Unsung Hawkeyes anchoring team's top two events


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It’s been a pretty good year for senior Will Albert. The native of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada,  recently got engaged to his girlfriend of three years, and he will immediately begin training for the Pan American games following the season.

But that season isn’t over just yet.

With just days before the NCAA Championships, Albert is zoned in on making his year even better.

“As an athlete, as a competitor, I want to be an All-American — want to strive toward that goal,” Albert said. “But at the same time, if it’s meant to be, then I’m still going to be satisfied that I got to do what I love for four years.”

The same goes for sophomore Andrew Botto. He and Albert are two of the unheralded yet vital contributors to Iowa men’s gymnastics.

The two typify the gymnast, whose consistency provides insurance for low scores or help the team gain ground lost on lower scoring events such as the pommel horse and parallel bars.

Albert leads the team in both the vault and the still rings, the only events he competes in.

His productivity cannot be replaced; his dependability spreads invaluable peace of mind among his peers.

“I think it just gives everyone a bit of confidence and security,” Albert said. “When I’m going up they know that we’re going to get a good score, we’re going to get a solid hit out of this guy, and we don’t need to worry about it.”

On the vault, the two Hawks lead the team in scoring. Albert averages a team high 14.517, and Botto is second at 14.478. The event is the team’s second-best event this year — and it was not supposed to be this way.

“It’s huge, that’s kind of what we look for in the specialists,” junior Jack Boyle said. “Everyone kind of has his own niche, and he needs to figure out how to do that as good as possible — not necessarily focus on things you’re weaker on, just focus on your strengths.”

Head coach JD Reive had some concerns about the event at the start of the season; now, it is arguably his most consistent score, meet-in and meet-out.

What’s not up for argument is that the rings is Iowa’s best event — the Hawkeyes average 73.289 points in it. The lineup is stacked with the veteran talent of Boyle, Lance Alberhasky, and Matt Loochtan — and Albert manages to pace the group with an average score of 14.778.

“He’s one of those crazy genetic kids who just is strong naturally on rings; he was born that way,” Reive said. “What he’s evolved with is the amount he’s able to handle physically … he’ll go spend an hour on an event just trying to stick a dismount.”

Botto’s 14.461 is good for fourth, and the team boasts five gymnasts capable of scoring over 15.000 on any given day.

The team is built on a core of all-around competitors including Boyle, Alberhasky, Loochtan, and Cyrus Dobre-Mofid, all of whom compete in four events.

With a trip to Norman, Oklahoma, for the NCAA Championships looming, it will take a complete team effort to advance through a qualifying group that includes No. 5 Illinois, No. 4 Michigan, and No. 1 Oklahoma.

Botto and Albert have gotten to this point by feeding off the energy of one another, and they will try to carry that energy into the season finale.

“Whenever he has a good turn, we always have a game between each other like ‘If he sticks it, then I’ll stick it’ kind of stuff like that to motivate each other,” Botto said.

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

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