March 4, 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.
By JIL PRICE
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa men's gymnasts have been posting season-best numbers, breaking records and are on track for success heading into the final competitions of the 2014 regular season.
"We are in a really good place right now," fourth-year head coach JD Reive said. "For a while it was a bit of a roller coaster ride. We'd have a great one, then a rough one, then a great one. We're finally starting to stable out, which is perfect heading into these last couple of meets and on to the championships."
In their final home contest of the season on Feb. 15 against Big Ten foes Minnesota and Nebraska in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, the Hawkeyes broke the Iowa school record with a team score of 433.050. Redshirt senior Matt McGrath (15.100), junior Brandon Field (14.950), sophomore Matt Loochtan (14.800), redshirt sophomore Cyrus Dobre-Mofid (14.700) and junior William Albert (14.600) combined their scores on vault to break a second Iowa team record in the meet.
"That was pretty awesome," Reive said. "We had three guys stick right in a row, which is incredibly rare. Just for that to happen for all three of them was fun. They actually did it at practice the following Monday, so it's carried over. They know they can do it."
Sophomore Doug Sullivan also excelled in the pommel horse at the meet. He set an individual Iowa record in the event with a 15.250 effort. The previous record of 14.900 was held by former gymnasts Jacob Becker, Curtis Kleffman, and Mike Jiang and current Hawkeye assistant coach Ben Ketelsen.
"I was really happy because a lot of hard work finally came through in competition," Sullivan said. "It was really exciting. I knew that I beat Ben, so that made it even more special for me. It shows that I've come a long way. If you keep working hard, you can achieve your goals."
Iowa continued to rewrite the record book in competition at UIC on Feb. 23. Sophomore Jack Boyle -- who was named to this year's Big Ten Preseason Gymnasts to Watch List -- posted a career-best all-around score of 86.600, which ties the school record set by former gymnast Javier Balboa in 2013.
Another school record fell last weekend at the Arnold Classic on March 1, when the Hawkeyes had five athletes place in the top 10 on rings and posted a collective event score of 75.350. McGrath led the way with a first place finish and a score of 15.450, and Loochtan finished runner-up with a 15.3000 effort. Freshman Andrew Botto, redshirt junior Lance Alberhasky and Boyle rounded out the event for Iowa, placing sixth (15.000), eighth (14.900) and ninth (14.700), respectively.
When asked what has fueled the team's success and helped the program steadily improve throughout the season, Reive credited one thing.
"Competition," Reive said. "We've trained really well but they need to learn how to compete. If they can't put it on the floor it's irrelevant how hard we work. We're competing a lot to make sure we're getting enough practice out in front of a judge. "We're super fit and we can handle gymnastics that we're training and competing in. So now we have to be really, really attentive to details. We have to focus on the position of our legs, landing positions, and all of the fine technical aspects of artistic gymnastics. I have to be very focused on that and make sure the guys keep their intensity up on those things."
Iowa has two competitions remaining -- a dual at Minnesota and a dual at Nebraska -- before the Big Ten Championships take place at Nebraska, March 28-29. The NCAA Championships follow at Michigan, April 10-12.