Feb. 5, 2013
Editor's note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Monday, Aug. 6, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2012-13 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- At 5-foot-7, 135 pounds, University of Iowa senior men's gymnast Anton Gryshayev lacks the body of a typical ring specialist. That hasn't stopped him from becoming the Hawkeyes' all-time top ring competitor.
"My physique isn't like other ring specialists," said Gryshayev, who was named to the Big Ten Watch List prior to the beginning of the season. "They're a lot bigger than I am. When I was in JOs (club gymnastics), people always told me I wasn't strong enough, you can't do this, and you can't do that. I wanted to prove everybody wrong. I started working harder and the rings turned out to be my best event."
UI head coach JD Reive says Gryshayev's strength allows him to perform on the rings, and his body type gives him a unique look.
"He is really strong, which is odd because he is not built like a ring guy," said Reive. "He is a skinny guy, but the fact that he has the muscle capacity to do the skills that he is doing gives him a unique line and look on the rings.
"He has a really good start value at 16.4 that is up there with the rest of the competitors in All-America status. I think his line can be a little crisper than some of the larger guys. That gives him that appearance that will get him some good scores."
Gryshayev has made a habit of posting "good scores" during his four-year career with the Hawkeyes. The Littleton, Colo., native owns the top five scores in school history on the rings, and he broke his own school record at the Metroplex Challenge on Jan. 26 in Fort Worth, Texas. He posted a score of 15.800, the highest of any of the events in the competition.
The performance is the beginning of what Gryshayev hopes will be an All-America season in his Iowa finale.
"His job is to rank himself in the top eight from the first meet all the way through the season," said Reive. "That sets him up politically and gives him the confidence and the judges to get him into the finals at the NCAA Championships."
Gryshayev got a taste of competing at the NCAAs as a sophomore and junior. In 2011, he finished 21st in the still rings with a 14.850. A year later, he posted a score of 14.550 to place 17th.
"I have to show up every day, all three days that we compete," said Gryshayev. "I have to do more numbers and get cleaner. If I can do those things, I think I can take it to the All-America level."
Gryshayev says the thought of getting to the finals is motivating him during his final go-round.
"Coming back, right when you're done with NCAAs, I want to go back to the gym and work harder, smarter, and faster so that I can get to that final," he said. "I want All-American, and that gives me drive. That's what I am taking away from both of those years."
Reive says it will be little details that make the biggest difference for Gryshayev to achieve his All-American quest.
"The next step for Anton is inside," said Reive. "It is for him to put 100 percent of his heart and mind into every turn he takes from now until the end of his career. The miniscule details we have to fix from taking him where he is to an All-American take so much concentration and energy that it has to be something that he is doing every single day, every single turn."
When Reive arrived in Iowa City two years ago, he saw a competitor with an unlimited potential, but it needed to be harnessed.
"He was a little timid, a little frayed, yet he had an incredible amount of talent," said Reive. "I saw an opportunity to harness a lot of potential that he didn't quite understand at that point."
Gryshayev grew up around gymnastics. His dad, Roman, was a seven-time national champion on the pommel horse in their native Ukraine, and his mother, Iryna, was a European champion on the trampoline. Still, Gryshayev didn't get involved in the sport until he was 10-years-old.
In 2000, the Gryshayev's moved to Colorado from Kiev, Ukraine, when Roman was hired to coach club gymnastics in Littleton. A year later, the entire family followed, and that's when Anton got his first exposure to gymnastics, tagging along to the gym with his father.
"It looked like a lot of fun, so I said I'd try it," he said. "That was my first time competing in gymnastics."
His first competition was memorable for being unmemorable.
"I was really nervous and wasn't really prepared because I didn't have that much practice," said Gryshayev. "They threw me in, and I did absolutely awful. I got last in everything. It was a bad feeling, but it was a good experience. I knew what I wanted to get done for the next year.
"It was competitive and nobody likes losing, so that's a drive to do better. It gave me more `umphf' to do better."
After winning numerous Colorado state titles and finishing third on the rings at the 2009 Junior Olympic Nationals, Gryshayev received recruiting interest from colleges across the country. Iowa was one of the first in the picture and was the most aggressive.
"At first I was like it is Iowa, and I wanted to blow it off," said Gryshayev. "Then I took a trip, and I thought it was the best place. The team was awesome and the atmosphere was sweet."
Through maturation, Gryshayev says he's more prepared mentally in both school and gymnastics.
"I am more relaxed and can control things more rather than being scattered everywhere," he said. "I have gotten better with time management and prioritizing what is important."
Gryshayev is on track to graduate in December 2013 with a degree in mechanical engineering, and he hopes to utilize his degree by building planes or high-end cars.
Until then, he's visioning a perfect routine that he hopes will take place in University Park, Pa., at the 2013 NCAA Championships.
"A perfect routine would be in the NCAA finals, being the last guy up and hitting my routine as perfectly as I can, sticking my dismount, raising both of my arms up and placing in the top three," he said.
It's a good vision for Gryshayev, all 5-foot-7, 135 pounds of him.