Sept. 16, 2007
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Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Thursday, Aug. 2, 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 2007-08 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.
by Sean Neugent
IOWA CITY — University of Iowa men’s gymnast Jacob Becker will look to put on a show during the 2008 season. That wouldn’t deviate much from the past performances of this three-time Hawkeye letterwinner and returning All-American.
The senior pommel horse specialist calls Northampton, Penn., home. He graduated from Northampton Area High School in 2004 and is currently a history and education major with a minor in political science at the UI.
The sport of gymnastics runs in the Becker bloodline. Jacob’s father, John, coached him throughout his club years at the Lehigh Valley Sports Academy. The Hawkeyes uncovered a gem, as Becker was named the Most Outstanding Pennsylvania Athlete after his senior season of high school. He also placed fourth on pommel horse and seventh in all-around at the Junior Olympic Nationals in 2004.
“We recruited Jacob primarily because he is a good gymnast,” Hawkeye Head Coach Tom Dunn said. “With his particular class I was really interested in recruiting someone for the pommel horse, which is Jacob’s best event. He is also a very good student and a great person.”
Dunn begins his 29th season at Iowa, the 27th as head coach. During that span he has compiled a record of 210-107-2 and elevated the program to that of a perennial national contender. Under Dunn, the Hawkeyes have finished in the top 10 nationally 18 times and placed in the top three at the Big Ten Championships 17 times.
Becker fell in love with the University of Iowa seemingly the minute he stepped on campus for a visit.
“I really enjoyed the team chemistry,” Becker said. “Iowa is a very welcoming campus as well as a beautiful campus. When I came in, it was a football weekend and it was a completely different experience. I’m not from a college town, so it was a great experience to come out and see what it was like. I loved it.”
“I really enjoyed the team chemistry. Iowa is a very welcoming campus as well as a beautiful campus. When I came in, it was a football weekend and it was a completely different experience. I’m not from a college town, so it was a great experience to come out and see what it was like. I loved it.”
UI gymnast Jacob Becker
Becker reaped the awards last season as a junior after being named All-American in the pommel horse, Academic All-Big Ten and a team letterwinner. He also collected a few other team awards, including the N.H. Holzaepfel award as the UI’s most valuable performer. Becker also set an Iowa school record when he received a score of 9.4 on the parallel bars at Michigan during the second performance of the season.
“He is the best student on the team and he is one of two All-Americans that we have returning,” Dunn said. “Jacob is also involved in other aspects of the university. He is a representative on the athletic student board. He is the ideal student-athlete.”
Becker and teammate Geoff Reins were both All-Americans a year ago. Reins excels in the vault. Last season Becker tied for second in the pommel (9.100) at the national qualifier in College Station, Penn., and went on to share third in the finals with a score of 9.200. Reins finished third at the qualifier in floor (9.500) and tied for sixth in vault (8.950). He improved that vault performance and finished fourth in the finals (9.175).
Dunn and Becker have set high standards as well as goals for the upcoming season and they recognize that there is work to be done.
“I really want the team to be top three in the Big Ten and to be top six in the NCAA,” Becker said. “I think we’re capable of having some Big Ten champions as well as some All-Americans. If we work hard and focus we can do that.”
Dunn knows that the Hawkeye future looks bright with the return of nine letterwinners, including a national standout like Becker.
“My expectations for Jacob are pretty much what he did last year,” Dunn said. “He did a great job on the pommel horse and he also had the highest score on the team in parallel bars, so I expect good things there as well. He was not able to do rings last year where he did a pretty good job his first two years, but he had a little shoulder problem. We expect as much as he can give us in four events.”
Becker competed in four events last season — floor exercise, pommel horse, vault and parallel bars. Last season, his best scores (out of a 10-point scale) were 8.7 in floor exercise, 9.2 on the pommel horse, 8.35 on the vault and his school record 9.4 on the parallel bars.
It is not difficult to understand why Dunn selected Becker as one of 24 Hawkeyes to Watch this season as the UI prepares to handle Big Ten competition. The national qualifier is April 17, 2008 at Maples Pavilion in Stanford, Calif. The finals are set for April 18-19. The Hawkeyes will have three home events this season — all during the month of February. On Feb. 2, Iowa hosts Michigan and Ohio State, followed by a Feb. 16 date against Oklahoma before Illinois comes to Iowa City on Feb. 29.
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