The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Twists and turns on the pommel horse

Iowa gymnast Doug Sullivan competes on the pommel horse at the Black and Gold Intrasquad meet at the Field House on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014. The Black team defeated Gold team 253.55 to 251.40. (The Daily Iowan/Valerie Burke)

The path that Hawkeye senior and pommel-horse aficionado Doug Sullivan has taken has not taken place in the spotlight.

Only a few years ago, he was not even sure he had secured a spot on the team.

“A kid comes in and walks on a team, and over the course of his time becomes one of the best in the country at what he does,” head coach JD Reive said. “He came in … a little skinny guy, could barely get up the rope.”

Sullivan’s freshman year, he proved he could compete at a high level. He placed 26th on pommel horse with a score of 14.000 at the 2013 NCAA team finals.

The following season, Sullivan soared. He set the school record for pommel horse with a 15.250.

Against Illinois-Chicago on Jan. 24, he shattered his own record with a score of 15.400.

The score trails the personal bests on pommel horse of only two gymnasts nationally: Brandon Ngai of Illinois and Ethan Lottman of Nebraska have both hit 15.550 this season.

“It was something I’ve wanted to do; I’ve wanted to get up there in those mid-15s,” Sullivan said. “I’m able to do it in practice, but I just wanted to show it off and do it in a meet now. It was just really exciting for me.”

Fellow senior Del Vecchio Orozco has been Sullivan’s teammate for the past three years, and the two have spent nearly every day together practicing pommel horse.

“It’s pretty inspirational as a pommel-horse specialist,” Orozco said. “He came in here with the mentality that he definitely had something to prove. Seeing him evolve as a gymnast … has really been an experience for me.”

As a freshman walk-on, many would not have been expected Sullivan to rise to the level he has. Reive said that watching all of Sullivan’s hard work has made the journey fun for him as a coach.

Many also would not have expected Sullivan to take on as much leadership as he has.

“If you were to watch practices, we have a lot of pommel-horse specialists, and he is the guy in charge,” Reive said. “He takes ownership over the event; he takes ownership over the lineup. He’s the anchor; he’s the one who leads by example.”

Sullivan began his gymnastics journey at age 7. He said he began team gymnastics at age 9, and after an injury just before college, he was grateful for Reive to give him a chance.

He has stamped his mark on Iowa by this point, and he hopes to stamp his mark on the nation this season.

“Individually, I want to be up at the podium at Big Tens and NCAAs,” Sullivan said.

Orozco said that part of the Sullivan’s leadership comes from toughness. He said he knows Sullivan’s wrists hurt, but he still swings with “oomph.”

Alongside all the admiration and respect naturally comes a little bit of poking fun from his pommel-horse teammates.

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