Jan. 21, 2011
Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Friday, Aug. 13, 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 2010-11 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.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — If you think the multiple-faceted student-athlete is a dying breed at the Division I level, you should meet Houry Gebeshian.
Gebeshian, a senior member of the University of Iowa women’s gymnastics team, is the defending Big Ten Conference beam champion who has her mind set on a trip to the 2011 NCAA championships. Because of renovation at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, the training rooms for gymnastics and wrestling are separated by a thin, not-so-soundproof wall in the Field House. When Gebeshian heads to “work” each day, you’re never certain which door she will enter.
You see, Gebeshian is an athletic training student for wrestling. Since the competitive seasons for gymnastics and wrestling run simultaneously, Gebeshian is frequently in for a long day at the office. It begins with 6 a.m. conditioning for gymnastics, followed by cardiovascular work at 7. From 8 until noon, Gebeshian is in class. The three-hour block from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 is set aside for gymnastics practice. For the next four hours (3:30 to 7:30), she helps with wrestling. After an hour break when she goes home for dinner, Gebeshian then heads to the library until 11:30.
And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love it. I enjoy being busy and it keeps me on top of things,” said Gebeshian, a two-time academic all-Big Ten selection. “I love being with the wrestling team, I love gymnastics and the schoolwork isn’t too bad.”
There is an added benefit to working with the wrestlers: Gebeshian hears all the inspiring dialogues from wrestling head coach Tom Brands, which helps shape the approach she takes into gymnastics.
“Whenever (coach Brands) gives a speech, it is super motivating,” Gebeshian said. “I leave the wrestling room and it motivates me to do my gymnastics better. I would love competing with him as my coach as well.”
Gebeshian started gymnastics when she was 5 years old. Now 21, the native of Newton, Mass., even surprised herself with how quickly she progressed in the sport.
“I think my parents put me in gymnastics because I was kind of wild and energetic,” Gebeshian said. “It was something fun to do. I didn’t think about competing at the collegiate level until my junior year of high school. Coaches were interested and I ended up here.”
A fractured heel suffered as a prep senior led to Gebeshian’s interest in athletic training.
“My athletic trainer showed me the ropes about what it was to be an athletic trainer,” Gebeshian said. “I enjoyed it. When I came here, I had a great support staff working with Jon Fravel and Mike Pfaller. They motivated me to do both athletic training and be a student-athlete. It’s great I’ve been given the opportunity to do both — most people aren’t that fortunate.”
In the most recent competition at Minnesota on Jan. 15, Gebeshian tied for first on the uneven parallel bars (9.850), tied for second in vault (9.800) and was second in the all-around (39.150) to All-American teammate Rebecca Simbhudas.
“Bars are my favorite, beam is my best,” Geneshian said. “Bars are fun. I like to swing.”
Gebeshian picked an opportune time to post a career-high 9.950 on the beam: at the Big Ten Championships on March 27, 2010, in Columbus, Ohio, edging six other competitors who scored 9.900.
“It was a great feeling, just amazing,” Gebeshian said. “Being Big Ten beam champion is great, but it is kind of offset by not making the national championship. Having that steppingstone and knowing that I have already accomplished that will motivate me to be able to get to the national championship this year and proves to me that hard work pays off.”
“Beam is a very, very difficult apparatus and to be as accurate as she is and the level to which she pushes herself to be so accurate, it’s just nice to have that pay off,” UI head coach Larissa Libby said. “She’s very shy about saying she’s a Big Ten champion, which is probably why she is such a good leader. To her, it’s in the past. We’re excited that she will forever be known as one of Iowa’s Big Ten beam champions because she deserves it, but I don’t think it even crosses her mind as something that’s important to her now.”
As a youngster, Gebeshian was in the gym five days a week, four hours a day for the Massachusetts Gymnastics Center. She also played soccer until sixth grade. Gebeshian’s parents — Christine Abrahamian and Hagap Gebeshian — try to attend at least one meet a year. They will both make the trip to Cleveland on April 15-17 when Gebeshian advances to nationals.
“As a team we definitely have a shot to make it to the national championship,” Gebeshian said. “It’s my last year and I have the skills and the motivation and that’s definitely the one thing left for me to do in my collegiate career.”
“She is very vocal and takes her gymnastics seriously,” Hansen said. “She’s a good competitor and I always look up to her on the competitive side because she stays so calm and she works so hard. She performs the way she practices, so that’s the thing about Houry that I really admire.”
Libby says Gebeshian is the glue that holds the Hawkeyes together.
“There is nothing that you see about her that doesn’t scream leader in every aspect — academically, athletically and how she leads her life,” Libby said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been in a position to really say that we have a true leader on our team.”
Gebeshian was first-team all-Big Ten Conference as a sophomore and second-team as a junior. After college she plans on competing for Armenia in the 2011 World Championships and possibly the 2012 Olympic Games in London. This past winter break, Gebeshian traveled to Armenia to get her citizenship and meet the national gymnastics coaches.
There are nearly three months remaining as a Hawkeye and although Gebeshian admits that her body is occasionally ready to relax, she is not.
“My heart is not ready to be done and my mind’s not ready to be done,” Gebeshian said. “I’m always excited.”
After gymnastics, Gebeshian will attempt to attend graduate school as a physician’s assistant or in orthopedics or emergency medicine.