Sept. 17, 2014
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BY JACK ROSSI
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Five freshmen walked into the Field House’s north side this fall as members of the University of Iowa men’s gymnastics team. Austin Hodges journey stands out from the rest.
The Lincolnshire, Illinois, native grew up around the sport of gymnastics with his older brothers. Hodges followed suit joining at the age of two. He surpassed his brothers skill-wise and continued competing as a teenager.
While Hodges’ high school had a men’s gymnastics program, he chose not to participate.
“There was a high school program for gymnastics, but I wanted to do it on a national level rather than a state level,” Hodges said.
Hodges benefited from his decision and capped his career with a third place finish in the junior division at P&G Championships on pommel horse. He competed alongside current UI gymnasts.
Despite receiving numerous collegiate offers, Hodges chose the UI because of the team’s unity and all around togetherness. It was a quality other schools didn’t have.
“I had offers from Iowa, Air Force Academy, Michigan, Minnesota, and Nebraska,” Hodges said. “I liked (head coach JD Reive’s) philosophy here. I could tell the guys on the team are good friends and there were no cliques within the team.”
Hodges arrived in Iowa City over the summer, giving him ample time to adjust to how things are done in Reive’s gym.
“It wasn’t as bad as I thought,” Hodges said. “I jumped into it fast after high school, but the main thing was getting my strength. Now I am in a good spot and have a good relationship with everybody.”
Hodges joins the Hawkeyes from the Buffalo Grove Gymnastics Center. The gym is a familiar one to Iowa gymnastics, as it has produced fellow teammates Matt Loochtan and Del Vecchio Orozco.
“The guys that come out of that gym work hard and know how to compete,” said UI assistant coach Ben Ketelsen. “The coach has produced a number of collegiate athletes and all of them have done great things.”
Hodges is reunited with Loochtan and the two have continued their relationship right where they left if off three years ago.
“It was good being teammates.” Loochtan said. “He was like a brother and now that he’s here three years later he’s even more of a brother. We hang out and I can help him with classes that I’ve already taken. I feel like were a lot closer now.”
Hodges is settling into his first year of college and the coaches are preparing him for a role in the upcoming season.
“We recruited (Hodges) primarily for pommel horse.” Ketelsen said. “He has to be the guy we can go to for a solid pommel horse routine, but since he has been here he has shown he’s more than a one or two event athlete. Depending on his training, we could get three or four events out of him.”