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. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By Jack Rossi
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Three University of Iowa men's gymnasts will represent the Hawkeyes at one of the most prestigious competitions of the summer, the P&G Championships from August 21-24 in Pittsburgh.
Juniors Matt Loochtan and Jack Boyle are competing in the senior division after meeting necessary requirements at the men's National Qualifier in July. Freshman Austin Hodges pre-qualified earlier this year for the junior division.
UI head coach JD Reive believes the offseason is a great way to get the necessary experience that will translate into the Hawkeye program and help the team reach their goal of becoming a top three NCAA program.
"There are two distinct aspects of gymnastics," Reive said. "You have the NCAA season and the U.S. season and both work hand-in-hand quite well. We use them to complement each other. Having Iowa represented at the U.S. Championships, U.S. Qualifier and the Winter Cup (during the season) is crucial to the program's development, recruiting, and achieving the level of gymnastics that we're trying to teach."
Loochtan is no stranger to this level of competition, as he is making his second-straight appearance at the P&G Championships. With a year under his belt, Reive is looking for the Hawthorne Woods, Illinois, native to take the next step.
"You can look back at the qualifier at this time last year and it was really a defining moment for him," Reive said. "He was like, 'Wow I'm good enough to compete at this level in this sport.' You're seeing him mature exponentially. By him repeating this process and qualifying easily will set him up for a fantastic junior year."
"It's a great competition over there," Loochtan said. "It's nice to see national team members and Olympians and compete with them. I just want to do the best I can and hit my routines."
Loochtan is coming off a successful year where he set three career bests and broke the school record with a 15.650 score on floor, advancing to individual finals at NCAA Championships in April where he finished seventh.
Boyle secured his first spot at the P&G Championships after missing the cut last year. Listed as a Big Ten Gymnast to Watch in 2013, Boyle impressed becoming the Hawkeyes' go-to all-around gymnast, recording three career bests and finishing 10th in the all-around at NCAA Championships.
Hodges will get his first taste of competition with his Iowa teammates after qualifying for the junior division. Hodges will experience what most college gymnasts work years for.
Reive says the qualifiers are excited to compete and enjoy the unique atmosphere at this type of competition.
"I love going to this one," he said. "You've got some of the best routines in the world in a bit of a casual meet environment. Being able to be in the middle of that with our guys and see where we fit in (is important). We are very isolated with what we're doing, and we get out in that environment and see that we actually are doing well."