Jan. 12, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — When the University of Iowa men’s gymnastics team sets the bar Saturday at the season opening Windy City Invitational, it isn’t crucial that the bar start high.
That doesn’t mean the Hawkeyes aren’t serious about taking home top honors at the event in the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion. But for fifth-year head coach JD Reive, it is more important to place the bar properly in January and regularly raise it until April.
“It is going to be consistency every weekend,” Reive said Monday during a gathering with media in the Field House. “We can’t have a roller coaster of great meet, terrible meet. I want to see a steady incline all the way through. If we set our bar properly this weekend, and use that where we go, then we’ll be in a good place.”
Last season the Hawkeyes scored 417.7 points and finished fifth in the six-team Windy City competition. Of the 14 competitors for the UI in that meet a year ago, 12 return this season, including senior Lance Alberhasky and junior Matt Loochtan, who are named to the 2015 Big Ten Gymnasts to Watch List.
“We need to go out there and do our gymnastics well,” Reive said. “They need to develop confidence and we need to get into a rhythm. This is a good team. Our sport is about peeking at the right time, so we need to be prepared for this weekend, but this is a long term process for us to be ready to go at the end of March and beginning of April.”
Iowa opens the season ranked No. 9 (and fifth among Big Ten teams) by the College Gymnastics Association.
“We have been training hard over the summer, so it’s exciting to put all our hard work and show everyone what we can do,” said sophomore Cory Patterson, who won the high bar over the summer at the Canadian National Championships. “It means it’s time to show what we’ve been training all summer for and show all the hard work we have put in.”
“It is going to be consistency every weekend. We can’t have a roller coaster of great meet, terrible meet. I want to see a steady incline all the way through. If we set our bar properly this weekend, and use that where we go, then we’ll be in a good place.”
UI gymnastics coach
Loochtan, who has been slowed by a back ailment the past two weeks, is close to full strength, although he will probably pass on vaulting Saturday.
“It should be a good year for us and I’m excited to see how this starts out,” said Loochtan, who placed seventh on rings at the 2014 NCAA Championships. Lochtan also set a school record on floor with a 15.650.
While the Hawkeyes conducting interviews Monday, work continued on the renovated and expanded practice facility inside the Field House. Reive considers the project a game-changer for his program.
“Every day I go back there and say, `This is so cool,'” Reive said. “The fact the administration is willing to put the resources in and support us says a ton about this department’s commitment to gymnastics. They want us to be successful, they want us to win, and they’re giving us the tools to do so.”
Soon a top-notch practice facility will join Carver-Hawkeye Arena, a top-notch competition venue.
“There is tons of space and good lighting,” Reive said. “Competing in Carver embodies the fact that our sport is doing well.”
The Hawkeyes placed fifth at the 2013 NCAA Championships and they appear positioned for another postseason run. Reive said there are no detrimental events for Iowa — in fact, he sees an NCAA or Big Ten finalist in every event.
“We have strength spread across six events,” Reive said. “We also have a lot of returning leadership and a lot of kids who have been giving us our team scores for a couple years that are leading the pack with some good underclassmen.”
Action at the Windy City Invitational begins at 7:30 p.m. (CT).