Hawkeyes Look Into Season

Dec. 14, 2006

The University of Iowa has sponsored men’s gymnastics since the early 1920s. Many traditions have been built over 80-plus years and one that coach Tom Dunn has established during his 26 years has been to be in the hunt for Big Ten and NCAA titles without marquee names on the roster. The quality of the teams in the Big Ten Conference makes that task more difficult every year.

In 2006, the Hawkeyes were able to beat Penn State and finish third in the conference meet, but at the NCAA Championships the Nittany Lions slid past them. Conversely, at the NCAA’s Iowa beat the 2006 Big Ten Champion Ohio State Buckeyes to advance to the NCAA Team Finals. The end result is that the coaches have ranked Iowa seventh in the 2007 pre-season poll, two spots better from the 2006 pre-season ranking.

Outside the historic North Gym it may appear that the 2007 Hawkeyes have lost their edge with the graduation of Michael Reavis. Reavis was a USAG National Team member, an NCAA Champion and a two-time Big Ten Champion. However, Coach Dunn feels that improvements across the board and an excellent freshmen class will put the Hawkeyes back in the NCAA Team Finals in 2007.

The firepower to complete this task comes first from Iowa’s two returning all-Americans. Curt Kleffman tied Reavis in the all-around at the 2006 NCAA Championships as a sophomore and earned his all-American certificate on pommel horse. Kleffman is also our number one returning score on parallel bars. Geoff Reins was Iowa’s number one vaulter in 2006, but won his all-American honors on floor exercise. Now a seasoned sophomore, Reins will lead the team on both floor exercise and vault.

Fifth-year seniors Bryan Bourland and Jacques Bouchard were both Big Ten and NCAA Finalists in 2006 and will be counted on to lead the team on horizontal bar and rings. Under the rules of the new F.I.G. Code in 2006, Bouchard set the school record of 9.5 on Rings at the Big Ten Championships and Bourland matched his score on high bar at the NCAA Championships. Junior Jacob Becker and senior Matt Beiler were also Big Ten event finalists in 2006. Becker is Iowa’s number two returning score on pommel horse and has gone head-to-head with Kleffman since their pre-Iowa days in Pennsylvania. Becker has made tremendous improvement on parallel bars and floor exercise and will give Kleffman a run on those events as well. Beiler finished second on rings at the Big Ten meet and will continue to press Bouchard on that event. In addition, Beiler will also have a strong presence on parallel bars and high bar and his time on the Canadian Senior National Team gives him the experience the Hawkeyes will need in the championship part of the season.

Sometimes the number two guys try harder. Both sophomore Diego Mercado-Austin and junior Tom Buese return with the second best scores on parallel bars and high bar, respectively. Mercado-Austin also has the number two returning score on vault, which will be a tough event for everyone in 2007. The F.I.G. determined that it was too easy to get a good score on vault and changed all the “start values” on vault downward. An average vault that started at 9.2 in 2006 will be worth 8.4 in 2007. A decent 9.4 vault from last season will be worth 8.8 (if done perfectly).

At least three of Iowa’s five freshmen should make an immediate impact on its team score. Dusty Cranmer, from Evans City, PA, was second at the 2006 Jr. Olympics on floor exercise and should contribute there and on vault and parallel-bars. Jonathan Buese, who hails from Gainesville, FL, will provide a ring score comparable to Bouchard and Beiler and give the Hawkeyes “one up” on most teams. Buese could also see action on floor exercise and parallel bars. Joel Snyder from Vernon Hills, IL, could be a key score on pommel horse and high bar. Reid Urbain who is a native of Fort Atkinson, WI, may also sneak into the line-up on floor exercise and rings.

The key to success will often be that unexpected great routine that makes a big difference at a critical time. In 2007, that routine could come from sophomore Tyler Fangmann or senior Drew Ignoto on pommel horse. Tyler has made vast improvement in the off-season and could be a big score on pommel horse. Drew has been steady throughout his career, but has been sidelined for seven months with an elbow problem. If he returns to full strength he could make Iowa one of the top pommel horse teams in the country.

With a rigorous schedule and a very strong conference the Iowa men’s gymnastics team plans to work its way to the 2007 NCAA Team Championships Final.

“The team is stronger than last year and the balanced freshmen class gives us better depth,” said Dunn.

“The team is stronger than last year and the balanced freshmen class gives us better depth,”
Head Coach Tom Dunn

The Hawkeyes will start with tough road trips in January, a couple difficult home meets in February and finish with the top four teams from the 2006 NCAA Finals on the road in March.

“It will be challenging, but should get us prepared for the Big Ten Championships and Nationals,” said Dunn.

2007 pre-Season Rank1.  Oklahoma2.  Stanford3.  Ohio State4.  California5.  Penn State6.  Illinois7.   Iowa 8.  Michigan9.  Minnesota10. Nebraska