By: BREANNA KELLOGG
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The Big Ten Championships provide teams the opportunity to showcase its talent on a bigger stage. For the University of Iowa men’s gymnastics team the key to success on the B1G stage is sticking to its routine.
“There is nothing different about this meet,” says junior Dylan Ellsworth. “There are more people there but it’s also a better way to show off and do well. If anything, it’s a time for us to do better by staying calm and showing everyone else that we’re not to be messed with.”
Ellsworth is speaking from experience. He is one of two gymnasts still on the team who advanced to day two last year. Ellsworth and junior Austin Hodges are a constant source of leadership on the team.
“The junior class, Dylan Ellsworth and Austin Hodges, have quite a bit of contribution to this program and the team score,” said UI head coach JD Reive. “We need them to lead by example and put some numbers up and keep the guys focused on what they’re supposed to be doing.”
Reive says leadership is more than just leading by example. It’s keeping everyone focused on the mindset and goal of the team: to be in the top three.
“I’m looking to (Andrew) Botto and (Cory) Paterson for leadership,” says Reive. “They need to come in and do their job, but they need to stay engaged with the group and lead by example. Lead verbally, lead with body language, and keep everyone focused on what Iowa is doing and not what everybody else is doing. You can’t be looking outside of your own little world.”
This is especially important for the large freshman class, who will make their Big Ten Championship debut this weekend.
“There will be some real nerves for the freshmen,” says Reive. “Hopefully over the course of the season they’ve been exposed to that. The pressure that is coming from within their team members and their coaching staff is helping them prepare. Some of them will shine and step up. Others will have to figure out how to deal with it and hide it. They need to be confident and convince themselves that it’s another day in the gym. They’ll be alright.”
After a regular season of preparation and improvement, the Hawkeyes are ready to use the championship season as a chance to show the rest of the country what they’re made of.
“Heading into my final Big Ten Championships the feeling is bittersweet,” said Botto. “I’m excited to go out and show the team and everyone else in the country what Iowa is made of.
“I’m going to miss it, though. I was telling the other seniors that we’re going to have to go out and enjoy our last two big meets together as a team and as brothers.”
The Big Ten Championships begin Friday at 7 p.m. (CT) and continue Saturday at 7 p.m. The two-day event — hosted by Illinois – will air live on the Big Ten Network.