A Program-Changing Win

Feb. 22, 2013

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 — Defeat the defending national champions, the four-time reigning conference champions, your conference rival, on the road, in a hostile environment… on the night they raise their national title banner to the rafters. That was the scene for the eighth-ranked University of Iowa men’s gymnastics team last Saturday in Champaign, Ill.

Iowa proceeded to take down the Fighting Illini, 428.450-428.400, in front of a stunned crowd at Huff Hall. The Hawkeyes claimed four event titles. Freshman Matt Loochtan led the Hawkeyes on floor, winning the event with a score of 15.300. Senior Javier Balboa won the parallel bars (14.900), and sophomore Mitchell Landau earned first on high bar (14.500). Balboa also captured the all-around title (85.600).

“Nobody recalls the last time we beat Illinois,” said UI head coach JD Reive. “It was phenomenal.”

Despite beating the Fighting Illini 34 times in program history, Iowa has not defeated its Big Ten rival from the east in over a decade.

“We didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. We went in and had a good meet. There are still significant amounts of improvement that can be made. They look at it, and realize we can still put points on there. We can beat these teams. That is big.”
UI head coach JD Reive

“We didn’t do anything out of the ordinary,” said Reive. “We went in and had a good meet. There are still significant amounts of improvement that can be made. They look at it, and realize we can still put points on there. We can beat these teams. That is big.

“Outside, recruiting, judging, and in general, a lot of people have come up and said ‘great job, we have been waiting for this to happen.’ It has been a matter of me staying patient with it and having the will to continue to push.” Reive took over the reins of the men’s gymnastics program prior to the 2010-11 season, bringing with him a championship pedigree, and a championship philosophy.

Reive was given the task of rebuilding a proud Hawkeye program. Iowa, the 1969 national champions, has won seven Big Ten team championships and crowned 93 individual Big Ten champions.

In effort to get back to that championship level, Reive first instilled his philosophy with his team. In doing so, he asked his student-athletes to believe and trust in him. They have, and they are starting to see the results.

“We are finally entering into what I have been patiently waiting for, for two and a half years; tangible success, confidence building,” said Reive. “The work they are putting in is starting to show on the weekends.”

The win against the defending national champions provided evidence for the Hawkeyes to keep working and believing in Reive.

“They are starting to understand the methodology of the training,” said Reive. “Before, it was such a far reach to go. They are starting to see it. It is not about points now, it is about tenths. Now, it becomes this really nit-picking, focused approach to training that we have to do if we are going to move up continuously.”

Reive continues to work to establish the culture in Iowa City.

“We have been talking philosophy and theory of my approach to coaching this sport for a long time,” said Reive. “That is a big buy in for kids. ‘Hey, if you do this, trust me; in three years you are going to be good.’ That is a really hard sell. It is starting to happen now. Kids are able to look back with retrospect and say, ‘I understand why that first month I was here as a freshman, this is what you pressed on me for, it totally makes sense.’

“From a peer perspective, it now allows them to take younger guys, who have not done it yet, and show them the way. They buy in so much faster. That is the culture we are trying to establish. In that sense, this is a program-changing win for us, because all the sudden, it is a tangible reward. They see it, need that, and got it this weekend.”

Iowa returns home this weekend, hosting Big Ten rival Nebraska on Saturday. Action is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.