March 31, 2011
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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.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Head coach JD Reive is looking for one thing out of his Hawkeye men’s gymnastics team heading into the postseason; consistency.
The Iowa men’s gymnastics squad kicks off its own version of “March Madness” when the calendar turns to April. The Hawkeyes will head to Champaign, Ill., for the 2011 Big Ten Championships this weekend. Strong performances at Huff Hall will likely land the team at the NCAA National Qualifier, held April 14 in Columbus, Ohio.
Reive is a firm believer that consistency during postseason action leads to success.
“We need consistency,” Reive said. “We have to hit sets, because there won’t be any room for mental lapses or any lack of focus. If a kid falls, he has to get up and finish as flawlessly as possible. That needs to carry through the entire competition.”
Consistency is crucial, especially at the Big Ten Championships. The Hawkeyes enter the meet ranked No. 10 in the country, along with No. 3 Illinois, No. 5 Penn State, No. 6 Michigan, No. 7 Minnesota and No. 8 Ohio State. A total of 43 Big Ten gymnasts are nationally ranked.
If the Hawkeyes have a strong showing at the Big Ten Championships, chances are that momentum will carry over to NCAA competition.
“We have to be on and we have to have a good weekend,” Reive said. “The Big Ten Championships is going to set that up for these kids. They need to go out there and do well and see where they fit in with the rest of the Big Ten. We are really strong, as a conference. If they do that, they know they can go out to NCAAs and do it again.”
Iowa seems to be entering postseason action peaking at the right time. The Hawkeyes broke the school record for team score at Nebraska in their last competition two weeks ago, recording a 351.800. Iowa also set new school marks on rings (58.500) and horizontal bar (58.700).
“The team is starting to come into its own,” Reive said. “Things just started taking over, physically, and the body starts following. Mentally, they were in the moment and did what they were supposed to be doing without over-thinking. We have really good momentum going.”
Reive believes his team is also peaking, physically, at the right time.
“Physically, they are in fantastic shape. They are totally capable of handling two or three days of competition,” Reive said. “The challenge is going to be mental focus for that duration. Training wise, everything has been great and we are ready to go.”
The Big Ten Championships kick off Friday with the team and all-around competition. Saturday is the individual event finals. The top 10 competitors from each event Friday move on to the individual event finals. The winner of each event Saturday, plus the top six all-around competitors, are named all-Big Ten.
“The potential is huge,” Reive said. “We have a big upside. The goal is to get them to realize that. If they are clean and consistent and don’t worry about the result, they are going to get the result.”
Twelve teams are selected to compete in the NCAA National Qualifier, which will be held Thursday, April 14. The 12 teams are divided into two groups of six, with the top three teams in each group advancing to the NCAA Finals, held Friday and Saturday.
The top three individuals and top three all-around competitors not already on a qualifying team move on to the NCAA Finals. Last season, Mike Jiang earned All-America honors on pommel horse, and Reive likes Jiang’s approach as a senior.
“He’s been able to show the consistency on pommel horse and has what it takes to make the NCAA finals,” Reive said. “One thing these guys have to learn is it’s about refinement and perfection. It’s all the little things that you don’t think about that make you a successful team. Mike’s got that, naturally, on pommel horse, and the team has seen that through the season. He’s definitely got a chance to do it again.”
Even though Reive is a rookie head coach, he’s no rookie when it comes to postseason competition. As an assistant coach at Stanford, Reive helped lead the Cardinal to the 2009 NCAA National Championship, along with four top-three finishes. Reive knows that experience can help his Iowa squad when it comes to “April Madness.”
“I know what these guys need to put in,” Reive said. “I know the struggles and challenges and the amount of work that goes in day-to-day to win. But I know what the reward is. Consistently conveying why we are working and what we are doing it for is my job.”