March 28, 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 -- Coming off of its biggest victory of the regular season and setting school records in five of its last six competitions, the University of Iowa men's gymnastics team is poised for a great showing at the Big Ten Championships on Friday and Saturday in Lincoln, Neb.
The Hawkeyes faced a field of ranked opponents in their regular season finale at Nebraska on March 15 in a competition UI head coach JD Reive considered a good measuring stick of the team's ability heading into the championship season.
No. 7 Iowa battled to claim the title with a school-record team score of 437.250. The Hawkeyes defeated No. 6 Illinois (434.850) and No. 5 Minnesota (432.000) for the first time this year, and also topped No. 12 Nebraska (428.450) and No. 8 Air Force (422.000).
"It has been an ideal two weeks leading off with the competition we had at Nebraska, which went as well as I could have asked for," Reive said. "We still had misses, but it was a fantastic competition. Our guys came right back into the gym after that on a bye week and kept their intensity up in training. We are well prepared heading into the Big Ten Championship."
Last season, the Hawkeyes placed sixth at the Big Ten Championships and had two seniors -- Javier Balboa and Broderick Shymansky -- named first-team All-Big Ten. In preseason this year, Reive said his 2014 squad had the talent and work ethic to finish in the top three at the Big Ten Championships.
"We have the capabilities to be a top three team," Reive said. "We have the actual gymnastics to do it, but it is not going to be an easy feat. We are going to have to go out, hit every routine that we put on the floor, and it's going to have to be done well. They're going to have to stick landings and be super crisp. There isn't a lot of room for a mediocre routine.
"We have to find that rhythm in the first rotation, which we did two weekends ago (at Nebraska), and hang with that all the way through to the end. Since it is 5-up, 5-count, it is the championship meet, and everyone is on the floor together, the teams that do that are the ones that are going to finish on top."
The Iowa student-athletes have the same goal as its coach and believe the work they have put in throughout the year has prepared them for a big performance this weekend.
"The No. 1 thing for me is to finish in the top three as a team," said redshirt senior and team co-captain Matt McGrath. "If I do my job and the team does their job, we are very capable of doing that."
"It's a matter of consistency at this point," said redshirt junior and team co-captain Lance Alberhasky. "In our last competition we did a great job of going 30-for-30 in our routes, and we have to do the same thing this weekend. If we clean up the little things, we'll be right there."
The Big Ten Championships begin Friday at 6 p.m. (CT) with team and all-around competitions and continues Saturday at 4 p.m. (CT) with individual event finals. Fans can watch the championships live each day on the BTN.