove three-and-a-half hours to University Park, getting in between 11 a.m. and noon.

After a quick workout and nap, the team began the meet at 5 p.m.

The Hawkeyes responded by posting a season-high 435.750 points with little room for error.

Getting it done in five-up-five-count

The College Gymnastics Association set this weekend as the first of the season for five-up-five-count scoring. Before teams could put six gymnasts in a lineup and have the luxury of dropping the lowest score.

It’s the time of the season when a team’s depth is challenged, as well as its ability to perform under pressure.

“Lots of pressure, lots of nerves, every routine counts,” Iowa head coach JD Reive said. “That’s usually a difficult thing when you go out, no matter where it is. And we handled it really well.”

A couple of mishaps proved costly for the Hawks with the change in scoring. Junior Del Vecchio Orozco scored a team-low 13.400 on the pommel horse, and although it counted, the team still managed a solid 71.300 on the event.

On the weekend, Iowa posted the fifth-highest score in the nation, beating out No. 4 Illinois, which scored 434.200 at Oklahoma. It was more than 20 points higher than their first event of the season — the Windy City Invitational on Jan. 17.

“In our Windy City meet, we got to the 413 mark, and this week we’re at 435,” junior Matt Loochtan said. “It’s a definite improvement point for us, that we can do five-up-five-count and hang with Penn State.”

Loochtan competed in four events in the meet, scoring a 15.350 on the floor exercise. His lowest score of the night was a 14.550 on the parallel bars. Similarly, junior Jack Boyle posted four scores between 14.600 and 15.000 for the Hawks.

High on their horse

Despite Orozco’s fall in the second routine of the lineup, the Hawks rebounded to tally their second-highest point total on the pommel horse this season.

Freshman Elijah Parsells and Austin Hodges continue to look like the sidekicks that junior Doug Sullivan needs to make the event an asset for the Hawks. Parsells scored 14.750, and Hodges added a 14.400.

“We just focus on making every routine we do perfect instead of just making routines now,” Parsells said. “Were sort of moving into a maintenance phase now, which for me has translated into more consistent, higher scores.”

The two freshmen have emerged as weapons on the event over the past three meets, taking pressure off of Sullivan, whose average of 14.950 ranks second in the nation to Oklahoma’s Michael Reid.

Not an exact science

Perhaps there is a reason Penn State is No. 2 in points per meet, but only fourth in the coaches’ poll. Some coaches could take into consideration the fact Penn State has scored more than 440.00 at home, but in two road meets, the Nittany Lions failed to reach that mark.

Although scoring matters in terms of rankings, which in turn affects seeding for the Big Ten and NCAA championships, all teams will face the same judges come postseason. Although there are guidelines for scoring, there are inconsistences and differences (although they may be minor) in different gyms across the country. Come postseason tournaments, all teams will be subject to the same judges.

“Scores will go; they’ll fluctuate from region to region, meet to meet,” Reive said. “The end of the season, when we get to Big Tens and we are all on the same floor together, everything levels out.”

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

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