Jan. 3, 2014
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- After having one of the most successful seasons in school history, the University of Iowa men's gymnastics team has the same high expectations, but this year it is about achieving more.
Fourth-year head coach JD Reive and the Hawkeyes took sixth place at the Big Ten Championships, finished fifth at the NCAA Championships, and had two gymnasts -- Javier Balboa and Anton Gryshayev -- earn All-America honors.
Reive is proud of Iowa's 2013 accomplishments, but not satisfied, as he has greater expectations for his 2014 squad.
"The team and I are on the same page this year," Reive said. "We have set our sights on the podium in 2014. Our postseason goals are clear; translate a top three finish at the Big Ten Championships into a position to achieve a top three finish at the NCAA Championships. Based on the strength of our conference, these goals are inextricably tied."
Last season's team had a senior class that was the core of its success. Both Balboa and Gryshayev earned All-America honors in still rings, and Broderick Shemansky earned first-team All-Big Ten recognition. With the graduation of the four seniors, the Hawkeyes will rely on its whole roster with significant competition experience.
While losing a pair of All-Americans could be detrimental to a team, Reive is confident, not only in his upperclassmen, but his entire roster.
"Our roster has undergone significant changes," said Reive. "We are very bottom heavy with a young group of underclassmen having to come in accepting a great deal of responsibility.
"We will be looking to returning All-American, redshirt senior, and co-caption Matt McGrath. He brings a significant amount of gymnastics and a warrior work ethic to the gym. As a four-event athlete, Matt will get a good deal of additional leadership support from all-around performers Lance Alberhasky and Jack Boyle."
The Hawkeyes return 11 letterwinners and McGrath, who did not compete last season after using a medical redshirt. All returnees and newcomers did not take the offseason lightly as they continued to compete, train, and develop in the summer. Reive feels that the team has benefited from the offseason events that his athletes participated in.
"Our sport is unique in how disproportionate our training needs are in regards to NCAA competition," Reive said. "A successful and competitive summer season is crucial for the program to continue moving forward.
"Whether it was the U.S. National Championships or the World University Games, having Iowa gymnasts competing with the best gymnastics in the world has brought a new level of intensity and desire to the fall semester. It has had an impact on our training environment and our recruiting prowess."
While Iowa relied heavily on its upperclassmen in the past and needed high scores to be successful, this year's upperclassmen are being pushed by the newcomers. The Hawkeyes have 12 underclassmen, six of which are freshmen that add depth to the very promising Hawkeye group.
Although these freshmen are unfamiliar to the college competition, Reive expects nothing but the best from all of the team's newcomers.
"I expect an immediate impact from freshmen Cory Paterson and Andrew Botto," he said. "Both come in with national and international competitive experience and a hunger to learn. The entire class is the most driven I have brought in at Iowa, and I expect noticeable growth and accomplishment in this group for years to come."