The Heisman of Gymnastics

Hawkeye Fan Shop — A Black & Gold Store | 24 Hawkeyes to Watch – 2017-18 | Hawk Talk Monthly — April 2018

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. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.


IOWA CITY, Iowa — When senior Austin Hodges was named a finalist for the Nissen-Emery award, the most prestigious award in men’s collegiate gymnastics, the moment was extra special program because of Nissen’s ties to University of Iowa gymnastics.
34530George Nissen was captain of the University of Iowa men’s gymnastics team in the 1930s. In 1937, he graduated as a three-time national intercollegiate tumbling champion, an All-American diver, and the inventor of the trampoline.
The Nissen-Emery award is what male collegiate gymnasts spend years working toward.
“It is the epitome of men’s collegiate gymnastics,” said Iowa head coach JD Reive. “The nomination is essentially our Heisman (Trophy, presented annually to the outstanding college football player). The Nissen-Emery award has been around for decades. It goes to the senior gymnast who best embodies the student-athlete concept; it’s not just athletic ability. It’s the academic component and the community service component. It’s the best kids.”
Each year, schools submit a nomination for the award. A committee then narrows the field to seven gymnasts.
“I’m super proud of him,” said Reive. “I nominated him because I felt like he deserved to be in this group. The fact that the rest of the NCAA programs believe that as well says a lot about Austin and what he has accomplished here and what he’s done over the course of his senior year.”
Hodges is Iowa’s first nominee since Jack Boyle in 2016. Boyle’s hard work and determination that earned him the nomination is a big part of why Hodges has worked so hard over the years.
“Being a finalist for the Nissen-Emery award is something I’ve been working toward since sophomore year, after Jack was nominated,” said Hodges “I looked up to him. He was a workhorse in the gym and in school. I had it in the back of my mind throughout my time on the team, but it wasn’t something I was constantly thinking about. Hopefully people look up to me now like I looked up to Jack. I respected him and valued his presence in the gym.”
Hodges hopes the team can see how his hard work has paid off and that this will help him become a role model on the team for years to come.
“I just want to be a good role model,” said Hodges. “I want to be someone the gymnasts on the team can look at, see that I work insanely hard, and want to emulate it. Hopefully people are looking at me like I’m a machine in the gym because that’s what’s it’s all about — setting the bar high. I want to show them that this is how we should be training and things will happen because of it. That’s why this award is special.”