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Men's Gymnastics competing in Big Ten Championships

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

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The men’s gymnastics Big Ten Championships will begin tonight in State College, Pa., with a logjam of teams in the mix for the title.

For Iowa, it’s a chance to show the conference and the nation where it stands.

The meet represents a final tune-up for the Hawks before the NCAAs next month, and after seeing production dip in recent meets, the No. 8 Hawkeyes want to build some momentum.

“Hopefully, we hit our stride going into this weekend, and our next two meets be our high scores,” junior Jack Boyle said. “Last year, we kind of hit our peak the meet before the postseason, so hopefully, this meet and the one after will be the high points.”

Planting a seed

The competition, though, is much more than a warm-up for the Big Dance — it also has implications on seeding. The Hawkeyes’ ranking by the College Gymnastics Association is based on a four-score average. That average places them just outside of the top-six teams that will advance to the final day.

Of course, seeding doesn’t mean a team is predestined to perform to its implied standard, but where the Hawks land could have a significant effect on their road to the final day of team competition.

Staying in the seventh or sixth spot will would put them in the second grouping at nationals, meaning they would not square off with No.1 Oklahoma on the first day.

“If we stay at 7, if not beat Minnesota and move to 6, then we’ll be in a good spot,” junior Andrew Botto said.

The gymnastics association will count each team’s score twice from this weekend, giving Iowa an opportunity to cement a favorable spot for the NCAA finals.

Anyone’s game

Right now, the Big Ten is up for grabs, unlike last season, when Michigan was the clear favorite.

Host Penn State is No. 2 in the country, and it has fared far better at home than on the road this season. In fact, all scores have been higher at University Park, where Iowa posted a season-best 435.700 on Feb. 27.

Penn State is only No. 4 in the coaches’ poll, suggesting a consensus that generous judging at home has padded its four-score average.

That’s not to say that judges have been biased, however, as nearly every team has had a higher output than normal while facing in the Nittany Lions in State College.

But with seven Big Ten teams finally competing at the same meet, a clearer picture of the top tier of the conference will come into form — one free of averages and the opinion of coaches.

Penn State’s score of 432.100 two weeks ago at Nebraska was especially telling. The Nittany Lions fell to a surging Minnesota squad, which in the past month has beaten Iowa twice — passing the Hawkeyes in the rankings and garnering serious momentum heading into the Big Tens.

Michigan and Illinois have been the consistent top dogs this year, especially after Penn State’s point drop-off at Nebraska. Michigan ranks fourth and Illinois fifth in four-score average, but in the coaches’ poll, Michigan ranks third.

These are the two favorites to win the conference, with the Gophers picking up steam and Penn State still looming as a threat. The Hawkeyes aren’t far behind and with a strong meet could easily slip into the top three.

No. 9 Ohio State has been inconsistent this year, but is fewer than 2 points behind the Hawks in the four-score average.

The outlier is Nebraska, which is the only Big Ten squad ranked outside of the top 10.

“I honestly believe that this meet this weekend is anybody’s meet for the taking,” Iowa head coach JD Reive said. “I don’t think anybody has separated themselves out completely from another program.”


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